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Confronting Climate Change in Chiapas


As farmers anywhere in the world can testify, as the climate changes, so does the health of their crops. For those of us who are not farmers, we hear a lot about the effects of climate change in the arctic and antarctic but we don’t hear much about what’s happening in the tropical regions of the world. Unfortunately, the temperature has risen about 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) in the last 25 years or so, which is  significant for coffee, vanilla and cacao. Here is one man who is doing what he can to bring change to southern Mexico. This article is from the Nature Conservancy. [PR]

I was born in Mexico City, but my parents are from Chiapas and I was raised in Chiapas and Veracruz. Even when I was a teenager I always wished to go back to Chiapas to work for the protection of its wildlife and its forests. Before I joined The Nature Conservancy in June of 2011, I worked for many years in the El Triunfo Biosphere Reserve in the Sierra Madre, the mountain range along Chiapas’ Pacific coastline. This is a beautiful land; I was the director of this reserve for almost eight years. It’s one of the most diverse places in the Americas. It is Paradise to me.

To show the mountains to people from other parts of the world – and to introduce them to the villagers who live here – is an unusual but gratifying experience. Sometimes I wonder how they see the world I grew up in. Do they understand why the Conservancy’s climate adaptation efforts are so important – to the land and the people?

This video (in English and en Español) was made for the German International Climate Initiative, one of the major funders of the Conservancy’s climate adaptation program in the Sierra Madre. I spent five days with the crew making the video: one from Berlin, one from Argentina and one from Mexico. They had never been to Chiapas before.

The video is a good introduction to our adaptation work here. The Sierra Madre is near ground zero for climate change in Latin America. Our project involves helping villagers who make their living from ranching, growing coffee and other kinds of agriculture do a better job of managing their land. This means reforesting steep mountain slopes, changing grazing practices, identifying alternative livelihoods.  We work with many partners, including state and federal government agencies and other NGOs.

We think our work could change the way government agencies address climate change throughout Mexico. Also, it could set an example for how other people in other countries will have to deal with the challenges of climate change. It will be very important for us to continue to get support from other countries – so this video is not only informative but potentially very helpful to our ongoing efforts.

Alejandro Hernandez is The Nature Conservancy’s Watershed Coordinator  for Mexico and Northern Central America, based in Tuxtla Gutierrez, capital of the state of Chiapas, Mexico. This post is adapted from a recent Planet Change blog, devoted to enhancing the conversation on climate change and inspiring actions of all sizes. Opinions expressed here are the personal opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Nature Conservancy.

Video: Deutsche Welle TV.

Image Credit: Danny Huynh/Students of the World (Alejandro Hernandez has returned to his family roots in Chiapas, Mexico to help protect the Sierra Madre region from a rapidly changing climate.)

By Alejandro Hernandez, The Nature Conservancy‘s Watershed Coordinator  for Mexico and Northern Central America

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