IFAD reviews project progress in semi-arid zones of Mexico

Mid-term review mission

Between 27 August to 5 September 2018, IFAD carried out carried out a mid-term review for the Sustainable Development Project for the Rural Communities of Semi-Arid Zones (North and Mixtec Regions) - PRODEZSA; executed by the National Forestry Commission (CONAFOR). The National Financial (NAFIN) and IFAD's Independent Office of Evaluation also participated in the mission. Six ejidos and a producter organization were visited in the States of Zacatecas and Coahuila, Mexico.

The objective of the mid-term review was to learn about different experiences on the use of non-timber forest resources, such as candelilla, lechuguilla and oregano, among other native species of the semi-arid ecosystem; as well as carrying out a joint review of the administrative, financial and operational progress of the project.

Project location and scope
The territories visited were the Ejidos de San Jerónimo, Los Indios Romualdo and Apizolaya in the State of Zacatecas; and the Ejidos de Las Ánimas, Tuxtepec, Plan de Guadalupe and the Sociedad Microempresarial Lureno in the State of Coahuila. As part of the mission, there were also meetings with municipal authorities, state managers and other representatives of CONAFOR, the Ministry of Finance and Public Credit (SHCP), NAFIN, personnel of the Project Coordination Unit and the participants of the project ; agreeing on measures that will contribute to the achievement of results and impact.

In the Mexican system of government, an Ejido is an area of communal land used for housing or agriculture, on which community members individually farm designated parcels and collectively maintain communal holdings. The Ejidos are registered with Mexico's National Agrarian Registry.

"At first glance, it would seem that the semi-arid zones have little potential or little economic advantage. Which is not true. Supported rural families show that there are viable, sustainable economic activities linked to the exploitation of non-timber forest resources such as: lechuguilla, used in the manufacturing industry; candelilla for the extraction of wax: and oregano for the production of oils. Handicrafts are also produced, such as candles and honey. Rural tourism is promoted. These are the center of economic and cultural activities in these areas,” said Juan Diego Ruíz, Hub Leader for Mesoamerica and the Caribbean, IFAD.

Project financing
The PRODEZSA project is a good example of how IFAD finances projects to improve the living conditions of rural populations; in particular young people, women and indigenous peoples. In coordination with the Government of Mexico, this project was formed in 2015, with financing amounting to US$35.7 million; of which IFAD has granted a loan of US$18.7 million plus a donation of US$2 million; and a loan of US$15 million from the Spanish Trust Fund (FFE). Likewise, there are national counterparts of CONAFOR and contributions from more than 40 thousand rural families that participate in the project.

Objectives of the project
The overall objective of the project is to enable the indigenous and rural population of the Semi-Arid Zones in the North and Mixtec Regions increase their income and employment; this strengthening the social fabric through its organization for rural businesses in forest regions. To achieve this objective, PRODEZSA allocates resources to owners and holders of forest lands to:

• Development of human and social capacities
• Promote sustainable production
• Promote access to rural markets and businesses

Mrs Aurelia Zapata is one of the beneficiaries of the project, living in in Ejido Tuxtepec, located in the Municipality of Ramos Arizpe, in the State of Coahuila (about 125 kilometers from the municipal capital). She dedicated herself to growing candelilla since she started the revegetation project (with PRODEZSA). This has contributed to improving her household economy. "I get up early, I make lunch and we are going to plant the candelilla with my husband and one of my children, who lives with us, we have lunch there. We produce between 30 and 40 kilos in a fortnight and with what they pay us for the candelilla, about 70 Mexican pesos per kilo; my husband pays for the fruit, I pay the errands (the vegetable that comes every Saturday and other expenses) and my son supports his family’’.

Some advances of the project
Three years after its execution, PRODEZSA has served 1,555 groups (27,403 men and 7,341 women). The project currently operates in 192 municipalities, located in 13 States: Baja California, Baja California Sur, Nuevo Leon, Coahuila, Durango, Chihuahua, Guerrero, Hidalgo, Oaxaca, Puebla, San Luis Potosi, Sonora and Zacatecas; totaling 12.4 million hectares. It has strengthened human and social capacities, sustainable production and access to markets and businesses of the participating rural population; with the execution of 105 technical and managerial training workshops, where 88 ejidos and communities have participated; as well as 17 organized groups.

62 microenterprises have been integrated, equipped and strengthened, of which four are led by women who work with the soyate palm, damiana, medicinal plants, dead wood and bow stick. Areas have been incorporated into forest management programmes, which allow for the sustainable supply of raw materials for their transformation and commercialization, through the rural microenterprises and production chains promoted by the project. 342 studies were conducted that have allowed the regularization of 688,845 hectares of arid zones, where currently various species are sustainably cultivated.