For coffee farmers in the Santa Lucía Teotepec community of Oaxaca, Mexico, the impacts of climate change and deforestation are readily apparent. “We already feel it. We see the changes, we feel the heat,” says Leandro Salinas, a community leader for UNECAFE, a cooperative of 400 smallholder farmers. “It doesn’t rain like it used to.”
But the farmers of UNECAFE are unwilling to step aside and watch their land and livelihoods disappear. Instead, they have joined forces with the Rainforest Alliance, Pro Natura and Servicios de Manejo Sostenibles to restore forests and improve their resilience to climate change while receiving payments for these ecosystem services.
“We’re going to do our part and we’re going to demonstrate that yes we can—as long as we have the heart and will to work,” says Pedro Cruz Cortez, UNECAFE President. “To give it our all, to do it for our children, for the kids who are growing up. So that the air will be clean, so it breathes.”
For this Chatino community—whose language is on UNESCO’s endangered list—these are critical steps toward building a foundation for long-term economic health and self-determination.