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When formal and market-based conservation mechanisms disrupt food sovereignty
Impacts of community conservation and payments for environmental services on an indigenous community of Oaxaca, Mexico
The impacts of Payments for Environmental Services (PES) and creation of formal Voluntary Conserved Areas (VCAs) on local diets, agricultural practices, subsistence hunting and livelihoods, were assessed in a Chinantec community of southern Mexico. The community has set aside VCAs covering 4 300 ha of its 5 928 ha of communal lands and forests, and has received over $769 245 in PES for protection of 2 822 ha of watersheds roughly overlapping the VCAs. Community members attribute decreased maize and other subsistence crop yields, reduction of area available for agriculture, and shortened fallow cycles to the new conservation policies. Meat consumption has decreased after a hunting ban, accompanied by increases in purchasing meat still consumed. By agreeing to conservation measures that restrict their use of ancestral agricultural land and prohibit hunting, villagers have seen local food security become less stable, leading to greater dependency on external food supplies. Continued strict preservation measures under the guise of community conservation could lead to losses of agrobiodiversity, dietary diversity, hunting skills and associated environmental knowledge. Appropriate application of the precautionary principle is essential to avoid structural displacement of local peoples and to ensure the success of community conservation initiatives.