Building Climate Resilience and Boosting Farmer Livelihoods in Mexico

In southern and southeastern Mexico, young people like Esmeralda Canul are using the power of sharing knowledge to build more sustainable, prosperous communities for future generations.

Esmeralda Canul (center) is helping farmers in Mexico build climate resilience.

Mexico faces several environmental challenges, including deforestation, biodiversity loss, and increased vulnerability to climate change. At the same time, it is the second-largest emitter of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in Latin America, behind Brazil. The agriculture and livestock sectors contribute 14% of the country’s GHG emissions, a high risk level with significant impact. 

In southern and southeastern Mexico, monoculture agriculture and cattle ranching drive deforestation, leading to increased emissions and biodiversity loss throughout the region. Thousands of smallholder farmers in these landscapes rely on the land for their livelihoods, and they need access to resources, knowledge, and markets to thrive.

Building Climate Resilience and Boosting Farmer Livelihoods in Mexico

The Sustainable Prosperous Communities (SPC) program works to increase the number of hectares under sustainable and profitable production systems in southern and southeastern Mexico. It contributes to reduced deforestation and carbon emissions while improving smallholder producers’ livelihoods. 

SPC is funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and executed by a consortium of leading organizations under the coordination of The Nature Conservancy (TNC), and in collaboration with TechnoServe, Nuup, Findeca, and Dalberg as sub-awardees.

Training New Community Leaders in Climate Resilience

Part of the SPC program’s solutions involves empowering smallholder farmers to identify and adopt sustainable farming practices by participating in Territorial Innovation Networks (RITERs). These are communities of practice that foster the development of leadership skills and facilitate knowledge exchange. 

It was crucial for TechnoServe to equip farmers with the tools to adapt, mitigate, and build resilience to climate change,” said Alfredo Maldonado, TechnoServe SPC Program Director. “In doing so, farmers can also foster a more harmonious relationship with their environment.”

A crucial aspect of the SPC program is the train-the-trainers (TtT) methodology. This systematic approach trains individuals who will, in turn, train others in specific skills, knowledge, or practices. TechnoServe’s approach focuses on developing Change Agents (CAs)—community leaders selected by TechnoServe and the implementing partner. These community leaders not only improve their own farms and professional abilities but also play an active role in transforming the lives of their peers and communities. 

TechnoServe has successfully trained 44 CAs in the silvopastoral and coffee value chains, and another 72 are currently engaged in capacity-building activities. Together, TechnoServe and the CAs have supported over 900 smallholder farmers in SPC through the RITERs and implementing partners in Chiapas, Oaxaca, and Yucatán.

Esmeralda Canul (center) is a Change Agent in her community teaching other farmers sustainable livestock practices. (The Nature Conservancy / Graciela Zavala).
Esmeralda Canul (center) is a Change Agent in her community teaching other farmers about sustainable livestock practices. (The Nature Conservancy / Graciela Zavala).

Meet Esmeralda Canul

Esmeralda Canul, a mother of two, is driven by her love for people, animals, and nature. In May 2023, she was chosen as one of the 12 young individuals to become a CA for the Intermunicipal Biocultural Board of Puuc (JIBIOPUUC), TechnoServe’s implementing partner in Yucatán. As part of the program, these trailblazers underwent the TtT methodology in silvopastoral livestock led by TechnoServe. 

Esmeralda has found it immensely rewarding to teach others in her community about the importance of sustainable livestock practices. 

My vocation is to raise awareness among producers and create bridges for them to transition from conventional livestock farming to one that is friendly to the environment and Mother Earth,” Esmeralda shared. “My ambition is to become a veterinarian to help mold this change. Before participating in the [program], it was very difficult for me to stand in front of groups of people. Now I feel that I am able to inspire and mobilize the women and young people of my community who are the present and future.” 

Through this methodology, local farmers and ranchers have learned good practices and seen tangible results. They’ve increased their farm productivity, profitability, and sustainability. 

“When we started conducting the replications of the TtT training modules, the local producers told us that they had never had technical assistance on their ranches,” Esmeralda explained. “They said that they were glad we visited them and that we gave them suggestions to enrich themselves and become more accountable.”

Esmeralda demonstrates how to install an electric fence as part of her graduation activities in April 2024. (TechnoServe / Carlos Hernandez). 
Esmeralda demonstrates how to install an electric fence as part of her graduation activities in April 2024. (TechnoServe / Carlos Hernandez).

Young Leaders Learn About Sustainable Livestock Production

“Our intention in collaborating with TechnoServe was to approach small producers in the region for the first time to develop a more climate-positive livestock sector,” said Minneth Medina, JIBIOPUUC Director. “[This is accomplished] through the adoption of regenerative farming and livestock practices that increase productivity and improve grazing landscapes.”

This April, JIBIOPUUC graduated 12 CAs, including Esmeralda. These CAs participated in 10 technical modules focused on the transfer and adoption of regenerative farming practices, such as: 

  • Reduced tillage
  • Crop rotation
  • The use of cover crops
  • Reduced application of synthetic fertilizers
  • The diagnosis and treatment of sick animals
  • Cattle nutrition and health

Thus far, more than 400 producers from the Puuc Region in Yucatán have learned key skills from TechnoServe-trained CAs.