Maka Ump Dehe: Cloud Forest Ecosystem Management for the rescue of the Pantepec River and culture

By Angel Daen Morales Garcia, IUCN CEM Young Professional.

Indigenous region of the Sierra Otomí-Tepehua, is in the Sierra Madre Oriental in the northeastern state of Hidalgo in Mexico. Pollution, deforestation, unsustainable management of ecosystems, and the desertification severely affect one of the most biodiverse sites hosting the most vulnerable ecosystems—the cloud forest. This ecosystem is home to a priority species for conservation in Mexico, the river otter (Lontra longicaudis) besides being a site full of magic and mysticism for the culture of indigenous peoples. However, this area faces a significant challenge; incompatible ecosystem management in this area has severely affected biodiversity and ecosystems, resulting in problems of scarcity and contamination of the aquifer mantle that supplies the population of the region with freshwater and the river ecosystem.  In addition, poor practices in the tributary have caused the deaths of some villagers by being poisoned by the consumption of products from the river.

To address this problem, the Biofutura (an IUCN member organization) with various communities, civil organizations and local governments are carrying out the project “Maka Ump Dehe” which aims to regenerate ecosystems through the active inter-Community participatory action of the indigenous inhabitants of the municipalities of Tenango de Doria, San Bartolo Tutotepec and Huehuetla, through the application of agro-forest systems, the sanitation and restoration of the Pantepec River and the regeneration of the riparian ecosystem home to focal species for conservation such as jaguar and river otter.  Inspired by Nature-Based Solutions to improve human and ecosystem health, supporting inter-community work, strengthening the local economy and nature conservation.

An outstanding and innovative element is the model of Community intervention that will have as its central axis a method of peace, communion and integration, a Freirian pedagogy applied in the conservation of nature from horizontality for the integral management of ecosystems that includes the bio-cultural rescue of indigenous ritual practices of pre-Hispanic origin associated with the human-nature relationship, taking as its axis the ritual of the Xinula, an aquatic deity associated with the river otter. Culture and nature are indispensable elements for ecosystem management in mega-diverse and multicultural sites. It is the first time that it has carried out an ecosystem restoration project based on inter-community participation, bio-cultural rescue of nature and science in remediation processes.

We know that education does not change the world; it changes the people who are going to change the world (Paulo Freire), so we rely on education as a practice of freedom as the best tool for ecosystem management.

For more details contact Angel Daen Morales Garcia, Vice President of Biofutura A.C.

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