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REDD+ pilot, Lacandon Jungle, Chiapas, Mexico


This in an intricate case on land rights and nature conservation. We focus on the recent "carbon credits" deal between the state of California and the state of Chiapas. In 2010 the government of the Mexican state of Chiapas signed an agreement under the Governors’ Climate and Forest Task Force (GCF) in order to sell carbon permits from REDD projects in the Lacandon jungle to the Government of California to offset their emissions. Lacandon jungle is one of the best preserved and a biodiversity rich forest in Mexico with a long history of conflicts over land rights. In the 17th century the original inhabitants were killed or left the area escaping slavery and the jungle was inhabited later by migrants from Guatemala and Yucatan. In 1972, 614,000 hectares of land was donated to 66 Lacandoneses and was declared as The Montes Azules Biosphere Reserve. This was questioned by settlers. Donating the land title was seen as a government strategic move to easily get signed consent for timber logging or tourism activities, and more recently REDD+ and carbon trade credits. This has added to the existing chaos of overlapping land titles of original no-Lacandones communities. In 1994 a new actor appeared, the Zapatista Army of national Liberation (EZLN) movement.

The Lacandoneses communities were paid $2000 pesos (approximately $160/month), derived from a vehicle tax within Chiapas, for implementing the REDD+ project. The group of original inhabitants, only 6% of the population of Lacandona, have opposed the project that resulted in cancellation of the health service in the community and raising threat of armed conflict with surrounding Lacandones. Besides this, in order to pave the way to African oil palm plantations for biofuels in the areas surrounding the REDD+ pilot (Government programme of productive land reconversion- Reconversión Productiva), the government of Chiapas was planning relocation of the communities to “Sustainable Rural Cities” (in a movement paralleled also in Honduras), claiming that this would provide them with better life conditions. The opposition was particular strong in Amador Hernandez known as a centre of the resistance of Zapatistas army. The communities oppose the unilateral delimiting of the agrarian border of the Lacandona community (Brecha Lacandona-) and in a response to the pressure organised self-determined own health system based on their traditional medicine, and started sharing the information with the wider public. In 2012, the representatives of the territory of Marques de Comillas spoke on GCF meeting even though their official request to speak was refused. The group of international and national organisation united through the Global Justice Ecology Project start circulating their communication and sign-on letter against REDD+ written by the community of Amador Hernández. The local people call for respect of rights and knowledge, life style and territories of local and indigenous people, but not through the conservationist programs of PES (payment for environmental services) and palm plantation.

A government effort to further exploit Mayan history and construction of superhighway to make more accessible archaeological zones led into violent conflict with local communities, when several people got killed and many arrested.

In general, REDD+ was criticized for not addressing the real problem of GHG emissions, and for bringing the profit to the big companies only and not to the local people. In particular the REDD+ project in Lacandona was criticized for promoting privatization and commodification of the nature, disposition of local people land rights making them leave their forests and giving the way to the international biopiracy.

In 2013, dozens of local civil society organisation from Mexico, and group of international NGOs including Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace International, Global Justice Ecology Project, and the Indigenous Environmental Network sent two separated letters to California governor asking him to reconsider and stop the agreement with Chiapas.

Beside the government of Chiapas other non-governmental international sector have been particularly active in this case such as Conservation International (CI), World Wildlife Funs (WWF) and The Nature Conservancy (TNC), as well as academic institutions El Colegio de la Frontera Sur (ECOSUR), in charge of calculating the baseline for the implementation of REDD+ and training local people to do land based monitoring. Besides, ECOSUR led a project to classify the species called International Barcode of Life, that is recognised by local community as a huge risk of bio piracy, particularly if they are made to leave their forest, which would give free way through to the big pharmaceutical companies to use their natural resources. In 2012, ECOSUR distanced from the project, and pointed out the project is not part of the national REDD+ readiness process they have continue being part.

In 2013 newly selected Minister of Secretary of Environmental protection and Natural History of Chiapas (SEMAHN), Carlos Morales Vázquez, cancelled the project, explaining it is was not successful in addressing the root causes of deforestation, and for endangering the lives and livelihoods of indigenous peoples. He also stressed that REDD+ pilot was not part of the advance national REDD+ readiness process. Within national REDD+ process, state of Chiapas is recognised as early activity- the initiatives designated by the government in order to collect the experience on development of institution and technical base for implementing the Mexico’s national REDD+ strategy (ENAREDD+). ENAREDD+ has been designed in parallel to this process and it’s expected to be published and consulted with local people over 2014.

Basic Data

Name of conflict:REDD+ pilot, Lacandon Jungle, Chiapas, Mexico
State or province:Chiapas
Location of conflict:Amador Hernández
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)

Source of Conflict

Type of conflict. 1st level:Biomass and Land Conflicts (Forests, Agriculture, Fisheries and Livestock Management)
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Plantation conflicts (incl. Pulp
Biopiracy and bio-prospection
Agro-fuels and biomass energy plants
Land acquisition conflicts
Specific commodities:Biological resources
Carbon offsets
Ecosystem Services
Palm oil

Project Details and Actors

Project details

Each person gets 2,000 pesos or 160 dollars monthly for keeping its forest. The carbon credits are sold by the state of Chiapas to the state of California.

Project area:1,300,000
Level of Investment for the conflictive projectMonthly around 260,000 USD (3,356,000 pesos)
Type of populationRural
Affected Population:1,678,000 (people participating in the project)
Start of the conflict:2010
End of the conflict:2013
Company names or state enterprises:The Nature Conservancy (TNC)
El Colegio de la Frontera Sur (ECOSUR) - Calculation of the project baseline and monitoring system
Conservation International (CI) - Promotion and implementation of sub-national projects in state of Chiapas. Key actor and co-funder of the Climate Change Action Programme for the State of Chiapas (PACCCH)
World Wildlife Fund (WWF) - One of the investors
The Governors' Climate and Forests Task Force (GCF) - Main investor and future buyer of carbon credits from the REDD+ pilot
El Colegio de Posgraduados (COLPOS) - Partner on development of scientific and technical bases for implementation of PACCCH
Universidad Autónoma de México (UNAM) from Mexico - Partner on development of scientific and technical bases for implementation of PACCCH
Pronatura Sur - NGO responsible of training with the local community to implement REDD projects
AMBIO - NGO responsible of training with the local community to implement REDD projects
Relevant government actors:The Government of California; The Government of state of Chiapas, Mexico; The Secretary of Environment and Natural History of Chiapas (SEMAHN);The National Commission for Knowledge and Use of Biodiversity (CONABIO); The National Commission of Natural Protected Areas (CONANP)
International and Finance InstitutionsBritish Embassy in Mexico from United Kingdom - Main funder of PACCCH
United States Agency for International Development (USAID) (USAID) from United States of America - Funder of PACCCH
The World Bank (WB) from United States of America - Funding through its GEF Global Environment Fund
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:COCYP Central de Organizaciones Campesinas y Populares –Chiapas; Comité de derechos Humanos Oralia Morales; Comité de derechos humanos de base de Chiapas Digna Ochoa; Otros Mundos Chiapas / Amigos de La tierra México; Reddeldia; Movimiento Mexicano de Alternativas a las Afectaciones y Cambio; Climático MOVIAC-Chiapas; Organización Campesina Emiliano Zapata- Región Carranza; Organización Proletaria Emiliano Zapata –MLN; Laklumal-ixim. Norte- Selva, Chiapas; Red Mexican a de Afectados por la Minería REMA- Chiapas; Movimiento de Afectados por las Presas y en defensa de los ríos; MAPDER –Colectivo Tsunel Bej; Grupo ETC; Global Justice Ecology Project; Indigenous Environmental Network; Carbon Trade Watch; Global Forest Coalition; Timberwatch Coalition; Grassroots International; Grassroots Global Justice Alliance; Movement Generation Justice and Ecology Project

Conflict & Mobilization

IntensityHIGH (widespread, mass mobilization, violence, arrests, etc...)
Reaction stageIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups mobilizing:Indigenous groups or traditional communities
International ejos
Local ejos
Landless peasants
Social movements
Local scientists/professionals
Forms of mobilization:Blockades
Boycotts of official procedures/non-participation in official processes
Development of a network/collective action
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Media based activism/alternative media
Official complaint letters and petitions
Street protest/marches
Threats to use arms
Arguments for the rights of mother nature


Environmental ImpactsVisible: Soil erosion, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity
Potential: Air pollution, Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Desertification/Drought, Fires, Food insecurity (crop damage), Soil contamination, Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation
Health ImpactsVisible: Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide, Deaths
Potential: Malnutrition
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Displacement, Increase in violence and crime, Militarization and increased police presence, Violations of human rights, Land dispossession, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Potential: Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors


Project StatusStopped
Conflict outcome / response:Project cancelled
Proposal and development of alternatives:National and international CSO demanded cancellation of the REDD+ agreement among Chiapas and California.
Local people are rejecting REDD+ in any of its forms.
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:Not Sure
Briefly explain:Even though the REDD+ pilot was suspended, the Action Program on Climate Change in Chiapas (PACCCH) continues to refer to REDD+ as a keystone of the state’s climate change strategy, indicating that the project could be implemented as a part of the ENAREDD+ in other areas, such as the natural protected areas El Triunfo and El Ocote in Sierra Madre region. According to the Mexican government and ONG sector working on a design of ENAREDD+, it would include solid social safeguards that will guarantee the local people rights to request implementing REDD+ under their conditions or to reject its implementation. This has yet to be seen.

Sources & Materials

References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

Programa de Acción Ante el Cambio Climático del Estado de Chiapas (PACCCH)

REDD+: Crónica de un fracaso anunciado.

REDD: nombres para el despojo

Se deslinda Ecosur de proyecto en Selva Lacandona

Implementarían REDD+ en Sierra Madre de Chiapas

Chiapas State Government Says REDD Is Alive And Well And Far From 'Cancelled'§ion=news_articles&eod=1

Protests in Chiapas against REDD: “Stop the land grabs!”

People’s Forum Against REDD+ in Chiapas, Mexico

Vía Campesina declares its opposition to REDD in the Lacandón jungle

México cede sus bosques y selvas a Redd+

Chiapas, Mexico: From Living in the jungle to ‘existing’ in “little houses made of ticky-tacky…”


Suspendido el programa REDD Plus, dice Semahn

Chiapas: REDD Alert - Urgent Action Needed

Suspendido el programa REDD Plus, dice Semahn

Chiapas cancels 'disastrous' forest plan linked to Calif. cap-and-trade program

California REDD: A False Solution

Statement from Chiapas, Mexico: REDD project is a climate mask “to cover up the dispossession of the biodiversity of the peoples”

A Broken Bridge to the Jungle: The California-Chiapas Climate Agreement Opens Old Wounds

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

¿Conservación de la naturaleza o especulación y despojo?

REDD: la codicia por los árboles (The greed for trees) - English subtitle 1/5

A Darker Shade of Green REDD Alert and the Future of Forests

Trailer de 'REDD: la codicia por los árboles. El Caso Chiapas: la Selva Lacandona al mejor postor'

Indigenous people protest against REDD+ in Chiapas

Foro Campesino e Indigena sobre REDD - Lilibeth Aguilar Velazquez

Amador Hernandez, Chiapas: Starved of Medical Services for REDD

Protesta contra REDD+ en Chiapas

REDD : la codicia por los árboles (El Caso Chiapas: la Selva Lacanandona al mejor postor)

Meta information

Contributor:Jovanka Spiric, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, vankajo(at)
Last update18/08/2019
Conflict ID:1297



REDD+ payment

The Lacandoneses receiving the REDD+ payment

No REDD+ in Chiapas

Indigenous woman protesting against REDD+ pilot in Chiapas