Mexico's New Generation of Female Forest Defenders

Women are at the forefront of the movement to defend and restore the forests of Guerrero state in southern Mexico. Founded in 2001, the Women's Environmentalist Organization of the Sierra of Petatlan (OMESP) promotes sustainable and organic agriculture, forest fire prevention, reforestation, water and soil conservation, and recycling. The group has grown from 12 to 90 members, and in 2003 and 2004, members planted more than 175,000 red cedar trees in the hills from seeds provided by a nursery run by the Mexican army. Some members of the group have found that they can earn a decent side income of as much as US$3,000 annually from selling tree seeds.

OMESP was founded by Celsa Valdovinos, whose husband Felipe Arreaga, another forest activist, was detained and falsely accused of homicide in 2004. After spending 10 months in prison, he was absolved of the charges against him and liberated on September 15, 2005.Environmental work in Mexico, particularly defending the forests in states like Guerrero, has become increasingly high risk. Rights advocates say grassroots leaders often represent a threat to rural power structures consisting of landowners and other commercial interests, judges, military and police. In recent years, several forest activists have been attacked and even killed by illegal loggers and other special interests who broker deals with corrupt local politicians and courts. :: Via Americas Program of the Center for International Policy

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