|Joel Cabrera Rodas harvests palm in Chiapas, Mexico. Photo: Pronatura Sur A.C.|
My name is Joel Cabrera Rodas, I’m 25 years old. I live in Tierra y Libertad community in the Sepultura Biosphere Reserve, in the Sierra Madre de Chiapas in Mexico. I started cutting palms illegally when I was 16 years old. We didn’t know anything about sustainable management then; we just cut the fronds and sold them very cheap. But then we were caught by the authorities and I couldn’t live from this activity anymore.
I tried to migrate to United States like my brothers but we were caught again and I had to come back home with empty hands. It was a very difficult experience; we suffered while walking hours in the heat of the desert without knowing if we would make it through.
When I came back my father gave me five hectares of land and I began to cultivate the palm with other community members. We were able to organize our group with the help of Pronatura Sur and the Biosphere Reserve. We built a nursery and started planting below the trees in the mountain. Then in 2008 we obtained a legal permit to harvest the palm and we began selling it, but still the price was cheap.
With the Eco-Palm Program we feel that there are people who recognize the efforts we are doing to preserve the mountain and make a better living for our families. Last year it also gave us the opportunity to buy school supplies for child care and primary school in the community, with the rebate we received.
Now I’m working as one of the managers of the regional organization PROPACH. With it we will try to organize all the communities that cultivate palm in a sustainable manner in the Sierra Madre de Chiapas.
I would like to thank the churches and people that participate in Eco-Palm Program because you help us construct a better future in our community, for my one-year old daughter and all the other children.
By Joel Cabrera Rodas
his story is courtesy of Pronatura Sur A.C. The projects are part of the Sacred Orchid of Chiapas project supported by Global Environment Facility (GEF). UMCOR is a supporter of the Eco-Palm Project in partnership with the University of Minnesota. To order Eco-Palms visit www.ecopalms.org.