We interviewed Mercedes Cortés, the Managing Director of the Mexican organization TuBosque (Spanish for “YourForest”), our implementing partner for holistic reforestation projects:
What is your background?
I studied architecture, but I’ve always been interested in public space. About how to recover it by reinforcing the social links and gaining more spaces to recreate life, contemplate, get together, and playgrounds. By the time I was at university, I had discovered the Yogui philosophy, which resonated a lot with my beliefs of taking care of all ways of life and reconnecting with our spirituality to evolve as human beings. I found permaculture, where I found philosophical, ethical, and practical tools to design and rethink other ways of life based on the prosperity of nature and people.
I have been exploring and deepening the different petals of permaculture according to my stages and needs in life. I’ve been involved in topics from bio-construction, eco-technologies, social organization, organic agriculture, meetings, and exchanges of knowledge. Also, since I moved to Chiapas, I started connecting and learning in practice with the indigenous communities, where I have been able to reinforce, learn, and continue to know other ways of doing, other worlds where people and nature still exist have a close relationship. In this path, I’ve found tools to know myself better, redesign my way of life so I can propose holistic projects, and share other ways of doing and creating new interactions with daily life.
In 2018 I started working in an NGO for the Jovel’s watershed committee in San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas. They’ve done a territorial management plan for the basin and reforestation campaigns for over 15 years. That was my first professional contact with reforestation. Even though I used to be a field technician focusing on creating groups of work in communities to capacitate and implement practices to avoid the erosion of the soil, retain water and establish the vegetation according to the people and ecological needs for good territorial management. I learned everything that involves coordinating the reforestations since we worked as a holistic multidisciplinary group.
What is your aspiration with TuBosque? Where do you want to be in one year from now?
Being part of creating a new NGO as TuBosque has been a personal growth since I’ve been able to create from scratch, from the internal structure to how we operate, the mission, vision, and strategy. One year from now, I see myself harvesting our first year of work with an empowered team with the tools to make the right decisions, propose new projects, and the capacity to readapt according to the circumstances.
Why do you not only plant trees but also place a big focus on empowering the local communities?
When we talk about the territory, we talk about territory with people. Local communities have been managing their territory and maintaining the local resources for hundreds of years. Through the current global situation, the works in the field have never been recognized as the activities that maintain life in general and the needs of the populations. Rural communities, farmers, and indigenous people maintain the subsistence of wildlife, cities, and population by providing food, ecological resources, raw material, and ecosystems. The problem with this is they don’t realize the value of their daily life activities, and their knowledge hasn’t been recognized over time. They have been put into a marginalized situation of ignorance by the main of the population. The goal of TuBosque is to facilitate a space where everyone can share their knowledge and problems to find together solutions. We know that reinforcing their capacities and bringing them new tools to solve their problems will make them adapt and replicate the technics, which will follow the sustainability of the projects. We, as TuBosque, provide information, capacitation, and resources, but we need an alliance so the proposal of TB can scale in order to revegetate the territory. Working with the people and including their ideas from the beginning helps us better plan the proposal to attend to the ecological, social, economic, and cultural context with and of the people who live and sustain the territory.
Who would you like to be stuck in an elevator with?
Vandana Shiva is a world-renowned environmental thinker, ecofeminist who fights for the farmers’ rights, activist, philosopher of science, writer, science policy, and food sovereignty advocate. She has been involved in many global issues such as biopiracy of ancestral knowledge, women’s & field labors, the conservation of seeds, soil, and farmers’ rights. She is a modern-day revolutionary fighting on behalf of humanity and nature.
When moving to Chiapas, she started to connect with the indigenous communities and learned about their practices
The seedlings in our tree nursery have grown beautifully during the last months. Soon it’s time to distribute them to the local communities!