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This article explores the perspectives and roles of community representatives with experience in the implementation of Nature-based Solutions in Mexico.

Implementing Nature-Based Solutions (NbS) can be an impactful strategy to confront biodiversity and climate crises, while promoting sustainable rural development and generating financial, social and investment returns. Despite this, NbS face multiple difficulties in implementation, with lack of financing as a critical obstacle. Unlocking investment to close the gap will require investors, governments and infrastructure operators to include natural capital solutions and to implement specific financing strategies.

This is part three of a written series (part 1, part 2) that explores, through interviews, the perspectives and roles of different key stakeholders in breaking down barriers to scale NbS projects in Mexico. This series is part of the Climate Solutions Partnership (CSP), a five-year collaboration which combines HSBC’s financial expertise with the knowledge and experience of WRI, WWF and a network of local partners to scale climate solutions.

The communities of Isla Arena, San Crisanto, Sisal, Marismas and La Ventanilla, in the states of Campeche, Yucatán, Nayarit and Oaxaca, respectively, face numerous social challenges. These include but are not limited to a lack of opportunities, inequality, insecurity and little access to critical public services; like roads, electricity, banks and schools. On top of that, they face issues related to pollution, gentrification, intensive tourism, the change in land use and illegal logging. These impact local livelihoods, as well as the ability to cope with the impacts of climate change – especially for the populations in vulnerable situations: migrants, women, children, the elderly, native groups or people with disabilities or who are in situations of extreme poverty.

Nature-based Solutions (NbS) are interventions that take advantage of nature to address several of these challenges simultaneously. That’s why it’s critical to identify and break down barriers to funding NbS while promoting their implementation.

According to recent estimates, NbS such as reforestation, agroforestry, soil restoration and pasture management can contribute more than 20% of Mexico’s GHG emission reduction targets by 2050. These solutions represent an opportunity to increase investment in ecosystems and the services they provide. In addition, they offer vital sources of income for the communities, job opportunities for women and can be economically viable alternatives that avoid the degradation of ecosystems.

Despite benefiting both nature and society, investment in these projects is limited. Most of these projects are funded by public and philanthropic funds. Only 14% of NbS capital is coming from the private sector.

Banking institutions are key to promoting NbS investment since their practices and standards contribute to positioning it as an attractive and economically viable alternative. Banking also plays a fundamental role in closing the current funding gap between how much countries must invest in NbS to reach various goals and how what they currently contribute. To achieve this, it is important to increase the visibility and applicability of NbS, as is the creation of alliances and pilot projects with less funding risk for the private sector.

In 2020, WRI Mexico carried out a compilation of experiences and lessons learned from projects related to the restoration, management and conservation of mangroves in a context of adaptation to climate change, as part of the proyecto Adaptación Basada en Ecosistemas Costeros. This mapping made the distribution of efforts, the stakeholders involved and some of the key factors for Nature-based Solutions (NbS) more visible to generate a positive and lasting impact.

In issuing this third installment, it is important to emphasize the work of communities and their importance in the conservation and sustainable management of natural resources, we present this third installment. We interviewed five representatives of the communities to get to know their experiences, the benefits they identified and the knowledge they gained accelerating and implementing NbS — specifically the restoration and management of mangrove ecosystems. Lessons learned after hearing their perspective are crucial to implementing sustained efforts on the ground-level, as community members are often tasked with carrying out the work on a daily basis.

Lessons from the communities for the implementation of Nature-based Solutions

From these conversations, we identify lessons learned so that NbS projects are more likely to be successful; the improvement or restoration of the tangible and intangible benefits that mangrove ecosystems offer to communities, the strengthening of governance based on local knowledge, and the identification of barriers and challenges to create strategies that address and thus resolve them.

1. Tangible and intangible benefits

Ecosystem services are the tangible and intangible benefits that humans obtain from ecosystems, and they are classified into four categories; support, provision, regulation and cultural services. Mangroves offer support services. A habitat and a refuge for species, they provide fishing and timber resources that are essential to people’s livelihoods. More broadly, mangroves are crucial to regulating carbon sequestration, water quality, nutrient flows, the local climate and to protect the coasts from hurricanes. Mangroves provide places ripe for environmental education, research and recreational activities.

Ecosystem services of mangroves.


In our interviews, the community leaders shared the tangible and intangible benefits they identified after the implementation of NbS in their communities, specifically with the mangrove restoration and management work in which they participate.

Israel Molas works at the Carey cooperative in Isla Arena, Campeche. He recognized the tangible benefits of the improvement of fish refuges and the recovery of biodiversity – which increases fishing and the economic income of the community, on which 80% of the inhabitants depend.

“We realized that restoration activity contributes a lot to fishing and [this] is of great satisfaction for us,” added Molas. Isla Arena is a refuge for a variety of fishable species. More fish led to more bird refuges, which inspired a group of women to coordinate the monitoring of birds, generating jobs and boosting ecotourism.

Teresa Andueza, community restorer in Sisal, Yucatán, said the mangroves “provide carbon sequestration, which helps to mitigate climate change,” and the restoration “helps them to recover biodiversity, because birds, fish... crabs begin to arrive.”

“Without the mangrove, it is like saying that a little bit of what we are is over. That’s what we live on and that’s where we support our families,” says Alondra Pérez, a reforester in the Marismas Nacionales Biosphere Reserve, Nayarit. For her and fellow female reforesters, mangroves are strongly linked to their well-being, livelihood and identity. The damage from Hurricane Roselyn in October 2022, for example, nearly decimated Unión de Corrientes, Alondra’s Nayarit town.

Pérez points to the power of remaining mangroves that mitigated the impact of the hurricane. “If it were not for the mangroves, the community would be finished.”

José Inés Loria, advisor to the San Crisanto ejido [common land] in Yucatán said, “It became clear to us that the mangrove was key to our community process, and today, we understand that, if that mangrove disappears, the community disappears.”

Beyond the generation of economic income and decent jobs, these interviews highlight the strength of the relationship between the mangroves and the community.

2. Local knowledge and governance

Community leaders have also identified key factors and strategies for successful restoration and conservation projects. The capacity of communities to organize themselves and generate new organizational structures is important to the success of these conservation projects. Leading projects instills useful, new skills, transferrable to other aspects of their lives.

According to interviewees, a new community organizational structure around mangrove conservation and restoration requires defined roles, the legitimate ownership of the land, community involvement, and planning and self-management so that efforts do not weaken once the support and assistance of third parties ends.

For her part, Pérez said that communication between the participants is essential to leave space for dialogue and the establishment of agreements in which all parties feel comfortable. Andueza emphasized the importance of participation and conflict resolution strategies as methods to strengthen group communication.

According to Faustino Escamilla, representative of the Lagarto Real cooperative in La Ventanilla, Oaxaca, identity, a knowledge of the communities, and continuous monitoring are also key. She said, “We were building inventories from the resources that we have […] if we don’t know what we have, we won’t know how to assign a value to that resource, be it for use or exchange,” he said.

In addition, the exchange of experiences between communities generates synergies.

“I think that the experience that the communities have is important [...] At the Mangrove Congress, we had exchanges with several colleagues and there are techniques that they have used and that have worked for them,” Molas said.

3. Barriers, funding, and continuous learning

There are barriers that prevent communities from optimally carrying out restoration, conservation and sustainable management activities in mangroves. These include a lack of support from municipal and federal authorities, bureaucracy, staff turnover and the interruption of procedures, as well as slow political will to carry out the changes of land use in favor of the sustainable and community management of mangroves.

Obtaining the funding to continue these projects remains difficult. Pérez lamented, “the desire is there, the strength is there, the union is there, but what is missing is financial support.

Local and federal authorities do not always have the will or the budget to provide effective support, so the communities have chosen to generate their own resources — even if this does not allow them to reach their objectives in the short term — by making themselves known to pertinent authorities that provide financial support and other resources and applying to receive international funds from NGOs.

Escamilla said that complying with the proposed goals opened the doors to getting the support of the environmental authorities, since the National Forestry Commission was not originally willing to provide them with support due to its being a small community with little restoration experience. After their successful restoration project, they are now often invited to national forums to present their story.

The visibility of community initiatives also plays an important role in obtaining funding. The synergies that are generated with some local stakeholders and organizations can encourage them to be considered in future calls. Israel Molas said that local groups have the confidence to let Molas and the Carey cooperative know when a fund is available, both from the local environmental authority and from a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) with which the cooperative has been working for three years. However, he added that federal agencies have reduced the budget for this work in recent years.

Andueza sees this decade as a great opportunity for the private sector to get involved with NbS. Mangrove projects are properly aligned with the objectives of the United Nations’s 2030 Agenda and with what it classified as “The decade of the restoration of ecosystems for food security and climate action.

Closing the funding gap for the implementation of NbS is possible and presents a great opportunity to address various problems while at the same time, benefiting communities and ecosystems. WRI Mexico works with various communities, governments, private sector actors and academic organizations to promote NbS in the region. This is epitomized by a program like the RE3CO initiative which looks to strengthen capacities and promote the development of economic activities associated with the mangroves, that ensure the maintenance of the achievements achieved with the investments that were made.

The conservation and restoration of mangroves offers plenty of incentives and clear, positive results for the community. And yet, significant barriers to widespread adoption and implementation of NbS remain. Strengthening abilities, increasing funding, and enhancing technical support for community-led organizations and leaders are fundamental to future success. These interviews underscore a need for greater collaboration and support between communities, the private sector, academia and both municipal and federal governments.