Protecting the Five Great Mesoamerican Forests, Indigenous Rights, and our Global Climate by Addressing the Drivers of Deforestation
Five Forests is an international alliance working to protect the five majestic Mesoamerican forests – the Selva Maya (Mexico/Guatemala), Moskitia (Honduras/Nicaragua), Indio-Maiz/Tortuguero (Nicaragua/Costa Rica), La Amistad (Costa Rica), Darien (Panama). Combined these forests are the size of Costa Rica and second in size and importance in the Americas only to the Amazon.
Five Forests seeks to bring the importance of the ecological systems and the indigenous people who tend them to the public’s attention to protect these forests indefinitely.
TREES VS COWSCentral America is the epicenter of the battle between cattle ranching and trees. The bio-cultural wreckage due to cattle ranching in Central America is profound. Dr. Jeremy Radachowsky of Global Wildlife Society and Chris Jordan from the Wildlife Conservation Society conducted a comprehensive study entitled, “Human Footprint and Cow’s Hoofprint Analysis”. Dr. Radachowsky says, “Illegal cattle ranching is responsible for more than 90% of recent deforestation in the region’s remaining wildlife strongholds and indigenous territories. In the last 15 years, three of Central America’s five largest forests have been reduced in size by up to 30%. Between 2000 and 2015, the Moskitia Forest of Honduras and Nicaragua was reduced by 30% and the Maya Forest of Guatemala, Mexico and Belize was reduced by 25%.”  Read this article in Mongabay to learn more on how the global demand for cheap beef is a chief factor driving deforestation and displacement in the region. 90% of the forest destruction, especially within protected indigenous forests, has resulted from powerful elites, corrupt state leaders, and narco-ranchers using their influence to commandeer state and traditional indigenous land for cattle ranching. Central American nations export millions of head of cattle into the US each year. In fact, Nicaragua is the fifth largest beef provider to the USA in the world. Much of this forest-destroying ranching is currently legal under national laws. At the same time, the US produces  almost equal amounts of beef as it imports  globally. Thus, there is room to question the need for the US to import beef that is destroying tropical forests. Moreover, a second shadow cattle economy permeates legal Mesoamerican cattle markets. In numbers estimated to rival legal imports, illicit cattle from Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua are smuggled as contraband to Mexico and the US. Profits derived from ranching fuel narco-organizations and repressive regimes across Central America. Watch this PBS Newshour video that clearly lays out the unethical issues with the beef supply market from Nigaragua to the US.
THE NEED FOR SYSTEM-WIDE CHANGEFive Forests changes systems. “It always seems impossible until it’s done.” Nelson Mandela, 2001 While there are ongoing grassroots and international efforts to advance indigenous rights, protect biodiversity, and ensure food safety in Mesoamerica, there is no system-wide effort to address the drivers of deforestation in Mesoamerica; no integrated, supply chain approach that connects the causes and effects to push for region-wide structural change in support of forests and indigenous forest peoples. The existential threat of climate chaos and the near and permanent loss of rich, tropical biodiversity and their native stewards requires that we take a coordinated systems approach to intervene in the mechanisms of habitat and cultural destruction. Five Forests brings together the vision and values of local indigenous communities with the power and resources of international civil society. Together, Five Forests is mapping the Mesoamerican cattle supply chain to identify the entities and processes that propel deforestation and injustice. We look for levers to energize fundamental system transformation. This work holds governments and corporations accountable all along the forest-to-beef supply chain. The goal is to secure a more sustainable and just trade system that preserves the five Meso-American forests, uplifts the rights and governance of indigenous inhabitants, ensures healthy, forest-safe beef for consumers, and protects the global climate.
 https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/07/170726091543.htm  https://beef2live.com/story-beef-production-year-0-107550  https://www.farmtalknewspaper.com/news/cattle-and-beef-trade-summary-part/article_4a577448-4a58-11e9-b287-e3afa1e88414.html  Jordan and Radachowsky. More trees, fewer cows.  Ibid
AN INTERNATIONAL COLLABORATIONFive Forests Alliance is an international movement working to protect the five majestic Mesoamerican forests: the Selva Maya (Mexico/Guatemala), Moskitia (Honduras/Nicaragua), Indio-Maiz/Tortuguero (Nica/Costa Rica), La Amistad (Costa Rica), Darien (Panama). Combined these forests are the size of Costa Rica and second in size and importance in the Americas only to the Amazon. Collaborators include Global Wilderness Conservation, Wildlife Conservation Society, Comisión Centroamericana de Ambiente y Desarrollo, Alianza MesoAmerica de Pueblos y Bosques, the Occidental Arts and Ecology Center, and more. The work of the Five Forests Alliance is organized by cross-cutting issues and geographically by forest. ISSUES:
- Drivers of Deforestation: Address drivers of deforestation by tackling policies that make destructive cattle ranching profitable
- Strong Governance: Improve governance including strengthening law enforcement to remove cattle from protected areas
- Sustainable livelihoods: Support livelihoods by assisting indigenous governments and communities to strengthen their rights, access, and land tenure
- Reforestation: Reforest and restore areas degraded by cattle ranching
- Selva Maya (Mexico/Guatemala)
- Moskitia (Honduras/Nicaragua)
- Indio-Maiz/Tortuguero (Nicaragua/Costa Rica)
- La Amistad (Costa Rica)
- Darien (Panama)