Nara Lee, MEM

2013 TRI Fellow in Mexico

Valuing the Ejido System for Sustainable Agave Forest Management.

My research was designed to compare the impact of two different types of land ownership on natural resource management. How the ejido system—a Mexican communal land use system—plays a role in managing wild agave populations at the community level was analyzed and compared with private lands. During six weeks in Mexico, with the help of my local partner, Grupo de Estudios Ambientales, I visited local mescal factories and interviewed mescal producers in communities with the ejido system and private lands. The goal was to compare the mescal production process—including agave harvest, agave transportation, fermentation and distillation—between different types of land ownership. My interview results show variation of the wild agave population depending on the type of landownership in Guerrero, Mexico. Communities with the ejido system have more wild agave in their land, since the community members are required to comply with harvest and reforestation rules. A high agave population provides benefits to community members by increasing local people’s income from mescal sales, which is made of agave. On the other hand, private landowners complain about the decrease of agave that reduces their income by increasing time and energy to obtain appropriate agave to make mescal. Even though local mescal producers have vague ideas about advantages of the ejido system, prior research has not explored impacts of the ejido system on the wild agave population in the area.