Damage left by Hurricane Carlotta. Damage left by Hurricane Carlotta.

Still picking up after Hurricane Carlotta

Ecotourism coop replanting lost mangroves in Oaxaca coastal village

Many people in Santa María Tonameca, Oaxaca, lost hope, jobs, tools and almost everything else when category 2 Hurricane Carlotta made landfall nearby. Today, five years later, some are still recovering.

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To do so they have dedicated themselves to restoring the lost mangroves and their livelihoods.

People in the small coastal village of La Ventanilla got together in 2005 and created the Lagarto Real Cooperative in an effort to sustainably exploit the ecotourism potential of their little part of the world.

The effort was also an attempt to create jobs and keep residents belonging to some 25 Zapotec families from having to travel elsewhere in Mexico or the United States to look for work.

The venture proved successful until Carlotta struck in 2012, severely damaging 80% of the mangroves surrounding the town.

As a result, the number of migratory and endemic wildlife species found in La Ventanilla has drastically dropped.

“Before, we had mangroves up to 20 meters high, [which created] tunnels and labyrinths inside the lagoon, which one could traverse in rowboats,” cooperative spokesman Manuel Reyes Escamilla told the newspaper Milenio.

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The affected area has been slow to recover, and during the last season “only 25% of the birds arrived,” he lamented.

The people of La Ventanilla have not been idle since the hurricane though. For years they had been attempting to start the cleanup and recovery work on the mangroves, but they first had to obtain the necessary permits.

“We knocked on the doors of the municipal . . . .and state authorities but had no luck until we reached the [federal] National Forest Commission [Conafor], which subsidized the reforestation,” said Faustino Escamilla, another member of the cooperative.

Residents are currently reintroducing red mangrove, an effort that involves everyone: the women are tasked with growing and tending to the plants in a greenhouse until they grow to a meter in height while the men clean up and plant the new mangrove.

The goal is to recover at least 57 hectares of mangroves, Escamilla explained.

Five students from the Benito Juárez Autonomous University of Oaxaca (UABJO) have joined the reforestation efforts as volunteers.

Source: Milenio (sp)

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