Carbon Sequestration in Communities of Extreme Poverty in the Sierra Gorda, Mexico



Bosque Sustentable A.C. is working with private landowners in the Sierra Gorda Biosphere Reserve to establish reforestation projects to restore degraded lands with native trees. The project aims to mitigate climate change while providing benefits to local communities and promoting biodiversity conservation. Between 1997 and 2009, 138 reforestation sites were established. The area was projected to increase by 40 hectares each year between 2010 and 2013. this project uniquely involves large numbers of small reforestation projects, some as small as 5 hectares in area. This allows for many individual farmers who would be otherwise excluded from larger scale reforestation projects to be involved in the project. 

The communities involved in the project are in extreme poverty and are comprised of landowners with few livelihood options. Traditional agriculture and livestock practices cause soil erosion and subsequent watershed degradation. Reforestation offers a sustainable land use alternative and an additional source of income. Landowners are compensated for planting trees and managing reforestation for optimum growth and carbon sequestration.  Local forestry experts support landowners by providing technical training and expertise, to ensure reforestation meets carbon sequestration requirements.

The project is verified by the Rainforest Alliance and is validated by the Verified Carbon Standard (VCS) and was the first Mexican forest carbon project to be recognised under VCS. The project has also achieved validation to the Climate, Community and Biodiversity (CCB) Standard with gold approval, the standard's highest rating for exceptional climate change adaptation, biodiversity and community benefits (CCB Standards Second Edition Climate Adaptation, Community & Biodiversity Gold Level in June 2011).

Buyers of forest carbon credits to date include the United Nations Foundation, Utah State University, World Land Trust, Fundación Ecologia y Desarrollo, LGT Venture Philanthropy, Live Climate, Schwab Foundation, Triple Bottom Line Investment, Instituto Internacional de Facilitadores y Cambio, S.C. Byociber, and SVT Group.

Stakeholder engagement and participation

Stakeholder engagement and participation were discussed in the various meetings held with the Sierra Gorda Biosphere Reserve (SGBR) prior to its establishment in 1997. Comments have been received from participant communities through numerous meetings. Ongoing consultation between project managers and stakeholders take place through the SGBR Advisory Council and its Productive Projects Committee, including representatives from government agencies and community representatives.  

Land tenure arrangements and carbon rights

The land in the project area is under either the collective ownership and management of communities or ejidos, or the private ownership of individual farmers and landowners. All lands must have clear legal title or a certificate of legitimate land possession issued by the municipality to participate in the project. Rights to the emissions offsets are transferred from the landowners and landholders to the project operator via contracts.

Forest Management

The project complies with all laws and regulations. Furthermore, the organisations from the Sierra Gorda Alliance for Conservation have successfully operated long-term enforcement programmes. The SGBR aims to contribute to activities promoting law enforcement in the region.

Reference levels

The baseline methodology follows the AR-AMS0001 / Version 06. 


The project has been validated with Gold Level verification to the Climate Community and Biodiversity (CCB) Standard. It must therefore comply with the safeguards required by the CCB Alliance. The project benefits in terms of carbon sequestration, biodiversity conservation, hrdrological services and improved livelihoods for local communities are being continualy verified through scientific assessments. For example, analyses regarding the social return on investments are being carried out by the Grupo Ecológico Sierra Gorda to assess the range of impacts of the programme on the communities in Sierra Gorda.

To maximise positive impacts on biodiversity, reforestation only involves native species. 


The monitoring plan includes a leakage survey and calculation methodology that applies to all new areas entering the plan and that operate regardless of any changes in the size of the project. The MRV system follows the VCS and CCB standard requirements.