La Cooperativa Agua y Monte
SC de RL de CV
Handcarved Wooden Utilitarian & Art Objects
La Cooperativa Agua y Monte SC de RL de CV is a cooperative formed by seven indigenous artisans from the Náhuatl community of Pajapan in the Sierra de Santa Maria mountains of southern Veracruz where there is over 1,500 acres of tropical and rainforest. Unfortunately, the remaining forest is only 25% of what existed before the lands were cleared for farming. Although this area is under protection, many carpenters illegally use the wood. The indigenous population involved in this project are the Nahuas and Populucas.
Due to mismanagement and destruction of forests, carpenters livelihoods have been harshly impacted. Impacted as well are other plant life and organisms such as wild mushrooms, crabs that live in the mangrove areas, other natural plant life, plants with medicinal properties, birds, orchids and bromeliads, a palm common to this area, as well as marketable firewood.
A small group of carpenters came together to begin to reforest their land and to seek an alternative and a more rational use of their wood. Thus arose the idea of making smaller wood objects that have greater value. This group of artisans do not use wood larger than a designated size from the "reserved" are which is part of their reforestation project. Rather, they buy certified wood from the state of Quintana Roo.
Currently over 30 different crafts are being developed, mainly for utilitarian objects such as bread knives, spoons, forks for salad, candlesticks, etc. The products are sold, without intermediaries, to different stores throughout Mexico involved in eco-resources. Crafts are also sent to other states such as Yucatan, Oaxaca, Xalapa and Michoacán.
Although the cooperative does not own any of its own land, thanks to the principle artisans involved, they practice unity and equality and have succeeded in creating full-time employment for the seven partners, and are sometimes able to generate work for neighbors.
Problems with the project involve carpenters who continue to use the protected forests or who do not wish to change the type of carpentry they have been doing for perhaps their entire lives, governmental mismanagement of the forest, lack of interest in helping keep the project viable by local authorities, and lastly, envy — envy of wood workers who have not taken steps to become involved in this project and do not have wood at their disposal legally to continue their work.
This cooperative is a member of the regional organization of the Sierra Tssooka Teyoo AC and has certainly shown themselves as a model to make better use of our natural resources. When you purchase the products of the Cooperativa, you are helping to ensure that this project succeeds.