By Jose de Jesus Cortes
Oaxaca, Mexico, Dec 28 (EFE).- Members of an Ikoots indigenous community in the southern Mexican state of Oaxaca have embarked on a projects to restore the ravaged mangroves on the lake surrounding the village of San Mateo del Mar in hopes of mitigating the effects of climate change.
Every evening at sundown, more than 70 women and men push carts loaded with soil and botoncillo (buttonwood) saplings down to the edge of the lake, which lies near the Gulf of Tehuantepec, for planting.
The Ikoots are using the ancient Mesoamerican technique of “chinampas,” artificial islands created by interweaving reeds with stakes beneath the lake’s surface.
The “floating gardens” of the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan that made such an impression on the conquistadors are the best known examples of the practice.
Doña Albertina Flores, a 45-year-old fisherwoman who works on the project along with her two children, takes a moment to tell EFE that restoring the mangroves will encourage the return of fish and shrimp, which were once plentiful in the lagoon.
In many cases, she said, it was necessity that drove residents to chop down the mangroves.
“But right now we are planting to help those little ones who are coming along,” Flores said.
Elizabeth, 40, stresses the benefits of restoring the mangroves “for the environment, for us to have more oxygen and at the same time give life to the lake, to the fish.”
The head of the reforestation committee, Daniela Quintero, described the effect of rising temperatures on San Mateo del Mar in the absence of shade.
“Here we are surrounded by water and lately it has been very hot due to the lack of those trees. Also the strong wind that whips the region, precisely because there are no mangroves to stop it,” she said.
More than 5,000 saplings have been planted so far, according to forest engineer Edgar Abrego Victoria, a San Mateo del Mar native who is directing the regional effort to restore mangroves in the Isthmus de Tehuantepec.
“We want to recover our identity and the barrier that previously protected us from the winds, the floods and the heat,” he said.