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Arpen, Mexico

  • Definition
    Devising project idea, defining the aim and main components
  • Design
    Specifying details such as time-frame, budget, target indicators, project partners and relevant steps to reach the project objectives
  • Financing
    Searching and securing funding and investment, setting up relevant financing partnerships, and discussing payment modalities
  • Implementation
    Execution of feasibility studies, context analysis, plot design, planting and setting up facilities and starting with potential capacity-building
  • Maintenance
    Operational phase (monitoring and evaluation, impact assessments and adjustments, execution of educational programmes and long-term capacity building)
  • Scaling Up
    Scaling up phase is when the project it has already shown success by obtaining impact as well as economic results and it's ready to become replicable.

Located on the Yucatán Peninsula, this project will be the first Citrus Agroforestry Educational Center in Mexico. It will serve as a demonstration and educational space for regenerative citrus agroforestry for 4,000 farmers, students and researchers. The project will teach farmers how to make the agroforestry transition while providing a living example right on their doorstep.

A citrus climate crisis 

Arpen’s small-scale citrus growers are currently confronted with a number of challenges. Citrus prices are declining, while climate change makes rainfall increasingly unpredictable. Furthermore, the Yucatan Peninsula has a very fragile ecosystem and local soils are heavily degraded.

All this makes it difficult for farmers to sustain their yields and, therefore, maintain a decent livelihood. Because in the end, it is the productivity of their farms that largely determines their income. There is a need for new ways of stabilizing and improving their living standards while taking environmental sustainability into account.

Citrus harvests in Yucatán
Citrus harvests in Yucatán are becoming increasingly unstable due to delayed rainy seasons – a result of climate change (Source: Ag Professional)

Our solution: Showcasing agroforestry 

In collaboration with Arpen, we are going to utilize the capabilities of Regenerative Agroforestry to increase the farmers’ economic resilience. Our Citrus Agroforestry Educational Center which falls under reNature’s Model School scheme will showcase a citrus agroforestry farm – a Model Farm – and the benefits it brings. 

Withstanding the climate, pleasing the environment

Within the project, additional plants and/or trees will be combined with the citrus trees to increase the resilience of farms against the impacts of climate change (e.g. longer dry periods). This will ensure more stable citrus yields. The variety of plant life within the agroforestry system will improve the productivity and health of the soil, thus nurturing the citrus trees. This will also increase the quality and size of yields. 

The hub will show multiple agroforestry systems from traditional alley planting to analog forestry. The different systems will show how to use native plant and tree species to accompany citrus. The system will support a far more diverse range of life than monocultures – thereby benefiting the local biodiversity. And as agroforestry systems naturally produce fertilizer, the need for destructive, artificial inputs will be decreased, all while the system sequesters an increased amount of carbon.

Benefitting the farmers

The Citrus Agroforestry Center’s location, opposite of the factory, will be a landmark to promote and educate stakeholders about agroforestry and gradually reach the farmers of the cooperative. The aim is to increase food security, satisfy livelihoods and inspire the next generation of farmers.

Citrus Harvest
Agroforestry would help Arpen’s farmers to stabilize their citrus yields (Source: NPR)

Thirty farmers are direct beneficiaries, as the system will be implemented on their own land. For the additional ±4,000 citrus growers in the cooperation, the center will serve as a learning facility and a place of inspiration. It will provide them with the opportunity to obtain the knowledge and capacity to transform their own farms into resilient agroforestry systems too.

On the economic side, agroforestry will act as a financial buffer. It will provide the farmers with increased protection from price fluctuations of citrus. Additional income streams from by-products will provide economic resilience. This effect is enhanced through the stabilizing effect agroforestry will have on their yields.

A joint venture: Arpen and the beneficiaries

For this project, we partnered with Arpen and the Unión de Ejidos Fruticultores del Maya – a farmer’s union. Its members focus on FAIRTRADE-certified citrus fruits: Limes, oranges, grapefruit, tangerines, green mandarins, lemons and bitter oranges. 

Limes Yucatán
Arpen’s farmers cultivate a wide range of citrus fruits destined for the US and European markets (Source: Yucatán Expat Life)

Since Arpen is a joint venture between growers and a private investor it is uniquely positioned to combine social focus and commercial efficiency. It also has the means and market knowledge to provide added value to the crops planted by the farmers. 

We believe that, even when agriculture is done in a sustainable manner, there is a need for holistic planning linking production, processing, and markets. Ultimately, it will translate into better living standards and a healthier environment.

A location to inspire 

The plot is situated right next to the factory where Arpen processes the raw fruits into a range of juices, pulp, and oils. Arpen’s farmers from the region will, therefore, pass by the plot whilst dropping off their fresh produce.

Arpen’s citrus processing factory
The agroforestry center will be located right next to Arpen’s citrus processing factory (Source: Arpen)

The project also includes a partnership with a technical university (Instituto Tecnológico Superior del Sur del Estado de Yucatán) which is situated in close proximity. There is an already existing partnership with the institute. Students and researchers will be able to visit the plot for study purposes.

Relevant infrastructure and facilities are already in place

The land where the Center could be located already has a citrus nursery needed for growing the young seedlings. It is strategically located in the middle of the agricultural region, with a good network of roads, electricity, cellular communication networks, and two supporting towns.

Arpen's tree nursery used to breed additional agroforestry species.
Arpen already has an existing tree nursery which could be used to breed additional agroforestry species (Source: AWA Nursery)

The existing nursery also provides additional opportunities for research. The indigenous fruits of the Mayan region require more research regarding selection, planting, development of new varieties, trees resistant to different diseases, etc.

1

educational center

40ha

agroforestry

4,000

beneficiaries

Benefits beyond the local scale 

Apart from the direct impacts, this project intends to provide a range of co-benefits for the region. More than 40% of Yucatán’s jungles have already been destroyed. The major causes of this destruction are industrial agriculture and illegal logging. Through the introduction of agroforestry, the necessity for the latter diminishes – sustainably produced wood is now available in the farmer’s own backyard! 

Yucatán’s precious jungle
Yucatán’s precious jungle is currently threatened by, among others, illegal logging and industrial agriculture. Agroforestry could help to solve this dilemma (Source: Adventure)

Agroforestry can, therefore, play a crucial role in stopping the illicit cutting and burning of the forests. Further, this project will fit the federal government of Yucatán’s regional agreements to invest in nature conservation and social-economic improvements of the region. 

Improvement of farmer livelihoods will trickle down into the local economy. Especially smaller or service-based companies (23% of the state economy), trade activities (21%), manufacturing (13%) commonly benefit from these effects.

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