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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
  • Open to 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 aims to be the main 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 build capacity for farmers to make the transition to climate smart agroforestry production.

A citrus climate crisis 

Arpen’s small-scale citrus and tropical fruits 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 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. The Yucatán Agroforestry Center (YAC) will showcase citrus agroforestry production – through implementation of a context specific Model Farm – and the benefits it brings.

Additionally, in close collaboration with the local communities, we will support several smallholders in implementing the design on part of their plot. Together with the activities of the YAC, these farmers and their plots are envisioned to inspire other farmers to make the transition.

The end goal goes beyond citrus; the YAC is intended to be a hub for agroforestry that goes beyond citrus, and eventually even beyond the Yucatán Peninsula; contributing to the adoption of regenerative agroforestry practices in the whole of the Americas.This project is being realized by Arpen and technical partner reNature, in partnership with the Land Degradation Neutrality Technical Assistance Facility (managed by IDH – The Sustainable Trade Initiative) and Rabo Foundation.

Working with nature to create a resilient system

Within the project, additional plants and 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), which 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 while also providing opportunities for the production of additional food, fiber, and fuel. 

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 petroleum-based and in many cases harmful external inputs will be decreased, all while the system sequesters an increased amount of carbon.

Benefitting the farmers

The YACs location, opposite of the factory, will be a landmark to promote and educate stakeholders about agroforestry and gradually reach all farmers of the cooperative. The aim is to increase food security, improve livelihoods and inspire a next generation of regenerative agriculture entrepreneurs that produce in harmony with nature.

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

Thirty farmers are direct beneficiaries, as the farmers will implement the system on their land or they will be a part of the capacity building activities. For the additional ±4,000 citrus growers in the cooperation, the center will serve as a learning facility and a place of inspiration. In the period 2022-2023, the YAC will organize several educational events to reach a critical mass of producers and sensitize them to a better way of production. As the YAC realizes its full potential over the next two years, it will provide farmers with the opportunity to obtain the knowledge, seedlings, materials, and financial resources to make the switch to a resilient and regenerative business.

On the economic side, agroforestry will act as a financial buffer. It will provide the farmers with increased protection from price fluctuations of citrus as their yields stabilize, they become less dependent on the fluctuating prices of input materials, and their farm income is more diversified over multiple crops. Additional income streams from by-products will provide further economic resilience.

A joint venture: Arpen and the beneficiaries

For this project, we partnered with Arpen and the Unión de Ejidos Fruticultores del Mayab – a farmer’s union that supplies Arpen and is a shareholder in the organization. Its members focus on quality 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 a holistic approach that combines profit and purpose, linking regenerative production, processing, and the markets that reward quality. Ultimately, this is the only way to achieve long term impacts in better living standards and a healthier environment.

Building on local capacities and infrastructure 

The land where the Center could be located already has a citrus nursery needed for growing the young seedlings for both citrus and complementary crops such as additional tree species, food crops, and cover crops. 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. 

The existing nursery also provides additional opportunities for research. The indigenous fruits of the Mayan region could offer a treasure trove of genetic diversity, natural disease resistance, and nutritional and health benefits.

Finally, the YAC will not only harness the knowledge of local agronomists and the enthusiasm of students from the local agrotechnical university. The farmer-centric approach of reNature will ensure that capacity building focuses on the farming communities’ wants and needs, bringing in the voice of women and youth, and linking to cultural heritage and ancient production methods to realize a system that is truly regenerative.

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)

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.

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 and will be integrated into the capacity building activities to ensure agroforestry practices are spread beyond Arpen and the Unión de Ejidos Fruticultores del Mayab.

Read more at IDH.

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