Montagnini, F. Suárez A, Santana, R. 2008. Participatory Approaches to Ecological Restoration in Hidalgo, México. Bois Et Forest de Tropics. No. 295 (1): 5-20. Preprinted
High rates of deforestation and forest degradation in Mexicos rural communities have increased poverty and are causing rural populations to migrate to cities and foreign countries. Forest degradation in the State of Hidalgo is typical of many other states in Mexico. Forest restoration projects have been carried out in two regions in Hidalgo that contain all major forest types. Many of these forests are community managed. Recovering the productive capacity of these forests is essential for biodiversity conservation and for the economic well-being of local communities. A participatory approach to restoration was necessary to achieve this objective. The state of degradation, its causes and possible solutions were evaluated through regional and local community workshops. Criteria for selecting restoration techniques and plant species were based on the economic needs of the communities, known uses of the plants, seed availability, ecological function and site characteristics, amongst others. These criteria were determined in formal and informal community meetings and workshops. There was more participation in community workshops that in regional ones, mainly in Huehuetla and the ejidos of Atotonilco El Grande, thanks to the organizational abilities of these communities. A total of 30 catalyst species and 23 rare species, all native, were selected for the four ecosystem types in the region. It was found that community members have a remarkable understanding of the state of local natural resources and that their participation was crucial to the success of restoration projects.