After two and a half weeks in Chiapas, we are wrapping up our first field season! Though I’ve been unable to post for the last week due to inconsistent/intermittent internet access, we’ve been quite busy with our interviews and landscape surveys.
Some new surprises in the landscape have included large tree plantations of not only recently planted oil palm, but also well established teak trees (teca) and rubber plants (hulay).
Our interviews have been insightful, providing us with some interesting perspectives on the evident diversification of land uses in a region best known for its cattle.
Palm Plantation along the road
Over the last few days, we’ve had a chance to begin speaking with people from a few different communities in the region and are beginning to hear the stories associated with the landscape. Although some of these processes are well documented, particularly land use transitions associated with timber extraction from the Selva Lacanada, the rise of maize cultivation and cattle raising by small-holder farmers , we have started to observe the rise of palm oil plantations. There are a number of palm plantations that appear along the major roadways outside of Palenque, but it seems that palm oil plantations are also appearing further south, where small-holder farming prevails.
photo credit: Hamil Pearsall
For our first day in the field, we drove the along a portion of the Eastern Lowlands in Chiapas and observed different land uses, primarily pasture for cattle, but also maize fields and a few palm oil plantations. Some fields were recently cleared (see photo), while others were semi-vegetated or contained secondary growth.
My collaborators and I are starting our new study in Eastern Chiapas, Mexico this week (more details about the project appear at the following link: https://sites.temple.edu/hpearsall/research/vulnerabilities-in-mexico/)
I’ll post reflections and updates as time and internet connectivity permits.