This Mexican town declared independence to protect its forest from avocados

We all love avocado. But while we’re mashing it in our sourdough on a Sunday morning, it’s causing much bigger problems on the other side of the world.

In Cheran, an autonomous township in Mexico, the scaly green fruit inspired a decade-long battle. The people here declared themselves self-governing and formed their own government in an effort to protect their land.

For years, the city has opposed illegal logging in its pine-covered hillsides. Trees are felled to make way for avocado plantations.

Avocados offer farmers benefits like no other crop, and many describe it as “green gold.” However, the clearing of forest land to plant avocado trees reduces biodiversity and the parched plants drain local water supplies.

It’s not just the environmental effects of the avocado plantations that the people of Cheran have to worry about. Avocado producers often attract the attention of drug cartels and face extortion and violence.

“We realized that the only thing the lawyer brings is violence and blood, at the expense of the indigenous communities,” explains David Ramos Guerrero, a member of the Council of Autonomous Farmers of Cheran.

Protect their forest

Taking the fight into your own hands has been so successful that it’s as if a line has been drawn through the mountains. Avocado trees and cleared land on one side, pine forest on the other.

Inspired by indigenous Purpecha women taking a stand against illegal logging in 2011, the city armed itself and blocked the road to reclaim their land.

Ten years later, the fight to preserve the forests of the western state of Michoacan continues. At the legislative level, the city succeeded in prohibiting the change of land use, in particular where it would be converted for the cultivation of avocado.

Cheran also formed a volunteer anti-logging patrol unit. If the farmers do not agree to stop logging or planting avocado trees, the unit will visit them.

Although the unit can be mistaken for the cartel, riding pairs of pickup trucks armed with AR-15 rifles, they are there to protect nature. They seize the axes, chainsaws and logs of anyone caught illegally logging on.

“The community is the one that demands and demands that we respect nature, just as our ancestors taught us. To care for nature, instead of destroying it, fortifying it through reforestation,” Ramos said.

Watch the video above for more on Cheran’s fight against the lawyers.

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