This September, RED launched a pilot program bringing students from one of Mexico’s top universities, the Tec de Monterrey, for a hands-on course on climate change, water and desertification, and other important issues. What makes this course different is that the students didn’t just come to learn; they came to make an impact, both here in Baja California Sur and back home in Monterrey.
This innovative experience began at a distance, with RED providing research and discussion topics online for the teachers and students to dive into prior to their visit. Arriving in La Paz, the group of 20 interacted with Antonina Ivanova, Mexico’s representative on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), to gain a global and regional perspective on this urgent issue. Next they met with the conservation organization Niparajá and learned first hand about a project focused on maintaining the health of the watershed above the city of La Paz while improving urban water management in a desert environment. With this knowledge in hand, RED took them up to the Sierra de La Laguna, a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve and home to the region’s only pine and oak forests – a stark contrast to the desert landscape surrounding La Paz, and the start of the watersheds the make their way to Todos Santos, La Paz, and Los Cabos. The Reserve is also threatened by a proposed large scale open-pit gold mine.
Students and RED staff stayed at a local family’s rancho, where they rose early in the morning to milk cows and learn how to make artisanal cheese and handmade tortillas. In the afternoon, they got their hands dirty, working side by side with local residents, using picks, shovels, elbow grease and a few engineering calculations to build terraces for soil retention, enhance water filtration into soils, and plant trees to reforest terrain stripped of its vegetation. The director of the Biosphere Reserve, managed by Mexico’s Natural Protected Areas Commission (CONANP), explained the importance of these projects, the policy decisions which led to the area’s deforestation and challenged the students to become involved citizens and preempt future habitat destruction.
As a result of their visit to the Sierra La Laguna, the students created a conservation module that RED and the Tec seek to replicate throughout the Reserve. More than this, they helped to establish a successful pilot for a public-private partnership model that shows that tourism can have an important impact in financing and implementing natural resource conservation and management programs in conjunction with CONANP, as well as leave a positive economic impact in communities within natural protected areas. Back home in Monterrey, the students will implement projects of their own, fortified by the knowledge and perspective gained on their trip to the Sierra with RED.
For information on how your student group can participate, contact firstname.lastname@example.org
For information on RED’s philanthropic arm, visit www.redturismosustentable.org