Inside Oaxaca: A Community-based Carbon Market

Elizabeth Shapiro-Garza is a Senior Fellow at the Kenan Institute for Ethics and an Associate Professor of the Practice of Environmental Science and Policy at the Nicholas School of the Environment.


Oaxaca, Mexico’s fifth largest state, encompasses the dense forests of the vast Sierra Sur and Sierra Norte mountains. More than a dozen indigenous communities reside within these biodiverse ecosystems of plants, mammals, amphibians and reptiles. Currently, these areas face grave threats from illegal logging; in addition to increased pests, diseases and forest fire threats exacerbated by climate change.

The small nonprofit organization ICICO — Integrator of Indigenous and Campesino Communities of Oaxaca — works to protect these threatened ecosystems by empowering local rural communities to find new ways to benefit from and be compensated for their traditional environmental management practices. Elizabeth Shapiro-Garza, associate professor of the practice of environmental science and policy at Duke University‘s Nicholas School of the Environment, has worked in Mexico since 2005. Her research focuses on ways communities interact with programs that support their conservation effects through payments for ecosystem services.

Shapiro-Garza’s work with ICICO is one of her longest and strongest collaborations, leading to innumerable opportunities for the Nicholas School and Duke; including student field courses and master’s projects that explore how communities can sustainably manage their natural resources. These initiatives also help the university mitigate its greenhouse gas emissions.

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