of the forest has become a cultural heritage in these cooperatives, now marking the third
generation of cooperative members who have lived and worked in the forest.
The cooperatives’ expansion into new activities has been a two-edged sword,
presenting advantages and disadvantages. All the cooperatives studied have developed
management plans, begun logging and are involved in forest product commercialization.
Two of the cooperatives now own their own sawmills and process the logs they harvest.
The new activities potentially may provide increased employment, greater income, and
improved forest management for the cooperatives and the communities. On the other
hand, these activities pose greater risks for the cooperatives, and the institutional capacity
of the groups has not been sufficient in all cases. In some cases, new activities have also
caused division within the cooperatives.
Other challenges exist for the cooperatives as well. All the groups experience
serious difficulties in operating within the law due to bureaucracy and politics. Prejudice
against campesino groups and preferential treatment for commercial interests damages
the groups’ ability to thrive. The realities of business and operating in a market economy
put the cooperatives at a disadvantage, and isolationism between cooperatives prevents
sharing of experiences, which could potentially ameliorate the disadvantages of the
The past histories of these cooperatives provide lessons for the future. Damage
from the gorgojo outbreaks is a serious challenge for many agroforestry cooperatives.
Drastic change and upheaval may lie in the road ahead, and survival will be determined
by hard work, patience, and innovation. The challenges of today could become the
victories of the future. The history of the Social Forestry System and agroforestry