This profile was prepared when Rodolfo López was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 1989.
The New Idea
Rodolfo's idea is ingeniously simple: To preserve the forest, work the forest. By helping the Indians gain legal control of their forests, Rodolfo enables them to achieve independence through the substantial revenue they receive. Furthermore, the Indians develop a sense of how essential it is to their interests to preserve the forest. Without practical, economically productive alternatives like Rodolfo's, the devastation of forest areas will continue. Legal control, however, is not enough. If the Indians can't manage the forest themselves, the contract loggers who have clear-cut most of Mexico will eventually regain practical control.Rodolfo's job is to help the Indians seize their present opportunity. First, he helps them understand both their economic opportunity and the importance of managing the forest for sustained, long-term yield. Then he helps them master the skillsforestry, technical, financial, and managementthey need to truly take charge. This training is an integral part of the actual day-by-day process.Already, there are 12 forestry companies owned and directed by Zapotec Indians within UCEFO (The Union of Forest Communities in the State of Oaxacaan umbrella organization Rodolfo created). Rodolfo plans to quickly multiply their number.