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Mexico tells Mennonites: stop cutting down jungle to plant

August 12, 2021 GMT

MEXICO CITY (AP) — The Mexican government said Thursday it has reached a preliminary agreement with Mennonites living in southern Mexico to stop cutting down low jungle to plant crops.

The Environment Department said the agreement covered Mennonite communities in the state of Campeche, on the Yucatan peninsula.

Mennonites have roots in northern Mexico dating back to the 1920s and many are dual citizens of Mexico and Canada. The citizenship status of those involved in the agreement is not clear.

In the 1980s, Mennonites began moving south, deeper into Mexico, settling in the Yucatan area.

The department said they cut down trees to establish highly mechanized farms, with his use of herbicides, pesticides and genetically modified crops.

The agreement requires “the Mennonite communities to commit themselves to stopping all activities that result in deforestation,” according to the department.

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Negotiations will continue on implementing “more nature-friendly” farming practices, and resolving land title issues.

In 2018, Mexico slapped a 10.3 million peso ($540,000) fine on a Mennonite community for clearing tropical vegetation in Quintana Roo state, also on the Yucatan Peninsula.

The Attorney General for Environmental Protection said members of the community removed plants including endangered chit palm and jobillo trees from 3,251 acres (1,316 hectares) that are home to a protected olive-throated parakeet.

Indigenous Maya have long used the fronds of the chit palm to thatch rooves and make brooms, while fishermen have been known to construct lobster traps from its stems. The plant has become so scarce that Mexican law forbids removing the palms.

The jobillo is a flowering tree in the cashew family that is coveted for wood floors.