Altépetl program

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Mexico City

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Main actors

City Government, Community / Citizen Group

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Project area


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Ongoing since 2019

Altépetl is a social program to support activities aimed at preserving and restoring the ecosystems and agro-ecosystems in Mexico City.

The Altépetl program is focused on the conservation of agro-ecological practices and biocultural heritage in rural areas of Mexico City.

Direct monetary subsidies are granted to people who carry out activities of conservation, the sustainable use of natural resources and the protection of cultural heritage in ejidos, communities and private property.

With the Altépetl program, brigade members and technicians are supported to carry out forest sanitation, surveillance, environmental protection and other forest management activities. Subsidies are also given to owners and stakeholders to encourage agro-ecological production, the commercialization of products in local markets, as well as initiatives that strengthen community management activities. The program also offers technical assistance to beneficiaries through training courses with technical facilitators and activities for the reconstruction of the social fabric.

Sustainable Development Goals

End poverty in all its forms everywhere
End hunger, achieve food security and improve nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture
Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable
Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns
Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts
Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss
Mexico City, Mexico

Size and population development
The population of Mexico City was recorded at approximately 8.9 million in 2015. The Greater City of Mexico recorded a population of approximately 21.6 million in 2018 and is expected to reach in excess of 23 million by 2030 according to the UN populations forecast. The City has great inequalities, with areas of affluence and conspicuous consumption existing nearby areas plagued with water born gastrointestinal infections, while air pollution affects all inhabitants of the valley City, with respiratory illnesses being a major issue.

Population composition
Of the millions who call Mexico City home, a significant amount of them belong to Mexico’s many indigenous peoples, including Nahuatl, Otomi, Mixtec, Zapotec and Mazahau. Additionally, the city is home to many expatriates and immigrants, largely from the Americans, North, Central and South, as well as the Caribbean. The average age is of 33 years.

Main functions
Mexico City is the oldest capital city in the American continent and one of the most economically active centres. The city extends across 607.22 square kilometres and is located in the Valley of Mexico at an altitude of 2,240 meters above sea level. It houses many of the country’s most prestigious cultural and educational centres, including universities such as UNAM and IPN, as well as theatres, libraries, operas, stadiums and auditoriums. The city also boasts many archaeological sites and museums that expose the pre-Hispanic heritage of the city, over which the Spanish conquerors imposed their new capital. Other sites of touristic and religious importance, like the main Cathedral at the Zócalo plaza (where the National and local governments are located), are examples of the Baroque and Neoclassical architecture styles that marked the city.

Main industries / business
Mexico City is undoubtedly the economic centre of the country, contributing 17 percent of the national GDP. Tertiary sector industries (services) comprehend almost 90 percent of the annual GDP, with the city excelling in the commercial and financial sectors (Mexico City houses the headquarters of most of the banks in the country, as well as the Mexican Stock Exchange). Other main industries include media companies, transport (privatized airlines and bus companies), and government activities.

Sources for city budget
Drawn from a progressive income tax, Mexico City’s budget is decided by the local Legislative Assembly, and the ceiling of public debt agreed upon by the Chamber of the Union, the legislative power of the Federal Government.

Political structure
Until the year of 2016, Mexico City was a Federal District, and one of the thirty-two entities into which the country is divided. In its search for autonomy from the ruling of Federal government over local situations, the city promoted changes in the national constitution that have altered its status and name since the year 2016. Now, Mexico City has become an autonomous entity with its own political constitution. The main differences from its previous status has to do with modifications in governance: the city now has 16 mayoralties belonging to each of the sixteen boroughs; and the Legislative Assembly was transformed into a Local Council with the same inherence in Federal decisions as every other state in the country. The City’s head is elected by popular vote and is charged with choosing the chief of police and the Attorney General, a task previously carried out by the President of the Republic.

Administrative structure
Mexico City is divided into 16 delegaciones, or boroughs, for administrative purposes. The boroughs are not equivalent to municipalities, yet they possess administrative structures comparable to these. In each borough, the mayors are tasked with ensuring that the necessary utilities and services are provided. The poorer boroughs are in constant struggle due to the lack of potable water, dignified housing, and medical services. The boroughs must answer to the head of government who represents its executive branch, and local councils must approval their budgets.

Mexico is one of the five countries with the highest biological richness in the world. Mexico City represents only 0.01% of the national territory, however it holds approximately 12 % of the country's biodiversity and 2% of the world's biodiversity.

The conservation land of Mexico City comprises 59% (87 297.1 ha) of the entity´s territory, with natural ecosystems such as pine forests, semi-arid vegetation, grasslands and wetlands; with a great diversity of plants, fungi and fauna. In addition, it has significant biocultural values, being one of the main producers of different varieties of corn, squashes, chili, amaranth and beans. Despite the existence of a vast legal framework for the protection of biodiversity, new instruments are needed to promote activities for the conservation and sustainable use of such natural resources, with the active participation of landowners and other sectors.

The program is made up of four components to meet social and environmental goals:

- Bienestar para el bosque (Well-being for the forest): Direct monetary subsidies to brigade members, brigade chiefs, technical assistants, agrarian communities and environmental projects for the protection, restoration and conservation of forest areas; promoting surveillance and monitoring activities, among others.


- Protect, conserve and restore the areas with legal protection in the ejidos and communities of the conservation land.

- Protect, conserve and restore the natural resources of the conservation land.

- Prevent and fight forest fires.


- Sembrando Vida (sowing Life): Subsidies to owners or possessors of productive units in conservation land, so that producers can obtain additional economic income in the short and medium term. It seeks to contribute to social and gender welfare and equity as well as to promote the creation of agroforestry, agrosilvopastoral and silvopastoral systems. It also encourages agricultural production of wetlands and beekeeping in the city;


- Achieve a fair remuneration above the line of social welfare for the owners and possessors of productive units in the conservation land.

- Promote the creation of agroforestry, silvopastoral or agrosilvopastoral systems.

- Promote the creation of sustainable production systems.


- Bienestar para el campo (Well-being for the countryside): provides support to agricultural producers and projects to strengthen community rural activities, it promotes agro-ecological production, sustainable livestock, sustainable use of biodiversity, and commercialization of products. In addition, it strengthens community organization and cooperation for the diversification of income beyond agricultural activities.


- Promote and conserve agricultural and livestock activities in the conservation land.

- Strengthen community rural activities on conservation land.

- Contribute to the concurrence of resources.


 - Facilitadores del cambio (Change facilitators): by providing financial aid to professionals, the change facilitators provide technical assistance to applicants and beneficiaries of the components Sembrando Vida and Bienestar para el Campo.


 - Promote extensive agroecological production (agroforestry, forestry, agroforestry), intensive agriculture, and beekeeping.

- Promote animal health, conservation of native crops, wildlife management, rural tourism, establishing Communities of Integration and Knowledge (COIS) for specialized care and continuous advice to rural soil producers of conservation of Mexico City.

As of 2019, the Government of Mexico City, through the Ministry of the Environment (SEDEMA) and the Public Environmental Fund (FAP), provides an annual investment of 1,000 million pesos for the Altépetl program.

From the beginning of the program in 2019 to November 20, 2020, 23,618 grants have been approved for the conservation, protection and restoration of the natural resources of the conservation land.

7,213 grants were given to brigade members, brigade chiefs, technicians forestry, agrarian communities and investment programs, with which conservation, protection and maintenance actions have been carried out in forest areas;

15,418 grants provided aid to owners, holders of productive units and agricultural producers for the promotion of primary sector, technological innovation, transformation and commercialization of different agricultural products, as well as the promotion of short chain agri-food markets;

348 are grants to extension agents and change facilitators who provide support to applicants and beneficiaries of the program; while 639 are grants to operational technicians who assist in the administrative and operational activities of the program.

Altogether, it has been possible to improve the environmental conditions of the conservation land, as well as to improve the quality of life of the citizens of Mexico City.

At the beginning of 2020, the FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations) carried out an evaluation of the program, highlighting that there are areas of opportunity in the definition and measurement of the indicators in the matrix of results, to ensure continuous training for the work teams; and concludes that: “… the Program complies the local guidelines for social programs…”, and that the program beneficiaries perception to it is positive.

The first year (2019) of the program's operation had challenges and lessons were learned, including the strategies to meet objectives on time. Altepetl operates differently from previous programs for the rural sector, by providing direct subsidy to rural producers; providing permanent technical follow-up and communication with applicants and beneficiaries, to resolve their concerns and train them on sustainable production issues. Another challenge was the integration of an honest, responsible and committed work team for a proper implementation schedule.

In 2020, due to COVID-19, it was necessary to adapt the procedures of the program, as well as changing the approach of the strategy and collection of documents for management and administrative procedures.

Although the program has faced various challenges, its operation has been successful, meeting the goals established in the 2019 Annual Operating Program.

The experiences of the past year made it possible to implement new strategies that facilitate more effective and efficient communication with the social actors involved, which is important for the professional operation of the program.

Among the success factors of the program is the direct contact with the target population, which has made it possible to understand their needs and the problems that exist in the conservation land. This will help to improve the design and implementation of the program in future years.

Ciudad de México

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Montijo Michelle
Mexico City, Mexico

Montijo Michelle

Individual | Biologist

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