As an example of long-term decision-making, three decades ago the Zapotec Indians in the Mexican state of Oaxaca gained the right to communally manage their forests. As landowners, they focused on both protecting land for their children and running a sustainable, profitable business. In the process they increased forested land, created jobs and financial benefit for the entire community.
Their measured approach to the lumber business now employs 300 people in a variety of enterprises, including timber harvest, furniture making and forest management. In Zapotec tradition, they make decisions about the forest and the businesses resources as a community, with everyone required to contribute their labor as needed. At this point the decision making process is largely male dominated. Despite having to struggle with community consensus process, their businesses made a profit of about $230,000, of which 30% each was reinvested into the enterprises and forest preservation, while the remaining amount went back to the workers.
In it’s own indigenous fashion, are we seeing the vision of Mondragon revisited? In the US, we have smaller enterprises evolve in similar fashion all the time. But with centralized political power under the law and financial power fed them through Wall Street, corporations dominant our landscape. Do we really gain wealth from our relationship with them? In their decision-making, are they capable of choosing sustainable development for the greater good without filtering everything through the bottom line? During this last quarter, corporate profit surged to an all time high, but jobs still remain scarce. Do decision makers within the corporate structure truly have the best interest of communities in mind?