Pilot project in progress in 3 ejidos, 75 producers to address:
Social security access
Improved wax yield at field level
Working conditions and safety
AN ASTOUNDING DESERT PLANT
Candelilla is a wild plant (Euphorbia antisyphilitica) that grows exclusively in the northern Mexican desert of Chihuahua and in the states of New Mexico and Texas in the southern United States. Mexico is where most harvesting sites are located. The plant’s stems are prized for their wax, which is often used in cosmetic formulas and also has many other industrial applications, such as food production, varnish, polish, dyes, etc.
The increasing demand for candelilla wax in recent years has outpaced sustainable management of this wild plant, thereby threatening local ecosystems and the resource’s sustained survival. Mexican authorities took action, and now trade of the plant and its extracts is regulated by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).
In Mexico, harvesting candelilla requires a special permit, but for local producers, this obligation can be seen as expensive and complex, and so some choose to continue their activity without this permit. The supply chain lacks transparency and licensing studies are difficult for the authorities to verify. Furthermore, candelilla wax production involves harsh physical conditions, an extraction technique that presents substantial health risks, and offers no worker protection whatsoever. Job insecurity for the laborers remains a major challenge.
WORKING IN MEXICO SINCE 2012
After carrying out several field missions since 2011, the NRSC was determined to raise awareness on these issues among the local economic and institutional actors and collectively lead a web of initiatives to respond to them. After several unsuccessful attempts, the NRSC asked Sierra Gestion y Consultoria Ambiental SC, a consulting firm specializing in natural-resource management, to implement a program tailored to the real needs and challenges of the candelilleros: work safety, resource management, social protection for workers, increased yields, improved organizational capacities, etc. The program now appears to be paying off, helping to improve farmer incomes and working conditions, while ensuring traceability of the wax for international buyers and resource renewal for sustainable production.
SCALING UP THROUGH SHARED BEST PRACTICES
By virtue of the close relationship with local communities that has been nurtured on a daily basis, the initial results of this pilot project are encouraging, meaning we can now share our model with stakeholders in the supply chain. We hold professional gatherings to bring together the value chain’s stakeholders and give everyone a chance to be involved.
At the same time, the NRSC is continuing communication and monitoring with Mexico’s biodiversity-protection institutions to ensure the sustainability of the resource.
Access to social security and retirement for workers remains a priority today. Our efforts are also centered on organizational capacities between producers and extraction efficiency, two key factors that lead to increased revenues and widespread improvement of practices. Supporting and speeding this virtuous circle can ensure the supply chain’s sustainability.