Located in the central highlands of Mexico within the state of Guanajuato, Penjamo is an area composed by small shallow seasonal and semi-permanent wetlands. This complex of small wetlands extents northwest into the states of Jalisco and Aguascalientes and it is an important area for wintering dabbling ducks and the breeding Mexican Duck.
The landscape in this region has been dominated by agriculture fields, being chickpeas, corn, wheat, and blue agave the main crops. Here, most wetlands have been modified as reservoirs for irrigation, which starts in late January, drying completely many of these wetlands by early March. After this, some of those wetlands that dry are then used for tillage to grow crops, mainly chickpeas. By mid-summer, rainy season comes in and wetlands fill up again, followed by a second cycle of agriculture as seasonal rains continue until migratory season arrives in the fall, where usually, depending on how good the rainy season was, wetlands are wet, productivity is high, and conditions are satisfactory to host migratory waterfowl for the winter.
There is a well-established functioning relation between wetlands, agriculture, and ducks in Penjamo that along with good management practices, they have the potential to provide great benefits for people and wildlife. Unfortunately, there are several threats that affect these wetlands, being contamination of soil and water the most significant one.
On one side, the use of fertilizers in crops keeps increasing, and on the other, most of the rural communities in the area do not treat wastewaters, in fact, the majority of these communities do not have a sewage system, thus human waste goes directly into the ground, polluting the soil and water by infiltration or runoff. These events reduce the quality of wetlands in this region, negatively affecting people’s quality of life, the economic livelihood, and wildlife that depend on these wetlands.
Ducks Unlimited de Mexico (DUMAC) in partnership with local authorities, rural communities and private landowners have been working in the area to protect and enhance the quality of wetlands for the benefit of people and waterfowl. In 2010, an UMA (natural resource management unit) was establish to protect, manage and create wetlands for breeding Mexican Ducks and migratory waterfowl; through the implementation of the Mini-Habitat program (cattle exclosures), 331 acres of wetlands were fenced to control the access of cattle, provide protection and enhance habitat; good agricultural practices (GAP) workshops have been implemented to encourage the reduction in the use of fertilizers; in rural communities with lack of sewage services, 101 dry toilets have been installed to reduce the contamination of soil and water and improve the quality of life for rural families. These on-ground actions are directly benefiting the habitat of waterfowl, but more work is still needed.
As a key site for wintering waterfowl and breeding Mexican Ducks, DUMAC and its partners continue to work in the vitality of abundant and high-quality wetlands in Penjamo, to assure that the birds that here distribute can satisfy their habitat requirements within their different life cycle stages, to assure a better quality of life for the families in rural communities, and guarantee good quality water for agriculture to continue meeting the demand for crops.