Forest of the Water Spirit

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Toto_ceremonyMore than 150,000 people rely on the 21,000-hectare old-growth forest of Totonicapan for their daily natural resource needs. Many of these people are indigenous Maya K’iche’, and for hundreds of years they have successfully managed their resources based on ancestral knowledge and traditions. However, the pressures of modern life and post-colonial society endanger their traditional governing structures and behaviors, which have successfully sustained and protected this ecosystem for centuries. EcoLogic works with the 48 Cantons, the traditional governing body of Totonicapan, and its citizenry to support three critical interconnected goals: sustainable forest management, watershed protection and restoration, and the recording, preservation and appreciation of K’iche’ history, traditions, and governance. Initiatives include fuel-efficient stove and greenhouse construction, reforestation, watershed demarcation and maintenance, and environmental education activities.

Local Partner: The Natural Resource Council of The Mayors of the 48 Cantons
Year Project Began: 2003

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ForestSpiritRecent project highlights:

  • The name of our project, “Forest of the Water Spirit,” derives from the importance in K’iche’ Mayan tradition of the water spirit, Ajaw, who is said to live in the Kachalaj forest of Totonicapan.
  • Supported the 48 Cantons in the creation and implementation of a 2012‐2017 strategic plan for the management of their natural resources.
  • Collaborated in the planning and execution of the second annual Green Week, or Semana Verde, an event that EcoLogic helped start with support from an ArtCorps fellow.
  • As part of the effort to preserve K’iche’ tradition, EcoLogic and ArtCorps facilitated the creation of the book “The Wisdom of The Rocky Hillsides (Sabiduría de Los Rocosos)“.
  • To support the reforestation of degraded areas of the Totonicapan forest, we have built eight nurseries, with the capacity to produce more than 100,000 seedlings a year.
  • Blog: Mi Vida en Totonicapan
  • Blog: Illustrating History
  • eNews: EcoLogician Juana María García

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Country: Guatemala

Year Project Began: 2003

Partners: Association of Communal Mayors of the 48 Cantons (48 Cantones), ArtCorps

Size of Project Site: 21,000 hectares

Population of Project Site: TBD

Languages Spoken: K’iche’

Peoples: K’iche‘, mestizo, Spanish descent

Sources of Income: Agriculture and manufacturing of fabrics, furniture and pottery, farming, cattle and sheep ranching

Unique Environmental and Geographic Features: One old-growth coniferous forest (Altos de San Miguel de Totonicapan) and 1,200 sources of water that feed several basins of national importance, such as the Samala, Chixoy, and Motagua Rivers and Lake Atitlan. The Altos de San Miguel de Totonicapan forest,  or Kachelaj, contains the largest remaining stand of the endemic and threatened Guatemalan fir (Abies guatemalensis) tree.

Ecosystems: Tropical montane wet forest

Endangered Species: At least 33

Solutions: Community collaboration, environmental educationforest guardiansfuel-efficient stovesgreenhouses and nurseriesreforestationwatershed management

Guatemalan fir tree

Guatemalan fir

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Reforestation_trainingSelect progress made by EcoLogic and local partners in 2012-2013:

  • Reforested 70 hectares.
  • Seeded, raised, and transplanted seedlings for more than 100,000 trees in Totonicapan’s eight greenhouses.
  • Constructed 47 fuel-efficient stoves.
  • Conducted workshops with 23 community groups, 50 water boards, and 250 young people to learn, explore, and celebrate Maya K’iche’ traditions and the natural environment.