EcoLogic forest guardians are “ambassadors of the forest.” Their primary mission is outreach and education, passing on knowledge and understanding to their communities. Forest guardians use their passion and know-how to motivate their neighbors, friends and family to adopt sustainable environmental practices and work to protect and restore the forest ecosystem.
Community volunteers become forest guardians by participating in a training course of discussions and workshops that takes place over a period of several weeks. Attendees learn about basic ecology and conservation practices from EcoLogic field technicians and others, including forest guardians who have completed the training. The topics covered include native tree propagation and reforestation, soil composition and fertility, the functions and importance of different animal and insect species, food crop agroforestry practices, forest fire prevention, and watershed restoration and freshwater management. Those who successfully complete the course receive an identification card as well as such supplies as seeds and seedling trays. As forest guardian Roman Caal tells us, “The ID card proves to people that I am capable, and they listen to me. The training makes me feel I have the right to speak up and motivate people to conserve the forest.”
Forest guardians also organize activities in their communities to help restore the forest and ecology. Activities include leading their village or community in building a native tree nursery, planting a demonstration plot for food crop agroforestry, and/or removing trash from a water source. Many forest guardians regularly visit more-remote forest or jungle areas, watching for people who are illegally or unsustainably logging or hunting and seeking opportunities to persuade such people to change their behavior.
Currently, EcoLogic’s forest guardian program is actively growing at our three principal project sites in Guatemala and has also been applied at our Communities Organizing for Watersheds project in Honduras. In Totonicapan, there is a long tradition of women and families participating in such activities. At our Indigenous Peoples for Thriving Ecosystems site in Northern Guatemala most community members who have joined the program are men, but EcoLogic has been developing ways to increase women’s participation. In the past two years alone, more than 90 women have completed the program, and their groups have adopted several degraded areas for reforestation and clean-up.