This week, in EcoLogic’s regional office in Quetzaltenango, Guatemala (known locally as Xela, a homage to its indigenous name Xelaju), EcoLogic Communications Officer, Riley Hunter, sat down with Fernando Recancoj, long-time EcoLogic Field Technician for our Totonicapán project to get a better idea of what makes EcoLogic unique, why Fernando has stayed so committed to EcoLogic for 9 years, and why he is confident that EcoLogic the best place for him to create change and help rural and indigenous communities conserve their natural resources in Totonicapán.
Here’s a transcript of our talk:
Riley: Tell us how you became involved for the first time with EcoLogic and what is your role now?
Fernando: Well, the first time I came into contact with EcoLogic was through a consultation in which EcoLogic wanted to implement an irrigation system in the [reforestation] greenhouses in Totonicapán. So they spoke with me. At that point I was working, as I still do, in Totonicapán, and I offered them my services to install this system, they paid me for it, and this was the first time I had contact with EcoLogic.
Later, there was a position for a technician with EcoLogic that would be helping the 48 Cantones, and well, I heard of it and applied, and here I am after 9 years.
Riley: From your point of view, describe the most significant change you’ve achieved since your involvement with EcoLogic?
Fernando: Hahaha, good question. I think the most significant change for me is something that goes two ways — both for the communities and for me as a professional or a person who collaborates in community processes. It is the subject of empowering families and communities to address the issues related to their natural resources.
Because for me, this subject [of empowerment], when I started with EcoLogic, it wasn’t something new but it didn’t have much familiarity in conservation work. My job before was much more related to food security and agriculture, but when EcoLogic entered the scene I saw this part of natural resources, so I think it has been this change, for me as a person, knowing more and helping more with processes related to the conservation of natural resources and the interaction with people and their resources, such as the goods and services that the forest provides, like water. I think it is empowering for me and the communities to think of conservation like this, and it’s a better type of conservation.
Riley: Why is this significant to you?
Fernando: It’s significant because, I think you start making sense of the problem. I think this approach makes you more conscious of the situation and you begin acknowledging the related issues, and most importantly, more than understanding the causes of the problems, it allows you to take actions. You begin to understand from your place, from your profession, from your position, that you can start taking action. Not just stay with romantic ideas of the beauty of the forest and how beautiful the birds are, but what do we desire? You find that the people really need the forest resources and its not that they are poorly educated or something like that. It’s because it’s a human necessity. So, you have to start to deepen what you’ve learned in college and in your courses. It’s not just the theory, you have to start modifying a little bit and adapting a bit, conserving the environment is definitely a process of adaptation.
To provide a bit of context on Fernando’s work in Totonicapán, Fernando, like EcoLogic’s other field technicians, works daily in the field to implement and oversee our work on the ground. Fernando organizes EcoLogic community volunteers, prepares scientific reports, collects data, observes and monitors field work, facilitates educational and training workshops, and many other project related tasks. Without Fernando and EcoLogic’s team of field technicians, our work would not be possible.