In Rural Guatemala, Samuel Coc Yat is Rewriting the Future

Meet Samuel. He’s a K’ekchi’ Maya from rural eastern Guatemala, cares deeply about solving climate change, and just turned 29 years old. He’s also an EcoLogic field technician with our Youth Restoring the Nature of Sarstún project in the department of Izabal, which shares a border with Belize on Guatemala’s Caribbean coast.

Samuel Coc Yat in Livingston

Samuel Coc Yat in Livingston (Photo: Lee Shane)

Samuel lives and works in the town of Livingston, a small, sleepy fishing village situated on the shores of the Sarstún River and the Amatique Bay. Working to protect natural resources and improve local people’s livelihoods in such a remote place comes with a unique set of obstacles. But as someone born and raised in the area, Samuel explains how he works to address the mismatch that exists between short-term survival needs and long-term sustainability—and why he’s optimistic about the Sarstún region’s future.

Hi, Samuel. Can you introduce yourself and where you’re from?

My name is Samuel Coc Yat, and I am from the rural community of Rosario, which is part of the town of Livingston, Izabal. Livingston is small and isolated, and it is located within the Sarstún River Multiple Use Zone, which is a protected area—although the government doesn’t often do much to enforce its protected status.

Read more about how Samuel works with communities in the rural Sarstún River region of Guatemala!

Protecting the “Land of Many Trees”

EcoLogic works with local communities in a range of beautiful landscapes across Central America and Mexico. We want to take you on a virtual journey to our largest project site, nestled in the stunning Cuchumatanes Mountains of western Guatemala.

The name “Guatemala” comes from the indigenous Náhuatl word “Quauhtlemallan,” meaning “land of many trees.” It is an apt name for the lushly forested country, which ranks among the world’s top five hotspots for biodiversity. But the “land of many trees” is in danger of losing its namesake. Forest loss in Guatemala has been accelerating rapidly since the 1980s. In 2006, the United Nations Center for Biological Diversity estimated that 73 thousand hectares of forest are lost annually—equivalent to 200 football stadiums every day.

Cuchumatanes Mountains landscape

Rural villages are nestled between the jagged peaks of the Cuchumatanes Mountains in the western highlands of Guatemala. (Photo: Dave Kramer)

Learn more about the stunning landscape of the Cuchumatanes Mountains!

K’iche’ as K’ax K’ol: The Honor of Serving One’s Community for a Year

by Abigail Southwell, Brian Lowry, Evgeny Lobanchenko, Tomislav Marcinko Narvaez, and the Boston University Venture Consulting Club

In March 2015, a group of five MBA graduate students at Boston University traveled to Guatemala as part of a joint project between EcoLogic and BU’s Global Venture Consulting Club. The collaboration was born out of BU Link Day, a program that connects MBA students with small nonprofits. Read the students’ reflections on their trip below!

BU students in Totonicapán group shot

The Boston University MBA students, including Tomislav Marcinko, Abigail Southwell, and Evgeny Lobanchenko, take a break from building a stove in Totonicapán, along with EcoLogic field technician Fernando Recancoj (far right) and members of the community

When starting our MBA at Boston University in September of 2014, most of our incoming class was expecting a year filled with numbers, graphs, charts, and case analyses. Exploring the forests of Totonicapán in Guatemala this past spring break was not only an unexpected experience, but one of the highlights of this year. Through BU’s Global Venture Consulting Club, five students from our first year MBA class were able to travel to Guatemala and work with EcoLogic to better understand the importance of its mission as part of a project we were working on with them about data collection and information flow.

Read more about the BU Venture Consulting Club’s experience visiting Totonicapán!

Meet Elmer, Field Technician in Quiché, Guatemala

Elmer Urizar Reyes

Elmer Urizar Reyes

Elmer Urizar Reyes is one of our field technicians with our Indigenous Peoples for Thriving Ecosystems in Northern Guatemala project site, where we implement community-powered conservation work with our local partner, the Northern Border Municipalities Alliance (MFN is their Spanish acronym). The project site is our largest, spanning more than 200,000 acres of land in the departments of Huehuetenango and Quiché, in northern Guatemala. Elmer lives in the community of Santa María Tzejá, part of the municipality of Ixcán, in Quiché, and works in that area of the project site. In between planting trees and harvesting fair-trade honey, he was able to take a moment to tell us more about his life as an EcoLogic field technician in northern Guatemala.

What is your role with EcoLogic?
I work as a field technician with EcoLogic and our local partner, the Northern Border Municipalities Alliance. I am based in the area around Ixcán, a town in the department of Quiché, Guatemala. I currently work with seven communities, and am overseeing a lot of different projects, including training farmers to practice agroforestry with inga edulis, protecting micro-watersheds, building fuel-efficient stoves, and supporting our new pilot initiative in fair trade honey production.

Read more about Elmer’s life as a field technician in northern Guatemala!

Bird’s Eye View: The Horned Guan

Horned guan in the wild

The Horned Guan in the wild. (Photo: Josh More)

The horned guan is a unique, large bird that resembles a turkey. It is named for the distinctive red horn on the top of its head. The horned guan, also identified by its shiny black plumage and red feet, lives in mountain forests in southern Mexico and in Guatemala. The bird is an endangered species, and has been threatened by the loss and fragmentation of its forest habitat, as well as by excessive hunting.

One part of Guatemala where the horned guan can be found is the Communal Forest of Los Altos de San Miguel, Totonicapán—the site of EcoLogic’s Forest of the Water Spirit project. The Communal Forest is part of the Atitlán Important Bird Area, a mountainous part of southern Guatemala that is home to several threatened and endangered bird species, including the endangered horned guan and the near threatened resplendent quetzal—Guatemala’s national bird.

Read more about this unique, endangered bird!