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!

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!

Zumilda Duarte’s Clean Water Crusade

Doña Zumilda Duarte holds a seedling while helping with a reforestation project in Honduras (Photo: Nick Shufro)

Doña Zumilda Duarte holds a seedling while helping with a reforestation project in Honduras (Photo: Nick Shufro)

In January, we announced that our local partner in Honduras had been honored with the Innovation Award from the Yale chapter of the International Society of Tropical Foresters. The prize recognizes the collaborative effort between our partner AJAASSPIB, EcoLogic, and an urban municipality to scale up AJAASSPIB’s successful model of rural community-led conservation to a larger watershed. In honor of World Water Day and the International Day of Women—which we celebrated earlier this month—we want you to meet the amazing woman without whom none of this award-winning conservation work would have happened.

NILIA ZUMILDA DUARTE SANDOVAL—or Doña Zumilda, as she’s called by neighbors and colleagues as a sign of respect—knows what it’s like to see a community go thirsty. In 1998, Hurricane Mitch hit Honduras, leaving behind an unprecedented trail of destruction. The President at the time, Carlos Flores, pronounced that the hurricane had cost Honduras fifty years of development. Doña Zumilda’s small community of La Chorrera, home to just over 200 families, was devastated. “When Hurricane Mitch came, all of our water systems were destroyed,” she remembers. The hurricane reduced water storage and filtration infrastructure throughout the region to rubble, and communities were left without access to clean water. “We had to rebuild everything.”

Read more about Zumilda’s amazing history of commmunity leadership!