AgroAmerica, a sustainable agriculture business with operations in Central and South America, has committed funds to support EcoLogic Development Fund’s agroforestry project Protecting Livelihoods for Rural Communities in Guatemala through the Sustainable Management of Forest and Water Resources. EcoLogic is a non-governmental organization that empowers rural and indigenous peoples to restore and protect tropical ecosystems in Central America and Mexico. The August 2017 donation of $10,000 is part of a larger commitment of $130,000 spread over a period of six years.
“We’re deeply committed to the preservation of the environment and assisting local people to learn better ways of using the land, so we’re pleased to be able to support EcoLogic’s work in this area,” said Fernando Bolaños, CEO of AgroAmerica.
The aim of EcoLogic’s project is to teach Guatemalan farmers about agroforestry—an agricultural production method that, stated simply, involves growing crops alongside trees. Agroforestry systems reconcile the dual necessities of environmental conservation and food production. Agroforestry comes in many forms, and this flexibility enables rural communities to adopt approaches that are best suited for local conditions and cultural preferences.
“There are many ways this idea can be implemented: many different crop species can be planted and flourish together with leguminous trees, because trees such as Inga or Guama grow naturally from Mexico to South America,” explains agronomist engineer Mario Ardany de León, EcoLogic’s Program Officer for Guatemala.
These trees provide the nitrogen needed for the growth of crop plants and help avoid the need for chemical fertilizers. They also provide firewood for local communities and help to prevent soil erosion.
The Inga edulis tree is used in EcoLogic’s agroforestry projects in the Guatemalan municipalities of San Mateo Ixtatán, Santa Cruz, Ixcán, El Quiché, and Sarstún, Izabal. Agroforestry systems in these sites produce crops including coffee, cacao, and spices, such as cardamom.
Another benefit of agroforestry is that in Guatemala, property owners who engage in reforestation activities may qualify for government incentives through the National Institute of Forests (INAB). The program provides financial incentives to Guatemalans with less than 15 hectares of land who plant trees or manage forests through sustainable methods such as agroforestry. Over the last four years, EcoLogic and its local partners have helped 500 farmers and their families access a total of over $300,000 from these programs. So far in 2017, EcoLogic field technicians have helped 11 additional farmers to establish land management plans and complete the required paperwork to qualify for incentives payments under the national program.
In an effort to grow the impact of this initiative, and help additional farmers throughout Guatemala access these incentives, EcoLogic is planning a regional learning exchange in the department of Huehuetenango with our local partner Mancomunidad Frontera del Norte (MFN). Project staff experienced in the process will train EcoLogic field technicians in Guatemala as well as local municipal forest officials in ways that they can facilitate access to national incentives programs.
“We are extremely grateful to AgroAmerica for their generous support, which has been essential in making this work possible,” said Barbara Vallarino, EcoLogic Development Fund’s Executive Director.