top of page

EcoLogic Drives Success in IUCN's Resilient Highlands Project

In Guatemala's Totonicapán, the Resilient Highlands project continues to make significant strides. This update explores the project's achievements during its fifth quarter.

Last year, EcoLogic Development Fund was selected to participate in a major initiative led by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) titled 'Strengthening the Resilience of Livelihoods to Climate Change in the Upper Watersheds of the Guatemalan Highlands,' also known as the 'Resilient Highlands' project. Through this grant program, EcoLogic embarked on its specific project activities within the broader Resilient Highlands framework. EcoLogic’s ambitious project aims to conserve biodiversity, restore ecosystems, and improve the livelihoods of Indigenous and rural communities in Totonicapán, Guatemala.

The Resilient Highlands Project in Action

The 48 Cantones of Totonicapán represent one of the most biodiverse areas in Guatemala, and its communal forest is a vital resource for over 160,000 people. This area is renowned for its Indigenous governance model rooted in the Maya K'iche' cosmovision, which promotes equity, inclusion, and sustainability principles. 

The Maya K'iche's rich history and deep connection to the land are key to EcoLogic’s Resilient Highlands success. Their Indigenous governance model, which is guided by the principle of K'axcol (community service), has successfully preserved sustainable ecological, cultural, social, and economic values, providing essential resources such as food, medicinal plants, and water sources for local communities.

Reforestation activities in Guatemala
Training on the management of natural regeneration

The Resilient Highlands project tackles a web of challenges threatening the 48 Cantones communal forest. Illegal logging, pests, water pollution, forest fires, and land invasions strain this incredible ecosystem. The project tackles these threats through a multifaceted approach that promotes conservation, empowers communities, fosters sustainable livelihoods, and ensures the forest's long-term health.

The project aims to safeguard 11,200 hectares of coniferous forest and restore another 223 hectares with native trees. These efforts ensure the forest's environmental well-being, which sustains 1,200 springs, a vital source of drinking water. 

The past quarter has seen significant advancements in several key areas, thanks to the dedication of our technical team, partners, and the unwavering commitment of the Totonicapán communities.

The project also strengthens community governance by bolstering its capacity for sustainable forest management. This includes reviving ancestral practices, enhancing infrastructure for forest production, fostering youth leadership, and actively dismantling barriers that have historically limited women's participation in decision-making and conservation roles. 

Spreading awareness is equally crucial. Extensive media campaigns utilizing radio, television, and social media platforms educate the community about the dangers of forest fires and illegal logging. These campaigns also highlight local conservation efforts, fostering a community-wide culture of environmental stewardship.

Resilient Highlands Project Flourishes in Fifth Quarter of Implementation

The Resilient Highlands project continues to make significant strides. As the project enters its fifth quarter of implementation, notable achievements have been made in various areas.

"We're thrilled to share the continued progress of Resilient Highlands," says Mario Ardany de León, EcoLogic’s Program Officer in Guatemala. "The past quarter has seen significant advancements in several key areas, thanks to the dedication of our technical team, partners, and the unwavering commitment of the Totonicapán communities."

Forest Protection and Monitoring

The project has prioritized forest protection initiatives and implemented rigorous forest surveillance. The 48 Cantones Natural Resources Council, the Consejo Nacional de Areas Protegidas (CONAP), and EcoLogic rangers conducted two comprehensive monitoring and surveillance operations. These operations utilized Global Forest Watch technology to identify and address potential threats with greater precision. The project has also conducted aerial surveillance flights during monitoring patrols by leveraging drone technology. This innovative approach proved instrumental in identifying illegal logging activities, enabling the collection of photographic and video evidence for further action.

Additionally, a training workshop equipped forest rangers in La Concordia community with essential forest fire techniques, enhancing their ability to respond promptly and effectively to wildfire incidents. Audiovisual materials specifically tailored to forest fire prevention were developed, raising awareness among community members about the importance of fire prevention measures. 

Forest Restoration and Livelihood Diversification

Efforts to restore forests and diversify livelihoods have yielded positive results. Eight forest greenhouses were repaired, and two were equipped with metal frames and trays to optimize plant production and ensure the long-term sustainability of forest restoration efforts. A series of site visits and learning exchanges with leading tree nurseries in Guatemala facilitated the exchange of best practices and experiences between tree nursery specialists and EcoLogic technicians.

A comprehensive assessment identified 90.58 hectares of degraded forest within the communities of Tzanixnam, La Concordia, Parcialidad Caxaj, and Panquix. This assessment paves the way for targeted restoration efforts. Relevant stakeholders were trained on assisted natural regeneration processes, followed by the implementation of silvicultural management practices on 9.64 hectares of forest in the Parcialidad Caxaj territory, promoting natural forest regeneration.

Promoting Sustainable Energy and Food Security

The project has also actively promoted sustainable energy and food security practices. The 48 Cantones Natural Resources Board selected 70 individuals to construct 50 wood-saving stoves. Following a thorough socio-economic study, 50 families from specific communities participated in a comprehensive training workshop on stove construction, proper usage, and maintenance. 

Community groups in Chuicruz and Juchanep received training to establish family gardens and were provided with vegetable seeds, beans, and vermicompost. Additionally, a training workshop was conducted for individuals from several communities on establishing agroforestry systems, incorporating deciduous fruits and annual crops.

Infrastructure Development and Capacity Building

The project has also invested in infrastructure development and capacity-building initiatives. Two dry composting latrines were constructed at the 48 Cantones nursery, fostering a hygienic and environmentally friendly environment. Five community leaders were identified and trained to establish commercial Abies guatemalensis plantations. Furthermore, a memorandum of understanding was established between the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources, the Ministry of Education, and EcoLogic for youth leadership training. This collaboration involved workshops for teacher training and curriculum development to promote environmental stewardship among younger generations.

By focusing on targeted interventions and continued collaboration, the project aims to solidify its positive impact on the lives of Totonicapán rural and Indigenous communities and the health of the vital 48 Cantones forest. 

"The project's success is a testament to the power of collaboration," continues Ardany de León. "Working hand-in-hand with communities, government agencies, and local partners has been instrumental in driving significant progress. From extensive social engagement initiatives that ensured everyone understood the project's goals and benefits to the active participation of the 48 Cantones Natural Resources Board fostering a sense of community ownership, collaboration has been at the heart of it all. Strategic alliances with the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources further strengthened governance structures and forest management practices. EcoLogic's role was to provide the technical guidance that empowered communities to implement these practices effectively. It's truly a collaborative success."

Next Steps

Looking ahead, the Resilient Highlands project is poised to build upon its successes and expand its reach through targeted interventions. This includes constructing and providing training on wood-saving stoves for 100 women, establishing 81 family gardens with training for participating families, and collaborating with the 48 Cantones Natural Resources Council on enhanced forest monitoring and surveillance. Additionally, continued monitoring of plant production at the 48 Cantones nursery will be conducted alongside the revitalization of traditional knowledge related to forest conservation. 

By focusing on targeted interventions and continued collaboration, the project aims to solidify its positive impact on the lives of Totonicapán rural and Indigenous communities and the health of the vital 48 Cantones forest. 

EcoLogic is grateful to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the Foundation for the Conservation of Natural Resources and Environment in Guatemala (FCG), and the various partners that are making this project possible. The ‘Strengthening the Resilience of Livelihoods to Climate Change in the Upper Watersheds of the Guatemalan Highlands’ initiative is implemented by the IUCN, in conjunction with Guatemalan government agencies and universities. Funding for the project is provided by the Green Climate Fund (GCF), the Korean Development Cooperation Agency (KOICA), and the Government of Guatemala through the PROBOSQUE Forestry Incentives Program.


bottom of page