Through capacity building and the promotion of local ownership, EcoLogic's new project aims to empower and support community-led initiatives for the long-term conservation of the invaluable natural resource of the 48 Cantones Forest.
The 48 Cantones territory of Totonicapán in Guatemala symbolizes Indigenous governance, sustainability, and cultural preservation. Situated in the upper reaches of the Salamá, Chixoy, and Motagua river basins, this region has been nurtured by the Maya K'iche people for centuries, preserving not only its rich cultural heritage but also its invaluable ecological assets.
The 48 Cantones Communal Forest: A Treasure Under Threat
The 48 Cantones Communal Forest of San Miguel Totonicapán is a sanctuary for coniferous forests, serving as a crucial water source for local communities and providing a habitat for the endangered Abies guatemalensis species.
Various factors threaten the precious natural assets of this forest, including illegal logging, deforestation, unsustainable agriculture, pollution, and pests. Many of these threats are driven by factors such as limited economic alternatives, the need for firewood, population growth, and a lack of awareness about natural resource conservation. The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated these challenges, especially illegal logging, as families struggled to generate income for basic necessities.
The project seeks to strengthen community governance by revitalizing ancestral practices and fostering entrepreneurship initiatives
Recognizing the significance of this unique ecosystem, EcoLogic has embarked on a vital project called "Recovery, Conservation, and Management of Biodiversity in the 48 Cantones Forest."
The project will run for 24 months and aims to restore and conserve 11,200 hectares of biodiversity and forest cover.
The project also seeks to strengthen community governance by revitalizing ancestral practices and fostering entrepreneurship initiatives, ultimately reducing anthropogenic pressure on the forest.
"One of the project's central objectives is to address the escalating impacts of climate change," commented Jonatán Tzún, EcoLogic's Field Technician. "At its core, our initiative revolves around developing a comprehensive strategy to help local communities adapt to the adverse consequences of this unpredictable climatic variability."
Specific objectives include:
Conserving coniferous forests
Promoting alternative income generation
Engaging youth and the next generation of community representatives in conservation efforts
Conservation and Restoration
EcoLogic's project will focus on conserving 11,200 hectares of coniferous forest and restoring 223 hectares of habitat with native trees. The goal is to protect 1,200 springs, ensuring water flow for the benefit of 160,000 residents by 2024.
Conservation efforts will begin with fire prevention and control. A training campaign will involve 60 individuals annually, selected from communities facing the highest risk. Basic firefighting tools will also be provided to at least five community groups.
The project includes coordination with first guards from the National Council of Protected Areas and the Municipality of Totonicapán. These key actors will receive training and equipment to strengthen their skills in controlling, monitoring, and safeguarding the forest and its biodiversity.
Strengthening Governance and Sustainability
The project will breathe new life into traditional practices, empowering young people and adults to take on leadership roles in community service.
EcoLogic will identify community leaders with expertise in traditional seed collection and forest access. These individuals will be provided with technical training through the National Institute of Forests. This training will cover various aspects of seed collection, including the selection of seed source stands, the use of appropriate and safe equipment, seed drying techniques, and the overall seed collection process.
EcoLogic will help train emerging young leaders, enhancing youth participation in decision-making processes related to natural resource management.
Furthermore, a biophysical study of Los Altos de San Miguel Protected Area will be conducted to better understand the forest's richness. The study will focus on characterizing ornithology, herpetology, and mastozoology to identify species' presence, absence, abundance, or scarcity and their behavior in different seasons. This investigation will provide a baseline on the biophysical aspects of the protected area, helping plan appropriate proposals and strategies for territorial management, governance, and ecological administration.
EcoLogic envisions women actively and meaningfully participating in conservation, restoration, entrepreneurship, and decision processes. To address these challenges, our team designed a participatory workshop to discuss the importance of gender equality in conservation and sustainable development.
During the workshop, we will highlight women's vital role in natural resource management and emphasize opportunities for their active participation in this project. Additionally, we will encourage open and constructive dialogue to address cultural and social barriers that limit women's involvement in community service and leadership roles.
Generating Social Capital
EcoLogic will work with Indigenous communities to develop sustainable livelihoods through agroforestry, ecotourism, and establishing Abies guatemalensis plantations. These initiatives will contribute to forest restoration and align with ecosystem-based adaptation.
Promoting Youth Involvement
As a part of our project, we will launch a new campaign to involve young representatives from various communities in community leadership and communal forest conservation. EcoLogic will help train emerging young leaders, fostering collaboration and innovation and enhancing youth participation in decision-making processes related to natural resource management.
These leaders will be pioneers, representing the first wave of young voices actively participating in community governance. They will be groomed to take up key roles and responsibilities, with the potential to become future members of the Board of Natural Resources.
Ensuring a Sustainable Future
By addressing critical threats, empowering local communities, working hand in hand with the Maya K'iche people, and promoting sustainability, our project is a model for community-led biodiversity conservation that can ensure a sustainable future for the 48 Cantones Communal Forest and its inhabitants.
"At EcoLogic, we are dedicated to protecting the environment, and we are passionate about our work," says Tzún. "Our commitment to conservation has made us a respected member of the community."
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 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.