Changing lives in Guatemala

In Guatemala IUCN is fostering positive change by uniting landscape restoration with poverty reduction. It does this through its Livelihoods and Landscapes Strategy (LLS), combining incentives and employment creation, environmental governance and market development.

Q’eqchí’-Maya girl helps to fill bags with soil in a large nursery in the Lachuá, Guatemala

Lachuá is an area of tropical rainforest and rich biodiversity in northwest Guatemala, with distinct socio-cultural, environmental, economic and political attributes. It is home to the Laguna Lahua National Park and to 11,000 Qeqchi indigenous people. The Qeqchi are subsistence farmers and are represented by six local indigenous organizations. IUCN Mesoamerica works to bringing together these indigenous groups, government representatives and national forestry institutions, to improve the management of natural resources and the livelihoods of local people.

The successes are many. New projects for local pineapple, honey and cocoa production have created employment and income for Qeqchi people, while decreasing the pressure on the National Park. This in turn serves to maintain forest cover in important biological corridors within the park. These corridors, vital for the movement of wildlife, are further strengthened by reforestation undertaken by 150 indigenous farmers.

Involving local communities in the management of the protected area means they can also benefit from the sale of environmental ‘goods and services’ such as carbon and eco tourism. The Qeqchi women have built on this by expanding their weaving activities, providing additional income for their families.

IUCN also works in the Tacaná water catchment in the Guatemalan highlands where marginalized populations are highly dependent on hill farming and are suffering from degraded forest resources. The overall goal in Tacanà is to restore the natural resource base so that it can support a high population density of minifundistas - rural poor who have limited ownership or rights to land.

Already, the forest restoration strategy has been completed for four ‘micro’ watersheds in the upper Suchiate and Coates rivers. Success is partly due to the development of a business plan for the production and sale of Christmas trees (Abies coatemalensis species). With the landscape being restored, local people are benefting from sustainable income and employment.

IUCN combines its LLS work in Tacanà with another strategy, the Water and Nature Initiative (WANI). WANI also aims at the sustainable use of natural resources, while improving access to safe drinking water for inhabitants.

By promoting these combined participatory approaches to natural resource management IUCN is not only conserving valuable forests and biodiversity, it is also bringing about meaningful change to the lives of the rural poor. The challenge for IUCN and its partners is to extend this work beyond the protected area.

For more information contact:

Daniel Shaw
Communications Officer, IUCN Livelihoods and Landscapes Strategy
t. +41 22 999 0168
e. [email protected]

Work area: 
Locally Controlled Forests
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