Project partner spotlight: Fundeco, Coast and Forest Conservation in Guatemala

In 2021 and 2022, ecolibrium members donated to carbon-balance travel carbon emissions through support for a Coast and Forest Conservation Project in Guatemala as part of the Trees+ climate solution programme. In 2022 over 2,700 tCO2e were carbon balanced as part of the conservation programme.

Belonging to the biologically diverse Mesoamerican Biological Corridor, forests in the project area are important nationally and internationally for the ecosystem services they provide. The project is the world’s largest grouped forest-based carbon project; involving hundreds of diverse landowners (including governmental, NGO, private and local communities) who have joined together to protect 675 parcels of forest making up a total of 59,341 hectares.

This project is truly landscape-scale and community-based: activities on the ground to develop sustainable livelihoods include working with local farmers on technical assistance, agriculture inputs and route-to-market for a variety of sustainably produced products such as spices and jungle leaves, as well as developing this beautiful coastline into a thriving eco-tourism hub.

The project is critical to local water supply, as municipal water comes from the watershed which is protected by conserving the ecosystem in the area. In addition, protecting forests along coastlines also helps in coastal defence and disaster risk reduction for local communities.

Our project partner Fundeco has been working in the region for over 30 years. Where the organiastion started. Ten years ago, the project team realised that they couldn’t scale the project without international finance so they started working with REDD+ and have been able to make agreements with over 1000 people who have voluntarily included their forests into the coastal forest project. They aim to have 100,000 hectares and are over half way there.

The now-protected area of coastline was one of the most deforested in the country – losing 3.5% each year (the average is 1% deforestation in Guatemala.

There were two main cause of deforestation which the project is now addressing:

Tackling Poverty: with few opportunities for jobs or education communities were cutting down the forest to plant maize and beans for food or to sell the high value tropical trees, like Rosewood, which is highly prized in demand in China. Fundeco helps tackle deforestation due to poverty by working with communities to provide training in growing more valuable crops, such as cinnamon, black pepper, cardamon, with more efficient farming techniques meaning a higher yield for less land. Fundeco also create links from farmers to new markets which can pay a better price for the crops.

Stopping illegal cattle ranching:  This region of Latin American is affected by cattle ranching from drug gangs. Gangs don’t actually farm beef, instead they build the ranches to show they have control of the area. Fundeco helps to stop the practice by working with the local government to enforce the laws prohibiting ranching, and regularly patrolling threatened with the army and the police.

The project is not just focused on forest conservation but on supporting local communities to access healthcare and education and in promoting and protecting biodiversity.

Healthcare: Some communities are very far from public services: people have to walk for hours to get to a hospital, people still die of dehydration from diarrhoea, and there’s a very high rate of maternal mortality. Fundeco build and maintain local health clinics, with 25 being purpose build across the area, they supply basic, life-saving medicines and offer training for community health workers.  

Education: Fundeco have developed a mentoring system to ensure that local girls, in particular, attend school and stay in school. It’s very common that girls in rural areas don’t attend school or leave after elementary (primary) school. The mentoring scheme connects girls with peers who are continuing their studies, to show them the value of continuing at school, and in 2023 they are proud to have had their first university graduate.

Conserving Biodiversity: Fundeco work with several conservation projects who come specifically to photograph and track migratory birds & rare amphibians. Over 120 migrant bird species come to the region and they run the largest monitoring programme for birds in Latin America. They ring the birds so they are monitored all over Canada and the US so the can recapture them and understand the bird population and health.

The region is home to eight species of amphibian that are on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, they work with conservationists to monitor the health of these populations to assess the quality of the water and have a dedicated to micro photography.  They have camera traps to monitor the wildlife, with mammals such as Jaguars, Loris and Margay, all of which have decreasing populations globally due to the destruction of their habitats, make this protected area their home.

Find out more about Fundeco