Program Stories

Renewed community forest protections in Guatemala

Nearly 25 years ago, the Association of Forest Communities of the Peten (Asociación de Comunidades Forestales de Petén, ACOFOP) secured sizable community management concessions for half a million hectares of tropical forest within the Maya Biosphere Reserve in Guatemala. Granted by the government for a 25-year duration, these ACOFOP concessions represent one of the most successful and long-standing examples of community forest management in the world.

Teresita Chinchilla, Technical Coordinator at ACOFOP shared, “ACOFOP has created a conservation and development model that is unique in its category. This model has shown that conservation that includes natural and cultural heritage is possible, while generating socioeconomic benefits for families.”

Forestry concessions are managed by local Indigenous and peasant communities, with conservation, livelihoods, and collective wellbeing in mind. Roughly half the Maya Biosphere Reserve allows for productive activities, with local communities sustainably producing timber, xate palm, allspice, chicle gum, and wicker, among other things. Youth membership and participation in enterprises is increasing. Women are beginning to occupy more leadership positions, which means that addition to generating livelihoods, their voices and perspectives will be increasingly accounted for in community planning.

The tropical forests of the Maya Biosphere Reserve are in exceptional hands. Deforestation within concession areas have remained near zero. Even during peak forest fire season in Guatemala, virtually none of the community managed forests are impacted. Less than one percent of the forest fires that affect the Maya Biosphere Reserve in Guatemala occur in the areas managed by community concessions. Communities implement innovative early fire detection systems using GPS and drones operated by community youth.

The first forest concessions secured by ACOFOP were set to expire between 2022 and 2025. However, thanks to the diligent work of ACOFOP and others, 7 of the 9 concessions were successfully renewed for another 25 years. This major success also sets a precedent for the renewal of remaining community management concessions in the coming years.

Margaret A. Cargill Philanthropies tropical forest program has supported ACOFOP through our partner the Climate and Land Use Alliance since 2014 – and before that through a direct grant to ACOFOP in 2012.