USAID, green groups target climate change in Guatemala

GUATEMALA CITY – A $25 million environmental project has been launched in Guatemala aimed at reducing the effects of climate change in the Central American nation. The program, “Clima, Naturaleza y Comunidades en Guatemala” (“Climate, Nature and Communities in Guatemala,” or CNCG), will operate in four regions of the country, with the objective of conserving natural resources and supporting efforts to reduce the consequences of extreme global weather changes.

Guatemala is one of the countries most affected by climate change due to its geographical position that leaves it vulnerable to natural disasters including earthquakes and hurricanes.

Guatemala paisaje

A new program to combat the effects of climate change will soon start work in the protected area of Sierra de las Minas, in southeastern Guatemala. Courtesy of Giovanni Bojorquez

The five-year project, which is a U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) initiative, will be led by the international conservation group Rainforest Alliance together with various environmental, business and academic institutions.

“Guatemala generates one of the lowest carbon emissions per capita, but the Global Climate Risk Index classifies the country as the second most affected [in the region] by extreme climate phenomenon, such as droughts and tropical storms,” said Patricia Orantes, director of CNCG.

“At the same time, Guatemala is one of the countries with the most biodiversity, […] but this natural richness is under grave threat: The sheer rate of deforestation went from 93,000 hectares per year in 2001 to more than 132,000 in 2010,” she added.

By focusing on various areas such as deforestation, reducing carbon emissions and strengthening Guatemala’s adaptability to climate change, the CNCG hopes to succeed in conserving the country’s natural resources.

One of its most innovative strategies includes working with rural and community-based businesses, which produce forest products, to help them find more markets for sustainable goods.

The four regions of the country where the project is being developed were chosen due to their vulnerability to climate change and the high percentage of local residents who depend on the natural resources around them to survive.

“This project will improve the conservation and sustainable management of the forests. This is the fundamental part, because it will help us care for and maintain the forests from which we live. It will benefit not only us but also the future generations,” said Luis Góngora from Impulsores Suchitecos, a community-based forestry company in northern Guatemala.

Kevin Kelly, the director of USAID in Guatemala, said that the program will focus on reducing the population’s vulnerability to climate change.

Added Orantes: “[CNCG] will not only help to protect Guatemala’s forests and biodiversity, but it will also generate employment and reduce the effects of climate change.”

Cantemo tree

This burnt cantemó tree at the archaeological site Las Guacamayas, in the northern Guatemala department of Petén, can no longer be used by endangered macaws. Courtesy WCS Guatemala