GUATEMALA: biodiversity preservation & sustainable cardamom cycle


million trees planted
hectares restored
beneficiary households
tonnes of CO2 to be sequestered over 20 years

The context

The mountain range of Cerro San Gil, bordering Guatemala, Honduras, and Belize is a major water source and one of the most beautiful biodiversity treasures on the Caribbean coast. It is classified as a nature reserve. The mountain streams cascade down the wooded slopes into the port city of Puerto Barrios below. Migrating birds stop over here on their long journey between the Americas.

But this region has been severely threatened by the impact of human activities as rural communities are continually pushed further upslope and forced to search for arable land. Cattle ranching, slash-and-burn farming techniques and monoculture have exacerbated this problem by stripping the soil of its fertility.

The project

Implemented by local NGO Fundaeco, Livelihoods agroforestry project in Cerro San Gil is a large-scale reforestation and agroecology project to couple natural resources preservation and improved livelihoods for local Maya communities. Launched in 2014, the project aims for the plantation of a total of 4 million trees and plants of various species (citrus, coffee, cardamom, cocoa, mahogany, laurel, cedar, etc.) over 2,000 hectares of land.

To this date, the project has already achieved the plantation of 3 million trees, including rubber plantations with cardamom. Guatemala’s tropical forests are ideal for growing cardamom whose expensive oil is used in cooking, aromatherapy and even in perfume. Today, the rubber trees have reached the age of harvesting. Close to 2, 000 hectares of land have already been restored.

The project is sequestering close to 600, 000 tons of CO2 over 20 years.

The social and environmental impacts

This project entails much more than just helping the local communities to plant trees. It also seeks to generate new economic activity for the farmers, as they can earn extra income by selling the cash crops that are planted by this project (rubber, coffee, patchouli, etc.). In addition to reforesting the area, the farmers are introduced to new high-value commercial crops that they can grow alongside their subsistence food crops. Fundaeco is working with private partners via the Livelihoods Carbon Fund to allow them to gain access to the market.

More than 1, 600 beneficiaries have already been provided with training sessions to apply sustainable and productive agricultural practices, better access the market and process their products. The goal is to maximize the value created for small producers and to improve their income and living standards.

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