Guatemala, which means “the land of many trees” in Náhuatl, is the most populous country in Central America and the most diverse. More than half of the current population of Guatemala are descendants of the indigenous Maya, who flourished in this region over 1,000 years ago. The diverse Mayan communities of Guatemala speak 24 indigenous languages and rely heavily on subsistence farming and native forests to survive.
Between 1950 and 2002, this land of many trees lost half of its forest cover (Instituto Nacional de Bosques, 2012). Although deforestation has slowed dramatically, it is still a major environmental issue in Guatemala. The major drivers of deforestation differ from region to region, with mining, cattle ranching, large scale agriculture, and firewood extraction being some of the leading causes of forest degradation. In fact, the burning of wood accounts for 47% of the country’s total energy (Sistema de Informacíon Forestal de Guatemala, 2012). In addition to this pressure on forests, according to the Climate Risk Index Guatemala is one of the ten countries most at risk from climate change (GermanWatch, 2015).
In 1998, Trees, Water & People began building Justa cookstoves in Guatemala to improve the economic situation of disadvantaged rural and urban families. In 2011, a partnership began with Utz Ché (meaning “good tree” in the Mayan language K’iche’), a Guatemalan NGO that represents over 36 indigenous community organizations dedicated to sustainable management of their forests, water sources, and other natural resources. With the help of Utz Ché, the clean cookstoves drastically reduce the amount of wood needed to prepare each meal and remove deadly pollutants from the home. Guatemalan families help build their own clean cookstoves, using local materials and local people to complete every project. In addition to clean cookstoves, Trees, Water, & People’s Guatemalan tree nurseries provide 14 communities with tree seedlings to plant, offering protection against soil erosion, a sustainable firewood supply, and a source of income.
When you take a tour of Guatemala with TWP Tours, you will: