In rural Guatemala, EcoLogic works with communities to develop and implement practical plans to promote forest reforestation and conservation. Using a holistic approach that goes beyond chimneys and stovetops, we are taking into account the role of the ecosystem and the community to implement sustainable changes.
EcoLogic recently spoke with teacher and Totonicapán community member Juana Maria Garcia about her time volunteering with EcoLogic and building fuel-efficient stoves in Cuchanet, Guatemala.
You have also helped to build fuel-efficient stoves, right?
JMG: Yes, this last winter I worked with EcoLogic to help build stoves for 75 families. The beneficiaries were in five communities and I primarily worked in Cuchanet. I collaborated with the group—mostly women of the households—to build the stoves. A mason supervised us, but we did everything as a team. We mixed the cement, lay the adobe and the bricks, and built the inner chamber. The chamber is built in a special way which helps the air move and reduces the amount of wood needed to keep it hot. Finally, we put on the chimney, and gave the stove a special coating of sand and cement, and then the owner had to wait 30 days for it to dry and "settle" before she could use it.
The owners are taught how to maintain the stoves, including what can be burned and what can't be. For example, most people don't know that burning plastic is dangerous for your health and for the environment. Fernando, the EcoLogic technician, also teaches how to keep the stoves clean, and why flies are bad for the food, as many people don't understand this. So there is a lot of health and hygiene information that is talked about, too.
In Guatemala, EcoLogic has recently established four plots of land that will be used to grow and cultivate Inga edulis seeds, and increase farmers’ access to the plant, which is used in agroforestry. Agroforestry is a method of agriculture that integrates trees and shrubs with crops like corn, beans, and coffee. By taking advantage of the natural benefits of trees, small-scale farmers can use agroforestry to produce more using less land, easing their burden while improving their lands.
Though tropical forests are often destroyed for agriculture, EcoLogic is helping small farmers to reap the rewards forests offer by reintroducing trees onto their lands. By integrating Inga trees into agriculture, farmers can reduce erosion, provide a source of organic fertilizer, maintain a healthy climate for crops, and increase yield thus reducing the need to clear more forests for agricultural lands.
Local farmers’ use of Inga for agroforestry is one way in which EcoLogic is working with communities to promote alternatives to the ecological destruction of slash and burn cultivation, while also increasing crop yields.
We believe that in order to save forests and water sources, we must work with communities to provide the tools and training they need to sustainably manage their natural resources. Inga is one of the tools we use and an integral part of that solution.
Forest guards are working to protect and conserve over 85 hectares of land in Huehuetengango, Guatemala. EcoLogic helps train, educate, and promote the work of volunteer guards for the protection of precious forest resources. And, there is still more to be done! The city and municipality of Huehuetenango has over 32,750 hectares of community forests alone and over 200,000 people rely on the resources of this communal forest. EcoLogic is working with Northern Border Municipalities Alliance (MFN), emphasizing the importance of forest protection and conservation.
To strengthen the effectiveness of forest conservation, EcoLogic has teamed up with Heifer International Foundation to double our impact. In partnership with Heifer, the forest guard program has recently adopted the “pass on the gift” methodology, which means spreading the lessons we have learned together to other villages, communities, provinces, and countries.
EcoLogic is holding ongoing training sessions on leadership, soil conservation, and forestry management as part of the project to spread the word. So far this year we have trained 73 forest guards in three communities, bringing the total number of guards to 276.
With your support – and the continued interest of the community - we will be able to recruit and train more guards and ensure greater protection of the forest!