In San Mateo Ixtatan a community served by our Cuchamatanes project, EcoLogic and its local partner, the Association of the Northern Frontier (MFN), have pioneered a new component to our forest guardian training program: a woman-centric series of workshops to promote environmental awareness and resource conservation. Many of the people we work with in this area are Chuj, a Maya people who have lived in Northern Guatemala and Mexico for thousands of years, and who have, against formidable odds, retained their language and aspects of their traditional culture. The Chuj were reduced to poverty by the taking of their communal lands by Spanish colonial authorities of the 17th and 18th centuries, and they were also deeply and adversely affected by the 36-year Guatemalan civil war, during which time the military government perceived them as "internal enemies." While Chuj women have historically participated in society on nearly equal footing with men, these days many Chuj women are confined to the home, have limited access to community services including healthcare and education, and speak limited if any Spanish; many are illiterate.
Our workshops focus on educating husbands with their wives about the importance of women gaining an undertanding of conservation activities -- after all it is the women who literally feed the firest at home-- and we work to gradually acclimate both men and women to women gaining autonomy to collaborate together to have a meaningful impact on resource management. Many women who attend our workshops go on to join recently formed women-only groups that meet to participate in reforestation and land maintenance activities.
The three women pictured here, Maria Lucas Jacinto, Isabela Alonzo Martín, and Micaela Alonzo Pérez (left to right), meet with 8-10 other women three to five times a month, to visit the forest location pictured as well as other sites, to collect trash, clear paths, create fire breaks, and thin the trees selectively to encourage the growth of those remaining while obtaining modest amounts of firewood. Isabela, a nineteen year old bilingual Chuj woman who is currently attending university, is a school teacher as well as the San Mateo Ixtatan's coordinator of the newly created "office of the woman." Isabela, collaborates regularly with EcoLogic Field Technician Gyovany Diaz, and the two are working hard to identify and develop activities and workshops that will strengthen the role of Chuj women in social, political and environmental decisions and activities. Says Gyovany, "EcoLogic's workshops and educational programs have many benefits including boosting women's self-esteem and participation in civil society. This has advantages because it helps women take a more active role in daily activities and decisions which directly helps to protect natural resources and the environment in and around San Mateo Ixtatán. I hope EcoLogic and our partner MFN, continue to develop and support these women's groups, because they act with a passion and resolute commitment to protect the trees, water and animals of this area. Their success can only succeed in making matters better for everyone here in San Mateo."
EcoLogic's reforestation project in Totonicapán Forest, Guatemala takes into account the land, the community and, in particular, the next generation that will eventually be the stewards on the ancient land. EcoLogic's partner, ArtCorps is a nonprofit that focuses on the arts as a way to educate and foster environmental conservation. Together we have been able to engage the youth in the area and promote the protection of the forest that has been called home by their families for generations.
Narrated by children, the video below, “Story of Youth Leaders in Conservation” follows the creative learning process as they are introduced to technology and art and develop leadership. Through this cross-generational project, traditional conservation stories and practices from community elders are documented and retold by middle school students.
Story of Youth Leaders in Conservation from our project partner ArtCorps on Vimeo.
This project is being carried out by ArtCorps in collaboration with EcoLogic Development Fund and 48 Cantons.
The overarching goal of the helping communities build and use fuel-efficient stove is to increase environmental stewardship within rural communities of Guatemala by improving the resource efficiency and healthiness of household cooking. The stoves decrease the human threats to tropical forests, promote environmental leadership within some of the most marginalized members of society, and improves the lives and health particularly of women and children. To make sure of the efficiency of the EcoLogic stoves – we commissioned a study completed by the experts at the Zamorano Institute’s Improved Stove Certification Center in Honduras.
The studied resulted in several insights and recommendations that will help us adjust our program to maximize our impact. For instance, we learned that the fuel-efficient stove models that we introduce is not the most efficient stoves on the market (though they are considerably more fuel efficient that conventional open-pit fires); however, they are well liked and used by beneficiaries. Our model, though less efficient, is durable and multi-functional as a table and cooking surface. It is also important to note that adoption rates and demand for the stoves remains high.