Community-led Reforestation in Totonicapan Forest

by EcoLogic Development Fund
Showcasing reforestation techniques
Showcasing reforestation techniques

In Totonicapan, EcoLogic is harnessing the strong sense of community that exists in the beautiful northern Guatemala by coordinating with nearby schools and water committees to forest to keep the momentum moving forward on reforestation efforts. Recently nearly 80,000 plants have been reforested over 71 hectares of forest. EcoLogic has also helped to installed 40 fuel-efficient stoves in Totonicapan to alleviate pressure on the forest for fuel-wood. The news stoves require less wood than traditionally used open-pit fires. The forest is managed by the 48 Cantons, a generations-old and well-respected authority in the community. EcoLogic works with the 48 Cantons to put on educational workshops for youth and reforestation trainings for community volunteers. In recent years, EcoLogic has help build 8 greenhouses in the forest that can hold up to 17,000 saplings each of native tree species. During the rainy season in late summer, EcoLogic, 48 Cantons, and the community come together to transplant the trees to the forest - and conserve the land for future generations.

A page from the new artbook: Sabiduria de los Roco
A page from the new artbook: Sabiduria de los Roco

We are pleased to announce the release of "Sabiduría de los Rocosos," an artbook of stories and pictures created by the Quiché children of Totonicapán, Guatemala. Guided by ArtCorps Fellow Isabel Carrio, the children interviewed their grandparents for traditional stories about Mayan cosmology, history and culture and then created illustrations using a variety of media including drawing and painting, printmaking and collage incorporating natural objects like leaves, flowers, sticks and sheep’s wool into many of the pictures.

EcoLogic has collaborated with local partner, the 48 Cantons of Totonicapán, a traditional Maya-Quiché governing body, since 2003 helping to restore and protect the old-growth forest and other natural resources. One way to do this is help the Quiché record and preserve the history of their traditional practices and teach those to the next generation. "Sabiduría de los Rocosos," which loosely translates as "Wisdom of the Rocky Hillsides," provided a way to connect families to that history in a personal way. The stories highlight the importance of traditional forest resource management and the interconnection between the Maya-Quiché's livelihood and the environment.

This book is the result of our partnership with ArtCorps. Since 2009, ArtCorps fellows have served at select EcoLogic project sites, using art and personal expression activities to engage people of all ages in environmental and social justice initiatives. Moving forward, EcoLogic and ArtCorps hope to raise funds to publish hard copies of Los Rocosos and also create an English version. In the new year we will post a full version of the book on our website—stay tuned!

Take a sneak peek at a few pages from the book.


Reforesting with students in Totonicapan
Reforesting with students in Totonicapan

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.



Forest collage created by 48 Cantones Youth Leader
Forest collage created by 48 Cantones Youth Leader

EcoLogic is working with community members to not only reforest the centuries-old Totonicapán forest, but to prevent deforestation in the future. As part of the project, EcoLogic, along with local partners, recently launched “Green Week” in coordination with non-profit, ArtCorps that uses art to strengthen understanding of culture and environmental conservation.

Traditional Mayan ceremonies, recycling contests, music, poetry, and puppet plays were all part of the week-long drive to promote ecological traditional memory through the arts and the preservation of the forest.  Also, local artists and community organizations sponsored drawing and poetry contests aimed to show children the importance of conservation. All these activities were communicated to the communities through television and radio programs.

Read the blog by ArtCorps Fellow Isabel Carrió about her time working with youth in the area on art projects related to conservation.

Youth drawing trees in sacred forest.
Youth drawing trees in sacred forest.


Local students helping in reforestation
Local students helping in reforestation

Last year, EcoLogic broke ground on the construction of three state of the art greenhouses in Totonicapán. The greenhouses have now been completed and are full of healthy native species saplings waiting to be reforested this spring. 

Community members, led by two local, full-time caretakers manage the nurseries. They collect the seeds from the forest, plant them, water them with water flowing from the forest above the greenhouses, apply organic compost and fertilizers, and then take them into the forest once they're big enough (about 10 months old). The greenhouses allow for a greater likelihood of success because the trees remain protected from animals and insects and the greenhouses offers a steady and reliable stream of water and careful attention by caretakers.

When the trees have become large and healthy enough they will be transplanted to the forest by trained community members to be planted around water sources in May and June. These are the best months to reforest since they fall in the middle of the “rainy season.”

We can’t wait to give you another update soon as the community will soon rally together and help move the trees from the nursery back to their home in Totonicapán. 

Replanting a tree from the nursery to the forest
Replanting a tree from the nursery to the forest



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Organization Information

EcoLogic Development Fund

Location: Cambridge, MA - USA
Website: http:/​/​
Project Leader:
Alexa Piacenza
Program Associate
Cambridge, MA United States

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