In a nutshell
The Lachuá ecoregion is one of the most biologically diverse in Guatemala. There, the forested highlands of the Chamá sierra converge with the forested lowlands adjoining the Chixoy river basin, creating a unique ecosystem, a priority for the country in conservation terms.
The region is home to the Laguna Lachuá National Park, which constitutes one of the few natural remnants of legally protected tropical rainforest in the northern transverse band and the Guatemalan Mayan jungle. This ecoregion provides a habitat for a wide diversity of animal wildlife, many of which are key to conservation efforts because they are either endemic or under threat of becoming extinct in the region and the country. The Lachuá ecoregion is a key strategic tropical wetland for its abundant water sources.
In 2006, the significance of the Lachuá ecoregion was legally established by the RAMSAR Convention on Wetlands (RAMSAR 2008). In 2008, it was included in the Latin-American Model Forest Network as the first Guatemalan Model Forest, thanks to the governance model prevalent in the region, where community organizations actively participate alongside state institutions and national and international NGOs to achieve economic, social and productive development in the region, focusing their efforts on the sustainable management of natural resources.
The Lachuá Model Forest encompasses the Laguna Lachuá National Park and its area of influence. Although the area is well preserved, with samples of forests representative of the region, it has suffered the consequences of the 36-years long armed conflict endured by Guatemala, which ended with the 1996 Peace Accords.
There are seven areas destined for protection and conservation within the Model Forest: the private reserve Chajumpec; municipal farm Salinas de los Nueve Cerros; four community forest reserve areas (Faisán I, Pataté Icbolay, Rocja´Pomtilá and San Luis Chiquito); and the state run Laguna Lachuá National Park.
Population in the Model Forest is estimated at 20,000 people, approximately, belonging mainly to the Q’eqchi’ ethnic group (18,500 people). The population is grouped into 55 communities, organized as Community Development Councils (Cocodes), created under the Development Councils Law, the Decentralization Law, and the Municipal Code approved in 2002. Most of the ecoregion’s inhabitants migrated from Polochic (Alta Verapaz) and Purulha (Baja Verapaz).
Q’eqchi’ activities are focused on the agricultural sector. They are guided by observing the moon, and practice rituals such as watesink (feeding) and mayejak (offerings-sacrifice), fasting, and analyzing signs. Production in the Lachuá Model Forest is based on agricultural systems, such as maize and bean production, the main basic grains used to cover the population’s nutritional needs. Some of the existing agroforestry systems are forest-cardamom and, more recently, forest-cocoa.
According to the 2008-2009 intermediate line socioeconomic indicators study of the Laguna Lachuá Project, average per capita income is Q. 3,130.30 (US$ 418, approximately), below the extreme poverty line established at Q. 3,206 (US$ 428, approximately) at the time, according to the Guatemalan National Institute of Statistics.
Community organizations, state institutions, NGOs, private companies and universities participate in the Lachuá Model Forest’s Board of directors. Local populations are represented in first and second tier organizations by the Cocodes, of which 55 belong to the first and two to the second– the Santa Lucía Region Second Tier Development Community Councils Association (ACODESERESA) and the Salacuim Region Second Tier Development Community Councils Association (ASOCOCOSERESA). There are also producer associations that promote agriculture and forestry activities, such as ATZAMHA, ASOSELNOR, ASODIRP, APROCHILCO, KATBALPOM and ASCAMPEY. In addition, the Lachuá Foundation (FUNDALACHUA) groups together all first and second tier organizations and has representation powers at the ecoregional level. The foundation is in charge of steering actions and activities described in the Lachuá Model Forest working plan.
The National Forest Institute (INAB) implements, together with community organizations and private estates, the PINFOR forestry incentive program, which enables producer access to an incentive for establishing forest plantations, forest reserves, or forest management schemes. The Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Food (MAGA) facilitates the implementation of PINFRUTA, a fruit growing incentive program for individuals and community organizations. The National Council for Protected Areas (CONAP), INAB and MAGA co-manage the Lachuá National Park.
Decisions are made by the Board of directors. FUNDALACHUA currently holds the presidency and is in charge of reviewing, updating and executing direct actions in the ecoregion.
- To strengthen management, technical and administrative capacities in the Lachuá Model Forest;
- To develop a permanent process of human capital formation in order to raise awareness, educate and build local capacity on issues relevant to the Model Forest;
- To develop strategic actions for the implementation of mechanisms that allow effective conservation of the Laguna Lachuá National Park and the sustainable management of the natural resources in its area of influence;
- To support the development of productive businesses and commercial alliances compatible with conservation.
Key actions in place to reach these goals:
- Carrying out a continuous process to incorporate key social stakeholders into the Lachuá Model Forest directorate;
- Facilitating training, capacity building and updating of human capital knowledge and skills for the activities developed in the Model Forest, favoring the exchange of experiences, knowledge and technology with other regions in the country and Model Forests around the world;
- Promoting, lending support and safeguarding conservation in the Laguna Lachuá National Park; participating in regional and national policymaking and planning to steer actions geared towards natural resource conservation and sustainable management in the Lachuá ecoregion;
- Developing institutional alliances to support and strengthen production and micro-enterprise processes; establishing public-private alliances to promote commercial development in the ecoregion; promoting the development of a producers’ group in the Lachuá ecoregion.
- The Lachuá Model Forest is consolidated as a regional organization with technical and administrative capacities to execute activities through working synergies;
- The Model Forest carried out activities and actions to support communities in alliance with FUNDALACHUA;
- Model Forest members take an active part in national and international initiatives. Relationships among stakeholders and their experience in regional management have been strengthened.