Apr 19, 2011

We gotta fix them holes!

So much has happened this week! I'm back in the office now after a week visiting our project with the 48 Cantones in Totonicapan. Meetings, greenhouses, water sources, stoves, reforestation zones - all this week! Some of this stuff is going to have to wait for some later posts or else you'd be reading a novel. It's been a really great experience - I've been able to learn so much more about the issues facing the Communal Forest of San Miguel and the communities located around it. This is the forest managed by the 48 Cantones which I talked about last week. The forest houses the largest remaining stand of Pinabete (an endangered variety of pine) and is absolutely essential for the delivery of water to over 100 rural communities. The water doesn't come from a stream, river, or well. It literally comes from the forest ground itself.

On Monday, I attended a meeting about logging. This is becoming a major problem in the forest. Gathering wood for household cooking fuel is legal and accepted by everyone in the community including the leadership of the 48 Cantones. And if you ask for permission from the leadership, you can enter the forest to take a few trees to build a house, a pen for your sheep, etc. But over the last 10 to 15 years, high demand for wood and diminishing resources in areas all around the communal forest has created a livelihood opportunity for many people. People enter the forest, cut down trees, sell them to a driver who fills up his pickup truck, takes the wood to nearby towns and cities, like Xela, Huehuetenango, and Solola for profit.

In attendance at the meeting were members of the Natural Resources Committee of the 48 Cantones, two past presidents of this committee, village water board leaders, and two members of the national police department assigned to natural resource protection. EcoLogic arranged this meeting to focus specifically on this subject and create an action plan with multiple stakeholders. We have been building greenhouses and growing trees to reforest around water sources in the area for over 10 years. But it doesn't make sense for us and the community members who support the cause to work so hard to reforest if we're watching 10 times the amount of trees disappear and doing nothing about it. It's like trying to fill a bucket with water that has big holes in the bottom. We gotta fix them holes! From one of the four exits of the forest there are an estimated 50 pickups full of wood leaving per day according to the police. Which translates to 50 meters squared a day of forest. And that's only one exit. This was the first meeting to really talk about the issue in an open and honest way. What's exciting is knowing that once we do come up with a plan and carry it out, it could serve as a model for so many other regions. This issue is certainly not unique to Totonicipan. It's a national and international concern.

We'll keep you posted on what the working group comes up with.  That was Monday.  Then I met with the one and only Don Augustin. This man LOVES TREES!

- Chris Patterson, Program Officer for EcoLogic
Chris collaborates closely with the senior program officer by writing grant proposals and project reports, investigating potential funders, and following trends in philanthropy, conservation, and international development. Chris was a fellow for the Ford Foundation's Difficult Dialogues Project and has documented his time working from EcoLogic's regional office in Quetzaltenango, Guatemala from March to June, 2011. 

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