The Althelia Climate Fund has participated in a EUR 10.2 million (US$11.1 million) investment programme in Izabal, on the Caribbean Coast of Guatemala, to finance the long-term conservation of up to 110,000 hectares of natural forest in and around the region’s network of protected areas. The investment aims to avoid over 8 million tonnes of CO2 emissions through avoided deforestation.
The investment also enables the restoration of over 1,000 hectares of degraded lands situated in buffer zones around the protected areas, thus bolstering conservation efforts in the process. A diverse variety of agricultural produce including cardamom, xate, pepper, rambutan, lychee, cinnamon and timber will be produced under agroforestry systems, thus improving the livelihoods of small scale farmers and their families, ensuring a transition towards sustainable land use in and around the protected areas in partnership with local communities who suffer the most as their natural forests are lost and degraded.
The remaining forests of the Guatemalan Caribbean are highly important for biodiversity conservation, as these forests are an important migratory corridor: over 120 species of migratory birds use the Caribbean forests as wintering or stop over sites. The forests of the Caribbean Region also provide key environmental services for local towns and communities, including drinking water, protection against sedimentation of port navigation channels, reduction of risks of natural disasters, timber, and a variety of non-timber forest products, including xate, black pepper, cardamom and cocoa. At the landscape level, the Caribbean Region provides a unique opportunity for tourism, with its unique natural and cultural heritage. These forests are also highly threatened due to deforestation and unsustainable land uses activities, mainly slash and burn agriculture and extensive cattle ranching.
Althelia’s investment will finance the establishment of new nature reserves and protected areas that also address the needs of the local human population to safeguard the highest risk forest areas. In addition, it will provide resources to manage and scientifically monitor the existing protected areas and surrounding buffer areas, which have historically been under-resourced and vulnerable to illegal exploitation. A new sustainable development paradigm will be catalysed through investment in over 1,000ha of agroforestry systems, which in partnership with local landowners and communities will provide new revenue streams and opportunities. This will be coupled with an injection of ‘patient’ capital into the regions eco-tourism network to open new sites, improve existing ones and improve marketing. This will create sustainable jobs whilst allowing more people to experience the unique beauty of the regions forests, rivers and Caribbean Sea.
This investment is implemented on the ground in partnership with a leading Guatemalan NGO — Fundacion para el Ecodesarrollo y la Conservacion (FUNDAECO)— which has over 25 years experience in conservation an sustainable community development. This work is done in close coordination with government agencies, social and community organizations. FUNDAECO coordinates closely with the National Council of Protected Areas (CONAP), the governmental agency in charge of protected areas in Guatemala, and with whom FUNDAECO has signed agreements for protected area co-management.