Helping Small Growers in Guatemala Profit from Sustainable Forestry

“The forestry fair was magnificent! I was able to negotiate two million board feet of pine and cypress, something I had never before been able to do before,” exclaimed Carlos Tepaz, a small farmer and forester, after attending the Forestry Fair of Quiché in Guatemala’s western highlands last July.

Local forester Carlos Tepaz

Local forester Carlos Tepaz quadrupled his best-ever sales at the forestry fair

The Rainforest Alliance, which leads the Climate, Nature and Communities in Guatemala (CNCG) program, organized the fair in Santa Cruz del Quiché as part of its effort to support the Asociación Forestal de Quiché (AFORQ)—an association of local foresters committed to using sustainable methods—and to provide economic opportunities to local foresters like Tepaz.

More than 15 Maya language groups live here in Guatemala’s western highlands, a region that suffers the highest level of poverty and deforestation in the country. With so many of its trees lost, it’s perhaps not surprising that climate change is also taking its toll on local livelihoods. The CNCG aims to provide economic incentives to the region’s impoverished communities to maintain the forest cover, thereby boosting their climate resilience.

The Forestry Fair of Quiché was part of that effort. With the participation of 22 forest farmers in Quiché and 28 buyers, the fair generated a total of $2.2 million in purchasing commitments. For his part, Tepaz—who had never before sold more than half a million board feet in one season—quadrupled his best-ever sales during the fair. “The CNCG helped me find businesses who would buy at the best price,” he said. Tepaz will reinvest a significant portion of his profits in reforesting activities.

"Generating income allows small growers to increase the number of employees they have and to provide new wages to the community."

Vitalino Muchuch, Vice President of AFORQ

In a country in which illegal logging represents almost 93 percent of the entire industry, showing local foresters that following the law can be profitable is important. To that end, AFORQ and the Rainforest Alliance also launched a campaign called “I Am Legal” to promote legal forest products in the highlands. Tepaz says this kind of trade fair “makes room in the market for legal timber. Buyers here have the assurance that we are working within the framework of the law and protecting our forests.”

Vitalino Muchuch, Vice President of AFORQ said, “Generating income allows small growers to increase the number of employees they have and to provide new wages to the community. This was our first local experience with a forestry fair and it was very successful.” He added that his dream is to that his dream is to “recover our forests through sustainable management and legal trade.”

Burning Peruvian forest - photo by Mohsin Kazmi

Forests are falling at an alarming rate.

Each minute, 85 acres are destroyed.

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