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25-year Extension Granted to Community Forest Concession in Petén, Guatemala

The government of Guatemala, through the Honorable National Council of Protected Areas (CONAP), has granted a 25-year extension to the community-managed forestry concession of Carmelita, a community located in the Multiple Use Zone (MUZ) of the Maya Biosphere Reserve (MBR), in the department of Petén. First established in 1997 as a consequence of the peace treaties following the Guatemalan civil war, Carmelita is the first of nine active community forest concessions in the MBR to have its contract renewed.

Map of Carmelita community forestry concession


The community concessions have provided jobs to thousands of workers, creating a robust local economy based on sustainable use of the forest. Together the nine active concessions generate more than $6 million USD in annual revenue, helping to make poverty rates in these communities significantly lower than the rest of Guatemala. Outmigration from the concessions is among the lowest in the country. 

In addition, the concessions have maintained a near-zero deforestation rate for more than 15 years. In contrast, deforestation rates are twenty times higher in areas directly outside the community-managed concessions. This remarkable achievement is all the more noteworthy given the region’s considerable pressures from cattle ranching, narcotrafficking, and development. 

The MBR is a biodiversity hotspot, an important forest corridor for wildlife, and a critical carbon sink.

The Rainforest Alliance enthusiastically applauds the decision to renew the Carmelita concession, and looks forward to the renewal of the eight other concessions for the benefits they provide to people and nature. Since 1997, the Rainforest Alliance has worked with local communities and organizations, such as the Association of Forest Communities of Petén (ACOFOP), to provide technical advice, build capacity, and to enhance access to markets for the communities’ forest products. With the renewal of Carmelita and others on the horizon, we look forward to many more years of collaboration.

Just as the current leadership within CONAP has shown their support, we trust that the incoming administration of Dr. Giammattei – who has already demonstrated his commitment to sustainable development and the environment, will support the implementation of Roadmap of the Regulations for the extension of the remaining eight active concessions in the Mayan Biosphere.


“We congratulate Carmelita on this achievement, as this process will allow community forest concessions to continue the generation of jobs, revenue from sales of timber and non-wood products that allows the use of renewable natural resources in a more sustainable way, so that communities can improve their living conditions in addition to guaranteeing them a place to live." –Oscar Rojas, Director for Guatemala and Central America of the Rainforest Alliance

"We thank the intention of all collaborators for this achievement; we have made history. We are the second generation to get this extension and now we are leaving a legacy to our children for another 25 years. Since we settled here, we knew we had to preserve the forest and until now we continue in this process of innovation. We are benefiting from the forest and we are protecting it. We thank the Rainforest Alliance who have been closely supporting us and CONAP as together we have been allies for conservation." –Byron Hernández, president of Carmelita

"This achievement proves that this conservation model based on natural renewable resources protection and generation of benefits for communities, does preserve the natural resources of the Maya Biosphere Reserve." –Erick Cuellar, technical director of ACOFOP

For more information

Maps, photos, and interviews available upon request. 

For more background on Carmelita and the community forestry concessions:

For more information on the process of renewing concessions: (in Spanish)

For more information about Cooperativa Carmelita:

Burning Peruvian forest - photo by Mohsin Kazmi

Forests are falling at an alarming rate.

Each minute, 85 acres are destroyed.