Ecosystem Restoration in Guatemala

Sean Dixon Sullivan is coordinator at Camp Contour Lines helping rural Guatemalan communities transition their lands away from slash and burn into agroforestry.

iGiveTrees is proud to be among their partner organizations, as they work with smallholders in Guatemala. We have sponsored a total of 7,000 native species trees for their projects restoring 7 hectares at the time of this update in 2022 and expect to reach 10,000 trees by the end of the year.

11 Seasons of Agroforestry

In 2022-2023 the region we’re focusing upon is a mix of Mayan ethnic groups Tz’utujil, Kaqchikel and K’iche’, diversifying our benefactors beyond the usual Q’echi and Garifuna we work with in the west of the country.  Most families in the region depend on “hortalizas” like carrots, broccoli and cabbage, relying heavily on chemical inputs, so transitioning them to agroforestry systems with fruit trees, primarily avocado, citrus, apple and peach, as well as the hortalizas (grown organically) in between contour rows, greatly improve both income/food security as well as soil conservation, water retention, climate resilience and other environmental benefits. 

This both restores ecological health and generates economic wealth. Slash and burn corn is the cause of devegetation of entire hillsides, which in this high rainfall, steep terrain tropics, also means severe soil erosion.

We’re now adding support to Peten, Guatemala’s northern department known for it’s Mayan ruins and megadiverse rainforest reserves. They are well-organized not only because of their eco-tourism initiatives, but also in terms of our agroforestry work there, just wrapping up this season with 1,500 trees with 14 families to date (10 families who’ve planted 50 trees each, and 4 other families who’ve expanded their sites to 250 trees each).  

The trees are 1/5 fruit trees of 10 species (mango, avocado, soursop, lime, lemon, mandarin, orange, pimienta, chico zapote and cacao) and the other 4/5s are legume support trees (gliricidia sepium primarily as well as bursera simaruba, erythrina america among others).  

The community also has a Mayan medicine man (see photo of man arms open, grey teeshirt) who is knowledgeable in medicinal plants, and is helping us transmit seed and knowledge to the other communities in Peten where we work.

Sean Dixon-Sullivan

The use of chemical herbicides and the corn monocultures, further degrades soil fertility and biodiversity. So on the bright side, these communities now understand that corn monocultures are bad for their wallets and for their land.

These projects are 100% owned by local communities and planted on their lands. The produce is sold or consumed by their families. That’s why there’s been such a high survival rates of the trees and high participation among the communities.

They have the land, they have the manpower, and they have the willpower to make this transition. The only thing lacking is the funding to buy the fruit trees and to break free from that that cycle of slash and burn corn.

They’re raising funds to plant 36 sites across three villages: El Cedro, La Pintada and La Guaira Cocoli, totaling 2,700 fruit trees, 11,000 legume trees and 14,000 annuals: mainly pineapple, cassava and plantain, while training 82 local men and women and transitioning 25 acres out of slash and burn into agroforestry which will touch the lives of 2,500 locals.

In the last 18 months, they’ve planted 21 projects sites, the owners of those have selected and trained who, will become the owners of these projects sites funded by this campaign. In 2021 iGiveTrees has sponsored an additional 2,000 native hardwood trees, namely Mahogany (Calophyllum brasiliense) and Santa Maria (Calophyllum brasiliense) to be planted in rural Q’echi communities of La Guaria Coccoli and Plan Grande Tatin, in Livingston, Guatemala.

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iGiveTrees is a fiscally sponsored project of Inquiring Systems, Inc. (ISI), a U.S. tax-exempt
501 (c) (3) nonprofit corporation since 1978.
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