A delegation from Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), composed of Kim Carstensen, General Director; Linda Fienberg, Carla Cardenas and Ralph Schmidt-Liermann, members of the FSC Board of Directors; Bruno Rath and Luis Pereira, Directors of the Latin America and Guatemala offices respectively, participated in the activities.
The event was also a good opportunity for the FSC delegation to meet with the members of Guatemala and learning about the main challenges and opportunities in the country, and with representatives of different national authorities, such as the Office of the Vice-President, the National Council of Protected Areas (CONAP) and the National Institute of Forests (INAB). The delegation had then the opportunity to travel to the Maya Biosphere Reserve and visit one of the community concessions along with representatives of ACOFOP.
“We have witnessed a wonderful experience that reaffirms the benefits of community empowerment. We are grateful for the work they do within and around the forests, the ongoing care and responsibility with which they protect this natural wonder," said Ralph Schmidt-Liermann, member of the FSC Board of Directors.
Over the years, forest concessions have demonstrated their contribution to the conservation and well-being of the Reserve's forest ecosystem: reduction of deforestation (currently around 0.4%), fire prevention (less than 1% impacts the forest concession areas), enhancement of biodiversity, and generation of economic and social benefits for its 15 000 inhabitants (US$ 6 million in annual income and lower rates of poverty and child malnutrition). Currently, 476 845 hectares of the Reserve are FSC-certified and divided into nine communities and two private concessions.
“Communities consider the forest as a livelihood and so they strive to take care of it. They speak proudly of FSC because they feel they are doing things right. We expect them to continue on this path for several more decades. Just like forests grow in the long term, we want to grow with them", said Carla Cardenas, member of the FSC Board of Directors.
Regarding the renovation process, in mid-2019, CONAP approved an update of the regulatory terms to grant an extension of use and management of natural resources in the Reserve's multiple use area. Thanks to this, the Carmelita concession (53 797 hectares) has been the first to be renewed. However, the other eight community concessions are still pending, and should initiate their procedures in the coming months and submit them to the country's forestry authorities.
At the end of the visit, Kim Carstensen, FSC General Director, noted that: “Community forest concessions are the main guardians of the Maya Biosphere Reserve. The model has proven to be efficient, with verifiable positive impacts for its inhabitants and the environment. We will be pleased to work with the government and communities in renewing the concessions in Petén so that they continue to successfully protect Guatemala's natural and cultural legacy for future generations.”