Maya Biosphere Reserve’s workers

This deforestation often goes hand in hand with fires started to increase the areas needed for grazing, therefore further degrading the land.

However, small scale forest community concessions within the local Maya Biosphere Reserve have been leading the fight both against deforestation and forest fires. The Association of Forest Communities of Petén (in Spanish ‘Asociacion de Comunidades Forestales de Peten’, ACOFOP) has been managing forest resources in Peten responsibly for the past 20 years. During that period, ACOFOP has achieved community management of more than 500,000 hectares of forests located in the Multiple-Use Zone of the Maya Biosphere Reserve.

Through ACOFOP’S technical and commercial arm – known as FORESCOM– the community management units are certified by FSC and the Rainforest Alliance. These certifications attest to the high environmental and social standards that are applied locally.

Acting as an important environmental buffer, ACOFOP proudly boasts that less than 1% of the forest fires affecting the region occur in areas it manages.

Carmelita Community in Guatemala

Carmelita Cooperative

Carmelita is one of the community concessions grouped under ACOFOP. This FSC-certified forestry operation and sawmill celebrates its 25th anniversary this year.

Carmelita has another reason to celebrate, as the Guatemalan government of President Jimmy Morales recently renewed its concession to continue operations for the next 25 years. This is a crucial step to continue ensuring zero deforestation and controlling forest fires.

Carmelita also harvests Xate, a non-timber forest product

Carmelita also harvests Xate, or palm leaves that are typically found in Central America. This non-timber forest product gets exported to the U.S. for floral ornaments and offers much valued jobs to the women of the community.

Along with Xate, Carmelita also makes furniture for local markets and is starting a pilot project to produce gum – or ‘Xicle’ – paste.

The certificates of the current forest concessions managed by ACOFOP in the Maya Biosphere Reserve will begin expiring in the coming years. It is therefore crucial that the new Guatemalan government of President Dr. Alejandro Giammattei considers their renewal. ACOFOP could then continue their community work and deliver economic and social benefits along with environmental safeguards to help conserve this important biosphere of Central America.