Young leaders sow the seeds of resilience in Guatemala

by María Azucena Ruano Cano, Food for the Hungry

Young people living Alta Verapaz, a densely forested and landlocked district of central Guatemala have seen first-hand the impact of deforestation – and they’re taking action.

Logging and clearing of the mountainous land for agricultural purposes saw the Central American country lose 26% of its forest area between 1990 and 2016. This, combined with heavy seasonal rains and hurricanes, means that landslides are a major threat. The brown patches of eroded soil offer no protection against floodwaters and without the root tentacles of large trees the muddy land easily becomes unstable. Homes are often destroyed and people are displaced.

Taking part in the GNDR Views from the Frontline project has enabled over 150 young people living in the most at-risk communities to share their personal experiences of these hazards – and put forward solutions to reduce risk.

Led by GNDR member organisation, Food for the Hungry, the project surveys show that over 60% of young people believe that deforestation and landslides are a major threat. Rather than address all community members together, the foundation says the project has enabled them to understand the concerns of different community groups. With this information they can now develop inclusive response plans.

In 2019 the organisation started working with young community leaders, in collaboration with local municipal authorities, on a reforestation plan. Together they are identifying target risk areas, where trees can be planted, and learning how to mobilise local resources. The initiative is part of a wider programme which focuses on strengthening the community role in comprehensive project management. It’s an approach they say has been developed by engagement with the GNDR network, as well as by guidance provided in the recent GNDR publication on Coherence.

In a country where the median age is 23, the foundation has recognised the importance of training young people as potential leaders so that they can develop projects that strengthen the resilience of their community. Young Guatemalans have witnessed the impact of deforestation – and now they’ve taken action.


Find out more about the impact of GNDR in our latest Annual Report

Photo credit: Food for the Hungry

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