We are a few weeks away from Russia 2018 and we do not want to miss the most important match: the game against deforestation. In Guatemala, 115,000 hectares of forest are lost each year, equivalent to 450 soccer fields every day. Terrible, is not it? Although it is a country that still conserves 34% of its forests, with this rate of deforestation, in a period of 30 years it will have lost every single one of them.
Honduras and Nicaragua have similar rates of deforestation, and the same occurs with other Central American countries. Unfortunately, El Salvador has already lost all of its forests. Worldwide, 65% of deforestation occurs in Latin America, and therefore, it is the region in which the highest percentage of emissions from deforestation that contributes to global warming is generated. It is no coincidence that the countries of Latin America have been included this issue as a fundamental part of their National Determined Contributions (NDCs) in the fight against Climate Change as part of the Paris Agreement.
What promotes deforestation in Central America? The first idea that can arise by association is that deforestation is linked to poverty due to the use of land for subsistence agriculture. Surely three or four decades ago this was totally true. But now, although there are some factors that are linked to poverty such as fuelwood consumption, in Central America the main drivers of deforestation are activities such as extensive monocultures (for example, African palm) and extensive livestock.
The key question to win this match is: What efforts and activities can be carried out in a country like Guatemala to face the problem of deforestation?
The answer is linked to what the country has done over the past 25 years: design and implement policies aimed at empowering local stakeholders who have an interest in protecting forests (water, food, wood, etc.) and political will of the government that has helped mitigate the progress of deforestation. Let’s look more deeply at these activities:
- The government, through the National Forest Institute, made investments for almost US 400 million to promote the recovery of forest cover and the management of natural forests through the forestry incentive program. More than 1 million people benefited, and more than 400,000 hectares were stimulated.
- A system of protected areas was implemented that is managed by communities and co-administrators (non-governmental organizations), where more than 800,000 hectares of forest were protected and managed.
This type of governance and local participation is what Guatemala has used to build the first version of its National Strategy for Reducing Emissions from Avoided Deforestation and Forest Degradation (ENREDD+, by its initials in Spanish). This strategy was launched recently and aims to reduce the loss of natural forest and double the area covered by incentive programs (recovery of up to 20,000 hectares). These goals are supported by some USD 25 million annually, as well as the financing of climate funds such as the Forest Investment Program (FIP) and the Collaborative Fund for Forest Carbon (FCPF), which Guatemala is accessing with the IDB’s support.
Photo credit: DEZALB