Background situation

In the last 10-20 years almost all the forest has disappeared from the project area. Shifting cultivation is the most important cause of deforestation. There is almost no forest left so farmers have to change their ways and use more sustainable agricultural methods. Because of the deforestation timber and palm leaves (used for thatching roofs) have become very rare. Even fuel wood is becoming scarce and this is a huge problem because almost all the local people use fuel wood for cooking. The forest used to provide the local people also with other forest products such as nuts, fruits, mushrooms and medicinal plants. Because of the deforestation many animals have lost much of their habitat such as the Guatemala howler monkey, which is threatened with extinction.

 What do we do?

The Guacamaya Foundation has developed three educative programs to teach the children about the value of the forest and help them plant their own forest. The stories of the programs are completely different, but all the programs have as objective to help the children plant their own forest. The first program that was developed is called: Juanito and Maria plant their own forest. The program describes that Juanito and Maria plant their own forest and the positive impact this forest has on the development of their future lives. This program offers various opportunities to the teacher to use the stories in a way the teacher likes most and the program is also suited for other areas such as in this case the cloud forest. In the Chelemha reserve we work together with UPBROBON. The project was extended in 2015 to another village called Chelemha2. The second program that was developed is called: the adventures of Pancho the howler monkey. In a playful manner the program describes how howler monkeys live and why they are threatened with extinction. Juanito and Maria, who appear in all the programs, decide to help the monkeys and plant a forest so they have wood and other forest products and the monkeys have a place to live.

The third program is called: the last piece of forest. It describes in a playful manner what has happened with the huge forest that covered the whole province and of which in parts is nothing left. Children can participate in the different programs in consecutive years so a continuous teaching program is formed about the value of the forest and reforestation. After completing each program children receive a beautiful certificate and trees and bamboo to plant or extend their forest. The different stories are connected to different subjects such as math, writing and reading skills and artistic expression. The children appreciate the stories and assignments a lot because they see themselves reflected in the stories and therefore the stories and assignments become meaningful to them.

Creative children can also participate in a course to learn to make furniture out of bamboo. The cultivation of bamboo is an important activity because bamboo grows very well in the project area and after 5 years can be harvested for an extended period of time. Bamboo needs little space and so even families, which have little land at their disposal, can cultivate bamboo. By planting a forest, children plant their future house, furniture, fuel wood and in fact a more prosperous future. In 2014 more than a 1.000 (Maya) children have participated in the different programs and have planted their own forest. Little by little the program has been extended to new schools in other regions such as the Yaxha National Park. Some children who have planted bamboo some years ago are already harvesting bamboo to make furniture.