Projects in Central America
Conservation of Laguna Lachuá National Park and Development of Its Area of Influence
Volume 1, No. 1

Starting Date: Agosto 1996
Anticipated End Date: Julio 2001
Coordinator: Ing. César Augusto S.
Gender Activity Representative: Lic. Leopoldo Ríos M.
Regional Coordinator: Guillermo Quirós
1. Geographic Area
This project is located in the Municipality of Cobán, Department of Alta Verapaz, Guatemala, at 15° 46' latitude north 90° 45' longitude west, between the Chixoy and Icobolay rivers (boundaries to the northeast and west) and the mountains of the Sultana (southern boundary.) The area covers an extension 52,804.32 ha (6% of the crosswise band of territory in northern Guatemala.)

The project is designed to promote community participation in processes such as a) stabilizing production systems in zones bordering the park; b) promoting a vision of the park as a positive factor for local development; c) reinforcing park management efforts by the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Food (Ministerio de Agricultura, Ganadería y Alimentación-MAGA) and the National Forest Institute (Instituto Nacional de Bosques, INAB) by reinforcing their institutional capacity; and d) promoting the participation of the different sectors involved in project implementation.

2. Thematic Area
Development objective:
Conserve natural resources in Laguna Lachuá National Park and achieve the sustainable use of natural resources in its zone of influence in order to improve living conditions for local populations, incorporating gender perspective in all activities

Specific Objectives:

  • Encourage effective conservation of biodiversity in the park with active participation of local organizations and the area population
  • Promote and introduce productive systems in the areas of forestry, agroforestry and sustainable agriculture, ensuring active participation by populations in the park's area of influence
  • Ensure legal recognition of the park and promote and support the legalization of land tenure in communities located in the area of influence
  • Promote product diversification and better coordination with markets by improving marketing channels for campesinos in the area of influence
  • Strengthen, train and legalize systems of local organization so that members can participate effectively in the planning and implementation of their natural resource projects, with an emphasis on gender development

The Problem
Despite the importance of natural resources for the people living in the zone, these resources are becoming increasingly deteriorated in areas occupied by communities around the park. This limits their possibilities for sustainable development and for the biophysical stability of the park.

The most important features of the park include its high level of biodiversity (100 species of trees, 130 species of mammals, 298 species of birds, 30 species of fungi and a wide range of aquatic and sub-aquatic species). The park contains aquatic ecosystems in both level areas and highlands, and 85-95% of its surface is in an acceptable state for conservation. It offers the scenic beauty of a lake 5km2 wide and 222m deep, with crystal clear water containing ichthyfauna. The lake is surrounded by natural vegetation, karstic relief and geological faults. The park has a germ plasm bank representative of ecosystems existing in the area before the process of colonization began, and endangered species such as the tapir (Tapirus baird), saraguate monkey (Aloutta pigra) and jaguar (Panthera onca.)

Target group
Approximately 10,000 inhabitants residing in 27 communities located in the park's zone of influence

The project has four basic components: community organization, extension and training; support for the legalization of land tenure; marketing support; and diversification of agricultural production. These activities are carried out in two interdependent geographic areas, the park and its zone of influence, in two phases: the first is motivational and the second centers on follow-up and reinforcement.

The overall strategy of the project is to carry out activities that make sustainable development possible in the zone of influence, based on sustainable natural resource use. Other actions are designed to help the population see the park as a potential vehicle for development, rather than an obstacle to the satisfaction of their needs.

3. Summary of work to date

  • Recognition of the area of influence and acceptance of communities directly adjoining the park
  • Reconstruction of historical events related to processes of settlement and natural resource use
  • Implementation of an environmental education program
  • Improved park administration through the construction of infrastructure to provide various services
  • Collection of field data for a socioeconomic appraisal of the area (study on efficiency and bio-energetic costs)
  • Initiation of official measurement of the park, with support from INTA
  • Coordination of actions with other organizations carrying out development work in the park's zone of influence

4. Outlook for 1998

  • Prepare the park management plan, with the participation of local inhabitants
  • Offer basic services required by researchers as a means of promoting biophysical research of the park, and attract visitors with ecotourism or recreational interests
  • Begin the process of park legalization and registration
  • Improve systems of agroforestry farming through the use of more efficient production techniques and identify actions for better product marketing
  • Diversify production through the incorporation of new crops and other activities
  • Design and implement a rotating fund in order to incorporate new productive processes, emphasizing women's participation
  • Strengthen family participation in actions that promote the project by conducting a study on gender and organization

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