Conservation of Laguna Lachuá National Park and Sustainable Development of its Area of Influence

Usual Name Laguna Lachuá Project
Implementing Institution: Instituto Nacional de Bosque-INAB
Administration of Funds and Technical Assistance: World Conservation Union - IUCN
Duration 5 years
Official Termination Date: July 2001
Address: 7 ave 6-80 zona 13, Guatemala, Guatemala, C.A.
Tel/fax 4735214
Email:[email protected]


Laguna LachuáGuatemala, a Central American country with an extension of 108,889 Km2, has a high level of biodiversity (genetic, biological and ecosystems.) It also has a great wealth of cultural diversity, imprinting varied forms of ownership and administration of natural resources. These aspects empower the country for economic development based on the sustainable use of natural and cultural resources.

Located in the department of Alta Verapaz is the scenic Laguna Lachuá National Park. This nature preserve currently comprises the only representative sample of natural ecosystems in the life zone, which is warm temperate, subtropical wet forest. The reserve lies within the zone called the "North Transverse Strip."

The objective of the Laguna Lachuá Project, whose work was initiated in March 1997, is to "achieve the conservation of natural resources contained in Lachuá National Park and sustainable development of the natural resources in its zone of influence in order to improve living conditions for local populations." The project is promoted by the World Conservation Union and the National Forest Institute of Guatemala (INAB.)


Laguna LachuáLaguna Lachuá National Park was declared a protected area in 1975. At that time it consisted of 10,000 hectares. Some years later an additional 4,500 hectares were annexed to the park, for a total of 14,500 ha. For political reasons, colonization was initiated during the 1970s in the North Transverse Strip, where the park is located. The National Institute for Agrarian Transformation, the entity then in charge of land grants, watched over the park to make sure it was not invaded. Nonetheless, today there are more than 44 human settlements in the area of influence, making it urgently necessary to promote participatory and sustainable work around the park.

At this moment the Laguna Lachuá Project is carrying out four lines of work aimed at harmonious coexistence between the communities and the national park.

1. Commission In Support Of The Earth Forum, Development And Geographic Conservation Area

The commission in support of the Earth Forum of the Laguna Lachuá Ecoregion provides coordination and advisory assistance for the communities in the park’s zone of influence, accompanying them in their efforts to clarify and obtain legal security for their land ownership rights.

The geographic framework of the commission consists of the area extending between the Icbolay and Chixoy rivers, and the Tontzul, Peyán and Sultana mountains, in the municipality of Cobán, Alta Verapaz. The target population resides in 44 communities and depends fundamentally on farming for subsistence.

The guiding principle of the commission is:
To support the development of a culture of dialogue and participation, arising from the Peace Agreements, and contribute to and provide inputs for the solution of problems involving land, development and conservation of the ecoregion.


  1. Construct a space for dialogue and analysis of the problems affecting the ecoregion in participatory and multisectoral form
  2. Facilitate encounters between institutions and communities
  3. Contribute to the alleviation of poverty
  4. Foment spaces for follow-up on the Peace Agreements with respect to land and rural development issues
  5. Serve as a source of information and training concerning advances in complying with the Peace Agreements with respect to land, development and conservation
  6. Share knowledge and work experiences with similar entities
  7. Prepare a microregional development plan for the implementation of projects

Strategies of the commission

  • Offer advisory assistance in fulfilling the procedures and paperwork required for legalizing land tenure in the 44 communities
  • Provide support for conflict resolution

Members of the commission

  • Municipal Auxiliary of the Office of the Attorney General for Human Rights Office (Auxiliatura Municipal de la Procuraduría de los Derechos Humanos –PDH)
  • Solar Foundation
  • Regional mayoralties of Santa Lucía and Salacuim, Municipality of Cobán, Alta Verapaz
  • Laguna Lachuá Project
  • INAB
  • Administration of Laguna Lachuá National Park

The Lachuá Project is supporting the forum through the contracting of a permanent commission secretariat to provide technical support for the formulation and implementation of work strategies.

2. Scientific Research
The Lachuá Project, along with the park administration, the School of Biology of the Guatemala University of San Carlos and the National School of Agriculture, with support from the INAB research department, is developing a research program whose purpose is to contribute to systematic knowledge of the natural and environmental wealth in the national park and in the region, in general. To date, 30 studies have been implemented on different topics, particularly in the areas of biology, sociology and economics. Advances include the following:

  • Inventory of Forest in Laguna Lachuá National Park (School of Agriculture and the Laguna Lachuá Project)
  • Study of the structure, composition and characteristics of the agroforestry production system employed for cardamom in Rocja Pomtilá (Laguna Lachuá Project and the Department of Agronomy at the University of San Carlos)
  • Preliminary list of migratory and resident birds in Laguna Lachuá National Park (Lachuá Project/School of Biology)
  • Entomological Inventory of Laguna Lachuá National Park (Lachuá Project /School of Biology)
  • Ethnobiological Study of native plant species in the communities of San Benito, San José Icbolay and Las Tortugas Nueve Cerros (Lachuá Project/School of Biology)
  • Study of natural populations of Pita Floja (Mau, Aechmaea magdalena), in Laguna Lachuá National Park (Lachuá Project/School of Agriculture)
  • Extractive potential of Pita Floja (Mau, Aexhmaea magdalenae) in Saholom, Vista Hermosa, and Santa Elena 20 de Octubre (Lachuá Project/School of Agriculture)
  • Phytosanitary plan for managing putrefaction of rhizome in the cultivation of cardamom in Salacuim (Lachuá Project/North School of Agronomy)
  • Medical ethnobotany in the communities of Santa Lucía Lachuá, San Marcos and San Luis (Lachuá Project/School of Biology)

3. Community Development

  1. Program for Joint Trade of Agricultural Products
    As part of the strategy for increasing income for the population in the area of influence, the Lachuá Project is assisting agricultural producers in seeking new markets and better trade mechanisms for their products. The Program for Joint Trade of Agricultural Products puts women and men producers in direct contact with industries that process farm products, or with the final market (when the product is processed locally, such as honey, chocolate, powdered chili and cleaned beans). The object is to find better markets, eliminate intermediaries that are not indispensable, and maximize economic income for producers. They have formed trade groups and receive technical support to comply with agribusiness quality requirements. This small but successful effort has encouraged farmers in the communities, and action of larger scale is being designed for next year.
  2. Introduction of New Crops
    In an effort to stabilize production of annual crops planted in the region, the Lachuá Project supported 83 local farmers who planted a total of 83 manzanas of improved COLOMGUA in April. According to the producers, the results have been satisfactory so far. Farmers can easily perceive at first glance the difference in the growth characteristics between local varieties and the rice introduced, which is more vigorous, has better propagation and a more intense color of green, as well as more uniformity among the plants.
  3. Crafts Training
    Training is being provided for 20 people in the community of Rocja Pomtilá who are interested in the handling and use of "bayal" to make crafts. This effort is being made to provide residents with options for alternative uses of forest resources and to promote the care of those resources.

4. Protection Of Laguna Lachuá National Park
The special summer protection plan for Laguna Lachuá National Park concludes at the end of May. The plan was implemented by INAB Subregion II-6 and the park administration. The components of this plan, which are still being carried out, include:

  • Dissemination and search for community support around the park
  • Equipping with radio communication network and vehicle
  • Contracting of temporary park guards
  • Land and air surveillance program

The result of this process for park protection can be considered successful, since illegal logging was halted and forest fires were prevented. Even so, the park is still considered vulnerable to these threats and strategic actions for the medium and long terms are also needed.

5. Master Plan For Laguna Lachua National Park
During the year 2001, it is expected that a five-year master plan for the park will be finalized successfully in participatory form with communities and institutions present in the area.

Wetlands Conservation
Guatemala Mangroves

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