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Zero Fires

Forest defenders of the Maya Biosphere Reserve




June 2017



  • Activism
  • Biodiversity
  • Guatemala
  • Participatory-made film

The Community Forest Concessions in the Petén, Guatemala, battle against forest fires and invasions on their land through diverse methods of control including more than one thousand annual fire prevention and monitoring patrols, the use of technologies such as drones and GPS trackers, and the labor-intensive construction of over 450 km of firebreaks.

The communities won the right to develop community forest concessions in the Mayan Biosphere Reserve several years after the Reserve was established in 1990. These concessions helped the government fulfil commitments made in the Peace Accords to ensure access to land and resources for communities that had fought for both during the long civil war. The concession organisations extract forest products sustainably – under scientific management plans and leaving the areas surrounding important Mayan ruins and water bodies as community-managed conservation zones.

The forest products that they extract include xate (a decorative palm frond), ramón (a seed used for flour used as a coffee alternative), sustainably managed timber and timber products, handicrafts, and they also run community-based eco tourism initiatives. Despite their well-documented success story they face constant threats from cattle ranchers, farmers, illegal loggers and drug traffickers encircling their territory. They defend the forest with their lives. This is their story.

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