CCFC has identified more than 1,000 acres of illegally deforested land along the Yalijux-Caquipec-Xucaneb corridor. Our 2011-2012 Reforestation Initiative has pinpointed these areas, acre by acre. These land parcels range in size from 6 acres to 80 acres. CCFC is entering into reforestation / management agreements with plantation owners and cloud forest villages that will protect and restore these forests. These agreements allow CCFC to reforest with native cloud forest tree species and secure long term conservation easements on lands vulnerable to agricultural encroachment. Unlike many of our longer term community development projects, this initiative gives immediate results. We can stop deforestation before it happens or put a halt to it if it starts to happen. We are reforesting deforested areas.
CCFC works smartly to maximize our per dollar impact in this and in all our projects. We use locally available seed collected from neighboring forests. We involve villages in tree planting. We create project "buy in" through education, field trips and employment opportunities.
This project is funded an acre at a time by thoughtful and caring individuals like you. You can make it happen, sponsor an acre of restoration and conservation and help us bring back the cloud forest.
Click here to learn more about CCFC's 2011-2012 Reforestation initiative
Reforestation and Land Tenure:
How One Village Won Land Tenure through CCFC's 2007-2009 Reforestation Initiative
The mountain village of Semesche was owned, lock-stock and barrel by Alta Verapaz's largest coffee corporation. In the early 1990s, villagers were allowed the option to purchase their house lots, but land parcels were still legally owned by the coffee company. In 2007, thanks in part to CCFC's advocacy, a deal was struck between the villagers and the coffee company. The deal could be described as a "land for trees" agreement. For every acre of the coffee company's land which a family plants with trees and maintains for five years, that family receives one acre of legally registered land with deed and title. A total of 390 acres of land were reforested. CCFC provided one third of the trees in order to insure that board leaf trees would be included. The initial tree planting took place in 2009. Over the next several years, villagers from Semesche will continue to protect and maintain the seedlings they planted. They will also receive deed and title to their parcels.
Agroecology Work-study Scholarships: transforming lives, protecting forests
CCFC's Agroecology Scholarships program allows us to pinpoint a need and address a sustainable, life-developing solution without creating dependency. In 2010, CCFC gave scholarships to 65 young women from eleven communities that border the cloud forests. These young women were chosen to participate for their leadership potential as well as for their vision for their own future. For most of these young women, financial costs would have kept them out of school in 2011. This program allows CCFC to identify the villages, families and students that will have the greatest conservation impact.
When a young woman stops attending school at 14, she stays home and helps her mother and little siblings. Generally, its not long until she is married to a young man 18 or 19 years old. If at 15 she is married, she usually is a mother at 16. The pattern continues and she is a grandmother at 32 years of age. Starting to have children that young often causes physical problems and the infant mortality rate in these villages is staggering. But even with high infant mortality, the population growth of the Q'eqchi' Maya villages of the central highland is explosive. CCFC's scholarships help young women stay in school, delay marriage and slow the explosive population growth.
How does the program work:
CCFC selects young women candidates with obvious and or hidden potential. These scholarship candidates participate in a 25 day agroecology camp. During these 25 days they learn in both theory and practice: agroecology, reforestation, nutrition, forest ecology, birds, and a host of new ideas, skills, techniques and practices that can transform their lives, their families, and their villages. Upon full completion of their 25 day camp and upon their enrollment in full time school for the coming school year, the student receive a monetary scholarship that in the vast majority of the cases is more than enough to cover their tuition for the coming school year. (note: since CCFC allows students complete freedom to choose their own school some students may opt to attend more expensive school in which case the scholarship would cover most but not all of their tuition costs.)
Most importantly this program only works with your help. All scholarships given last year to the 65 young women came from individuals like you. Let's make it happen in 2011. CCFC plans on giving 153 scholarships in 2011.
Click here to learn more about agroecology scholarship program
Kids and Birds: Teaching children to consider the birds of the air
CCFC's Kids and Birds Initiative connects elementary students from rural villages that border the cloud forest to birds and their habitats. In 2009 and 2010 CCFC already began to connect with the children of these rural schools through a partnership with Cornell University Lab of Ornithology with bio-acoustic workshops. Now, thanks to a collaboration with US Fish and Wildlife and Cornell's Lab of Ornithology, CCFC is teaching scientific inquiry through investigations of birds and their habitats. This project focuses on elementary students in 5th and 6th grade.
Students are invited to formulate questions about birds and then to ponder how these questions might be tested and answered. Doris Quiix thought of a very interesting question while watching a White-eared Hummingbird foraging among the flowers. She noticed that the bird did not go to the blue flowers but seemed to go to all the other flowers. "Are there some flowers that the hummingbird likes more than others? Are there some that it does not go to at all?"
In the words of Rachel Carlson these opportunities are an "invitation to wonder." Birds are beautiful and their movements are eye-catching. Flight fascinates us. For children, birds are an invitation to wonder and learn.
Birds are also a great way to raise environmental awareness. CCFC's Kids and Birds Initiative is a fun program that gives us another important tool to protect the cloud forests in Important Bird Areas and teach children scientific inquiry.
Not just a canary in a coal mine but birds in general signal to us our environmental health.
Birds are indicators of the environment. If they are in trouble, we know we'll soon be in trouble.Roger Tory Peterson
This project allows CCFC to get into some of the real "outback" schools not only to teach children about the birds of their cloud forests but also to help children learn scientific inquiry and appreciate the natural world around them. CCFC is proud and grateful to have received support for this project from United States Fish and Wildlife Service and from Cornell Lab of Ornithology. This project runs from 2011 to 2013.
The whole secret of the study of nature lies in learning how to use one's eyes.George Sand
The primary schools in these remote, rural villages struggle to offer even the most basic education. CCFC's Artful Eyes workshops gives these children a chance to develop artistic skills and an appreciation for the natural world.
This summer, CCFC is making a bold move to promote conservation through appreciation. Artful Eyes 2013 allows CCFC to continue its connection with rural villages and schools, relationships started through CCFC's Kids and Birds.
But we need your help to do it. In order to get this program into 17 schools and bring art education to over 2,350 students. We need your financial support. Contribute now and be a part of CCFC's Artful Eyes of Appreciation on the Earth.
For these children, an art workshop is the first time in their lives in which they can have access to the materials, instruction, space and time needed to produce art. It is also an opportunity for them to reflect on their own environment. We start with a walk into the forest. As we walk we take time to notice birds, orchids, trees, mosses, bromeliads, animal tracks, insects, reptiles and amphibians.
After our walk, we return to the school and break out the art supplies. The children are instructed to draw or paint anything that they thought was beautiful. This assignment helps them develop an eye for appreciation. Humans care for and protect things that they appreciate. Art helps these students make the step from observation to appreciation.
This summer, CCFC is launching the pilot project consisting of two five week sessions offered at 17 schools with grades ranging from 1st through 11th. The curriculum, which is highly adaptable to the needs of each class, will be analyzed and revised by the instructor, and will serve as a base for the following years of the project. Education is vitally important in the villages that border the cloud forests of Guatemala's central highlands.
CCFC's Peter Cahill has a passion for art, nature, language and culture. When not teaching art, Peter studies at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, MI. He is currently in his sophomore year, majoring in Studio Art and Linguistics. He is also in his second year toward Naturalists certification at Au Sable Institude of Environmental Studies. Peter lived in Guatemala for 11 years. He studied Art for four years in Coban, AV. Why Children: an invitation to hope
The above three sections focus on young adults and children. CCFC's strategy is to alleviate poverty and protect forests first through education. In our current work context of Guatemala's central highlands and the remote, rural villages of the "outback" of Alta Verapaz, education is tragically lacking and environmental education is altogether absent. Jane Goodall wrote: "There would be very little point in my exhausting myself and other conservationist themselves in trying to protect animals and habitats if we weren't at the same time raising young people to be better stewards." For this very reason CCFC believes that sitting with one child and drawing a picture of a bird in a tree by a stream is inextricably connected to the future of that one child, of that bird, of that tree, and yes, even of that stream.
The splendor and lush beauty of these cloud forests need to be shared with others. CCFC's Community-based ecotourism initiatives help that to happen. Students from Canada and the United States have visited and participated with these remote communities in their conservation efforts. Community-based ecotourism means that income generated by ecotours goes right into the hands of the village. Ecotourism gives villages that have large areas of cloud forest an economic incentive to protect their forests.
Having identified forty communities as extremely high priority, CCFC is investing in small scale, common sense initiatives that will help families live healthier lives and lessen their environmental impact on the forest.
- Water filtration system eliminates the need to boil water, thus saving on firewood, time and carbon release.
- Improved cooking stoves make cooking fires many times more efficient, reduces kitchen smoke, and saving firewood and time.
- Household solar units make electric light available so that children can study and weavers can continue to work after dark.
Improving Education and Opportunity
As of February 2011, CCFC has provided water filters 14 families involved in community-based ecotourism. These water filters not only have benefitted families with improved drinking water, they have also made community visits more comfortable for visiting groups.
As of February 2011, CCFC has assisted four families in building improved cooking stoves. These stoves are helping families. Roberto Tot reports that he is using 30% to 40% less wood than before he build his new stove.
Every time chemical fertilizer prices go up, the cloud forests of the Sierra Yalijux and Sierra Sacranix are threatened. One example: When crude oil prices spiked in the summer of 2008, the local price of a 100 pound bag of chemical fertilizer (15-15-0) jumped from $10 to $46. Faced with the high cost of chemical fertilizers, some farmers opted to use less fertilizers. These farmers experienced partial to complete crop loss. The corn never filled out. Other farmers opted to slash and burn their way into better soils. On the one hand, the lush green forest appears to promise great soil but too often the reality is that once the forest is removed, soil fertility is quickly lost due to erosion on the steep and rocky slopes.
Population growth, economic pressure, and land tenure issues conspire like the three weird sisters of Shakespeare's Macbeth. According to human development statistics, the mountains of the Sierra Yalijux and Sierra Sacranix are among the poorest in Guatemala. Seeking fertile soil for corn crops, farmers are pushed up the mountain into the cloud forest. (see Q'eqchi' Agriculture: the dark side).
One way we respond to agricultural encroachments into the cloud forest is by working to improve crop production in existing fields. Improving yields on land that has already been converted to agricultural use helps take the pressure of the forest. Yields can increase as much as five fold with agroecological techniques.
Generally speaking, when farmers switch to organic fertilizers they change the way they view their soil. They begin to understand their soil as a resource not just dirt. They begin to see and to celebrate soil improvements. Most farmers stop agricultural burning when they make the switch to organic. This reduces the release of atmospheric carbon and reduces the risk of accidental forest fires. Accidental fires are the second leading cause of forest loss in the Sierra Yalijux.
The photo (left) shows agricultural burning in the village of Chicacnab. The farmer's house (far left of the photo) is located at the edge of the cloud forest. His corn fields had always been below his house. With the spike in chemical fertilizer prices, the farmer turns to slashing and burning his way into the cloud forest.
This work dovetails with the existing animal husbandry project carried out by Heifer International. CCFC is coming along side of families that have received livestock to improve their capacity to produce their own fertilizers. Farmers that switch to organic fertilizers improve their impoverished, chemical dependent soils. They improve their yields and save money. More importantly, when they produce their own fertilizers, they protect themselves against crop failure when chemical fertilizer prices go out of reach.
The photo (right) shows the movement of one farmer's corn field. The thatch roof house stands at the edge of his 2009 corn field. The farmer has moved his 2010 corn field further up the hill behind his house and into an area of 15 year old secondary forest. A close look at this photo shows the damage of the heat from burning the slash piles to the trees above his newly made field. This farmer choose to burn an area of 3-5 year secondary growth (on the hill to the right) and to slash and burn a smaller area of 15 year secondary growth (on the hill to the left).
We are helping farmers be more self sufficient on their land. We want to help farmers switch from chemical fertilizers to organic. As their soils improve so does their food security. We are working to help families become better neighbors to the cloud forest.
Click here to learn how carpentry students from a Q'eqchi' school in San Juan Chamelco have transformed their wood working class to be an agent of service and positive change in the most remote, rural communities.