Bio-Itzá and Forestal Naj-Ché

Story of Bio-Itzá and Forestal Naj-Ché

Petén, Guatemala - Central America

Two organisations working together to promote sustainable forest management

Nestled in a quiet village surrounded by tropical forests and Mayan ruins, Bio-Itzá is operated by local, community-minded indigenous people of Mayan descent who hold on to the knowledge of their ancestors, the ancient Maya Itzá people, as well as the natural ecosystem around them.

Forestal Naj-Ché, on the other hand, is dedicated to developing a sustainable forest sector in Northern Guatemala, specifically in the department of Petén, by increasing the financial, socio-economic, and environmental value of private and communal-owned secondary or degraded forests. Their goal is to generate added value timber products and to motivate long-term restoration of the secondary and degraded forests in the region.

What was the background that led them to manage and take care of the forest?

Well, it all started with the aim to rescue the Maya Itzá language. This is when they realised that they have a very strong link to nature. With this in mind, a committee was formed and a request for a forest area from the municipality for administration was done. The community recognised the importance of protecting the forest for future generations. The reserve was created in 1991, followed by the formation of an association in 1996 to strengthen conservation efforts. The main aim of the community was to pass on the knowledge they had to future generations, regarding the conservation of the forests as well as its use for medicinal purposes.

What were the challenges they were facing?

Unfortunately, they were suffering of the lack of finances, the pressure of deforestation and wood theft. This led them, in 2020, to consider the use of the forest as an alternative with the aim of improving the quality of life of families and generating resources to conserve the reserve.
The first harvest of the forest is significant for Bio-Itzá, as it establishes an alliance and a long-term relationship to develop a sustainable project that generates income for the community. Giving added value to the wood allows for increased economic benefits and conservation of the degraded secondary forests. Financial income had also become a necessity and the community needed support. This is when the collaboration with Forestal Naj-Ché started with as mission to do business in the long term with the community.

How did the partnership with Forestal Naj-Ché help the community?

Naj-Ché formed a very strong and transparent partnership with the community, where decisions are always taken collectively. Naj-Ché supports them with the management of the harvest, the sale of the wood to secure a fair price for it, provides training and guidance. The community is involved in all the activities, including logging and forest management. They even promote exchanges of experience between communities so that others can adopt the Bio-Itzá system. With the use of timber, the community hopes to pay off the association’s debts and back pay, finance conservation and surveillance, and allow smaller trees to grow by freeing the needed space for them to develop to their full potential. It’s amazing to see how the community is working together to create a sustainable project that benefits everyone!

For the community it is also very important to implement sustainable practices in the post-harvest of the forest, as they have mixed emotions towards the forest and natural environment that must be taken into account. Bio-Itzá decided to use wood as a way to obtain income to pay debts and conservation resources. Naj-Ché has been very supportive of their efforts to help with their project, which was a huge boost to their spirits.

What was the benefit for the Community?

The community has reacted positively to Naj-Ché’s proposal and to their staff as well, which is very important. This additional knowledge and experience has benefitted the community and strengthened their relationship with Naj-Ché. This knowledge allows them to carry out silvicultural practices and manage the forest properly, by themselves, in the future. The relationship with this two entities is a long-lasting partnership that goes beyond this specific project as it also serves as an example for other communities in Guatemala.

About Bio-Itzá // About Forestal Naj-Ché