Adapting to Climate Change through the Application of Green Forest Borders

Case Summary: 

Indigenous people are often the most affected by climate
change due to their reliance on the land and traditional way of life. In the
Northwest of Guatemala, the Mayan Mam are an indigenous group who suffer as
climate variability affects the ecosystem they rely on. Events such as erratic rainfall and droughts,
hurricanes, and landslides have life-changing impacts on infrastructure, crops,
and water resources.

The Green Forest Borders program is a community-based
adaptation program in Guatemala, supported by the United Nations Development
Program. It provides training, capacity building workshops, resources, and
technical expertise to reduce communities’ vulnerability to climate
change. Under the program, communities
develop an action plan to help restore deforested regions that can reduce
landslides, protect and stabilize water sources, and establish agro-forest
regions. In the case of the Mayan-Mam community they built a nursery for
deforestation replanting and economic income, organic composte facilities, soil
conservation structures, and received training in low environmental impact

In working with this community there were several unique
lessons learned that can apply more broadly to development programs for
indigenous communities world wide. These

  • Building tailored training for low-literacy
    audiences. This program included training on climate change, adaptation, and
    mitigation. However, the Mayan Mam
    community has low-literacy rates (around 50%) so their initial knowledge on climate
    change was low. Specialized resources
    and workshops had to be designed to provide training that they would
    accept. The Mayan Mam were incredibly
    receptive though; they were eager to learn sustainable practices.
  • Strengthening organization and administration
    capacities. Part of this program was local management by the Mayan Mam. To
    facilitate this, the program established a ‘board’ of individuals. This board developed monitoring and tracking
    metrics to help the program meet its goals while providing local ownership and
Action Area 
Adaptation, Cross-cutting
Planning and Implementation Activity 
Developing Strategies and Plans, Governance and Stakeholder Engagement, Long-Term Strategies
Sectors and Themes 
Agriculture, Forestry and Land-Use, Rural
Adaptation Learning Mechanism
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