The government of Guatemala, through the Honorable National Council of Protected Areas (CONAP), has granted a 25-year extension to the community-managed forestry concession of Carmelita, a community located in the Multiple Use Zone (MUZ) of the Maya Biosphere Reserve (MBR), in the department of Petén.

First established in 1997 as a consequence of the peace treaties following the Guatemalan civil war, Carmelita is the first of nine active community forest concessions in the MBR to have its contract renewed.  

The community concessions have provided jobs to thousands of workers, creating a robust local economy based on sustainable use of the forest. Together the nine active concessions generate more than $6 million USD in annual revenue, helping to make poverty rates in these communities significantly lower than the rest of Guatemala. Outmigration from the concessions is among the lowest in the country. 

In addition, the concessions have maintained a near-zero deforestation rate for more than 15 years. In contrast, deforestation rates are twenty times higher in areas directly outside the community-managed concessions.

The MBR is a biodiversity hotspot, an important forest corridor for wildlife, and a critical carbon sink.

The Rainforest Alliance enthusiastically welecomed the decision to renew the Carmelita concession. Since 1997, the Rainforest Alliance has worked with local communities and organizations, such as the Association of Forest Communities of Petén (ACOFOP), to provide technical advice, build capacity, and to enhance access to markets for the communities’ forest products.

Oscar Rojas, director for Guatemala and Central America of the Rainforest Alliance, commented: “We congratulate Carmelita on this achievement, as this process will allow community forest concessions to continue the generation of jobs, revenue from sales of timber and non-wood products that allows the use of renewable natural resources in a more sustainable way, so that communities can improve their living conditions in addition to guaranteeing them a place to live."

Erick Cuellar, technical director of ACOFOP, added: "This achievement proves that this conservation model based on natural renewable resources protection and generation of benefits for communities, does preserve the natural resources of the Maya Biosphere Reserve."