Community Cloud Forest Conservation begins with Community.
CCFC takes a community based approach to conservation. The cloud forests and cloud forest fragments of the central highlands are bordered by tiny, high elevation mountain villages. The number one threat to the survival of these cloud forests is the incursion of agriculture practiced in these villages. In order to protect these cloud forests it is necessary to work closely with the villages.
Community Cloud Forest Conservation alleviates poverty and protects cloud forests through education, reforestation, academic scholarships, agricultural development, food security, income generation and holistic community / human development in approximately 110 villages. CCFC’s approach is community based, working with rather than against, the local population.
In many cases throughout the developing world, environmental degradation can be linked to conditions of extreme poverty. Poverty and lack of education create environmental problems as well as social problems. In many cases, deforestation is a direct result of a system of subsistence farming that is not adequately serving the farmer. Wide spread degradation of natural resources deepens poverty.
“Environmental and social concerns are inextricably woven together.”
M. Jeanrenaud, 1999
The focus area of CCFC’s work encompasses the villages of the central highlands that border the cloud forests and cloud forest fragments of the following mountain tops: Sierra Yalijux, Sierra Caquipec, Sierra Xucaneb and the Sierra Sacranix.
Community means evolving farmers, families, schools, and churches in conservation. CCFC’s work both fosters community and depends on community. Working with and through community is the best way to alleviate poverty and improve quality of life. It might not be the best way to protect cloud forests but given the social reality, geography, and situation of these villages and their impact on the cloud forests, a community based approach is the only way forward.
The population of the remote, rural villages of Guatemala’s central highlands is solidly Q’eqchi’ Maya. In these villages few speak Spanish. The world view is uniquely Maya. One cannot understand the central highlands without understanding this world view. CCFC’s environmental education programs such as Kids & Birds and WALC are examples of contextualized understanding of environment within the Maya worldview.
Understanding community both from a Maya point of view and from the perspective of ecology presents a very wide and all encompassing vision. Community is families, women and men, youth and children, schools and churches, mountains and valleys, forests and fields, caves and clouds, springs and streams … all things taken together constitute community in an ecological sense and this is reflected within the Q’eqchi’ Maya worldview. In an ecosystem, community encompasses the relationships of farmer with neighbor and people with land. In a mountain ecosystem, community includes what comes from upstream and what goes downstream.
“It is impossible to separate culture from nature.”
Director, Division for Sustainable Development/CSD Secretariat
“The mountain was here before we were
and will be here long after we are forgotten.
Do not be fooled,
we are children of the mountain.”
-village elder of the community of Sesalche’
The tiny villages dotted along the edge of these majestic cloud forests are ground zero in the uphill struggle to end poverty and protect the forests. CCFC’s work is community-based, education focused, and driven by a vision of social justice and ecological well being.