GNF - Indigenous communities in the highlands of Guatemala

Poverty Reduction, Reforestation and sustainable Agriculture in the Highlands of Guatemala

Sicherung von Ökosystemdienstleistungen und Klimaresilienz, Diversifizierung im Milpa-Anbausystem und Pro-Biodiversity-Business zur Armutsbekämpfung in indigenen Gemeinden im Hochland von Guatemala



Guatemala is a country full of fantastic opposites: The roaring Pacific Ocean and high volcanic ranges, tropical forests and deep lakes. The country is a hotspot of biodiversity. Yet, the country’s natural heritage is threatened by overexploitation of natural resources in the face of a growing population and climate change.


In Guatemala, the indigenous Mayan population groups are particularly affected by extreme poverty.


Our project area is located in the high mountain region of Sololá – a region where 96 % of the population is Mayan. The poverty rate here is 75 % and thought the conditions for agriculture are favourable, there is a high degree of chronic malnutrition. This is mainly due to the loss of ancestral knowledge of traditional agricultural methods and the intensive use of agrochemicals. Together with the organisation Vivamos Mejor Guatemala, the GNF initiated a project on poverty reduction and sustainable agriculture.

Project goals

Local food production for local consumption – sustainable value chains based on traditional knowledge are promoted and new marketing options are created. The project significantly improves the living conditions of the indigenous population. Patio-Hogar-Milpa – The return to good traditional knowledge in agriculture is merged with modern concepts of ecological agriculture and climate adaptation strategies. Improved nutrition and sufficient income instead of maximum yield and high costs for agrochemicals are the guiding principles for implementation.


This requires knowledge and awareness on the importance of the environment and biodiversity as a source of sustainable development and climate and economic resilience. This is complemented with the protection of important forest areas which are hotspots of biodiversity and home to the quetzal, Guatemala's national bird.

Project measures

1,000 indigenous families benefit directly from the project measures during the three-year project period – 90 multipliers, teachers, rangers, fire department employees and administrative staff are trained and supported to pass on their knowledge.


100 hectares of forest will be reforested with the help of 650 families, focusing on native tree species. Ensuring sustainable forest management, people in the villages are trained in sustainable forest management. Replanting and better fire protection through firebreaks are important measures. To promote local value chains, tree nurseries are being established to grow seedlings for reforestation and home gardens. Moreover, 150 families are equipped new, energy-efficient stoves. This serves to reduce wood consumption and deforestation.


The project supports 200 families in the implementation of the ecologically sustainable "Patio Hogar Milpa Concept". This FAO concept is based on the traditional Mayan Milpa form of cultivation. It involves the diversification of crops between the home garden and the field that many families cultivate. This adapted model, practiced for centuries, is enriched by modern concepts of organic agriculture. The range of crops is expanded with species and varieties that make families more resilient to the effects of climate change. 50 families are trained and encouraged in beekeeping and mushroom cultivation which provides new income opportunities and diversifies livelihoods. In order to be able passing on the knowledge and the new techniques, employees of communities and institutions are trained and receive a "Biodiversity Diploma". Important equipment, material and better marketing options contribute to the acceptance and cooperation of the families. Teachers are trained in the basics of environmental education. Local radio spots provide them with information about the project.

 Naturschutzgebiete - so weit das Auge reicht
 Verschiedene Gemüsesorten werden nach dem Patio-Hogar-Milpa Anbau gepflanzt.
 Waldmanagement mit Brandschneisen
 Schulung zu einheimischen Bäumen
 Landwirtschaftliche Flächen
 Die Märkte vor Ort bieten ein reichhaltiges Angebot.

Project Partner:

 Asociación Vivamos Mejor Guatemala


 German Federal Ministery for Economic Cooperation and Development
 Environmental Action Germany (DUH) and Rapunzel Naturkost GmbH from resources of the Hand in Hand-Fund

Milpa is an agricultural method in Mesoamerica based on traditional Mayan practices. The cultivation is characterized by the symbiosis of different crops and the temporal succession of cultivation, fallow and slash-and-burn. A classic example is the symbiosis of corn, beans and squash. The vigorous corn plants provide a climbing support for the beans. The beans, in turn, provide nitrogen to the corn and squash through their roots. And the squash, with its large, shade-providing leaves, is a cover plant that protects the soil from drying out.

Contribution to the Sustainable Development Goals

The project should make a concrete contribution to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs):

 Goal 12: Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns
 Goal 13: Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts
 Goal 15: Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss

Contact person


Mr David Marchetti
Global Nature Fund – Office Radolfzell
Phone: +49 7732 9995 86


Official Project Title:




Project Period:


Project Country:







Project Partner:

Securing ecosystem services and climate resilience, diversification in the milpa farming system and pro-biodiversity business for poverty reduction in indigenous communities in the highlands of Guatemala


January 2021 - December 2023




German Federal Ministery for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), Manfred-Hermsen-Stiftung, Environmental Action Germany (DUH) and Rapunzel Naturkost GmbH from resources of the Hand in Hand-Fund


Asociación Vivamos Mejor Guatemala