Lake Atitlán © GNF

Beekeeping © GNF

Environmental Education, Reforestation and Sustainable Agriculture in the Highlands of Guatemala

Nutrition instead of export - The foundation Manfred-Hermsen-Stiftung supports the project of the Global Nature Fund (GNF) and Vivamos Mejor Guatemala at Lake Atitlán. In the high mountain region of Sololá in Guatemala, local value chains are promoted, environmental education programmes are carried out and new income opportunities are created through diverse food cultivation and sustainable forest management.


Guatemala is a country of outstanding biodiversity and full of fantastic contrasts with the roaring Pacific Ocean, high volcanic mountain range, tropical forests, and deep lakes. But as beautiful as the country and its natural treasures are, they also are highly threatened. This is due to the overexploitation of natural resources by a growing population, illegal logging, and unsustainable agricultural practices. In the project region, 96% of the population are indigenous Maya, and, as minority in Guatemala, they are affected by poverty and chronic malnutrition. Enhancing income opportunities through diverse and sustainable crop cultivation, improving the efficiency in the use of local resources, conducting environmental education with adults and children, and restoring the natural forests, the unique natural heritage and thus the livelihood of the people can be protected.

The Project

The traditional Maya cultivation methods, so-called "Milpas", are combined with modern concepts of ecological agriculture and climate adaptation strategies. For a further diversification of local food production, families are trained in beekeeping and mushroom cultivation and equipped with the necessary tools and supplies.

In order to reduce forest fires and illegal logging in the region, community members are trained in sustainable forest management and supported during its implementation. As part of this activity, a tree nursery is built in order to produce saplings for reforestation and for fruit cultivation in the Milpas. In addition, 150 families get new, energy-efficient stoves to cut wood consumption and reduce deforestation.

Altogether a total of around 1,000 families benefit directly from the improvement of their production systems and around 600,000 inhabitants indirectly from the safeguarding of ecosystem services, increased adaptability to climate change and a better basis to keep their cultural identity.