Guatemalan Communities Defend Forest from Drug Traffickers

Guatemalan Communities Defend Forest from Drug Traffickers

On the western side of Guatemala’s 5 million-acre Maya Biosphere Reserve is Laguna del Tigre | #Laguna del Tigre | National Park, favored haunt of drug traffickers. The gangs have set swaths of forest aflame to make landing strips for plans that carry great quantities of cocaine.
On the eastern side of the Maya Biosphere Reserve, however, there are no illicit landing strips burned out of the jungle.
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Concessions: A Community Solution
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The reason is that nine community concessions (grants “conceded” by the Guatemalan government to local communities) have maintained nearly zero deforestation for over 20 years.
At the same time, these communities have bustling local, legal economies based on sustainable forestry—and they keep organized crime at bay.
In fact, between 2013 and 2018, the nine concessions made $58 million and benefited 44,000 people—and protected the forest | Learn more on Commonshare |.
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Sustainable Forestry
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How do they do it? The answer is sustainable | Learn more on Commonshare | harvesting: they take only one tree per hectare every 40 years, collect nuts and plants from the forest floor, and maintain banks of native trees in nurseries to plant where needed.
Because the communities benefit from the forest, they have a commercial incentive to protect it from the incursions of organized crime.
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Combating Crime and Deforestation
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In addition to burning the forest for airplane landing strips, drug traffickers burn them to raise cattle, which they use as money-laundering operations. In response, the concession communities patrol their forest regularly, using drones and GPS trackers, and invest in fire prevention: $180,000 a year, far more than the Guatemalan government.
And when they have to, the communities defend against the drug traffickers directly. They have successfully foiled efforts to take over their land and have even disabled illegal drug-running facilities.
These concessions are up for renewal, and the Guatemalan government has already granted one renewal. Hopefully, the good results—sustainable forestry | Learn more on Commonshare | and crime prevention—and public pressure from within Guatemala and without will result in all concessions being renewed.   
Lexicon:
Laguna del Tigre | https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2020/07/05/guatemala-cocaine-trafficking-laguna-del-tigre/?arc404=true |: source from washingtonpost website

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