Community Forest Concessions in Petén, Guatemala: Effective Governance for Tropical Forest Conservation and Socio-Economic Development

The devolution* of forest rights to local communities is seen as a critical element of strategies aimed at conserving tropical forests and strengthening livelihoods based on them. In the Maya Biosphere Reserve (MBR) in Petén, Guatemala, forest concessions have been granted to local communities in the Multiple Use Zone (MUZ) on close to 400,000 ha. Over the past two decades, community management of the concessions has contributed to the reduction of deforestation in the MUZ to a minimum (0.1% per annum), unlike the adjacent core and buffer zones of the MBR where deforestation rates continue to be high (1% and 5.5% per annum, respectively).

While the conservation benefits of the community concessions are well documented, there is limited insight into their socio-economic performance. In this webinar, we will present findings of an in-depth study across the currently nine active and three inactive community concessions that focuses on the community forest enterprises (CFE) operating them, with emphasis on the following: 1) the benefits accruing to CFE members, local communities, and society at large; 2) the degree to which forest-based income allows member households to move out of poverty; and 3) how such income is reinvested in livelihood assets at household level and business assets at CFE level. We conclude with the critical importance of such findings in support of the communities’ claims for renewal of the concessions, which will be appraised over the next few years, as well as broader implications for natural resource governance at a global scale.

*Devolution – the transfer or delegation of power to a lower level, especially by central government to local or regional administration.