Improving livelihoods through communal tenure rights in the Maya Biosphere Reserve, GuatemalaGuatemala

Background 1

The Maya Biosphere reserve was created in 1990, and covers over 50 percent of Petén state in Guatemala and is connected to protected areas in Belize and Mexico. At 2.1 million hectares, it is one of the largest areas of tropical forests north of the Amazon. The reserve has three zones; a core zone which consists of state owned national parks and reserves, and where harvest activities are restricted. A second state owned zone, where regulated harvest of zate palms, chicle gum, allspice and timber is permitted. A less regulated buffer zone, which includes privately owned land. Rapid land use change has been occurring in the buffer zone, with agriculture turning into the dominant activity and reducing forest cover.

In an effort to develop a long term model which integrates livelihoods and conservation priorities, local communities were granted concessions, which gave them management rights over the state owned multiple use zone. Currently, 13 concessions covering 500,000 hectares have been granted to local communities. This allows local communities to sustainably harvest wood and non-timber forest products, which helps meet livelihood needs. However, communities need to be certified in order to carry out these activities, which act as a safeguard against over exploitation. The concessions not only serve as a source of livelihood opportunities for communities, but also act as an incentive for communities to protect and sustainably manage forest resources.

Relationship to CSA

The model applied within the Maya Biosphere Reserve contributes to multiple CSA pillars.

  • Productivity: Communities are able to sustainably harvest timber and other non-timber forest products which ensure a source of income and livelihoods for the communities. The model also strengthens the linkages between ecosystem services provided by the reserve with the livelihoods of local communities, which encourages sustainable use.
  • Adaptation: By preserving ecosystem health, ecosystem resilience to climate change impacts is increased, and it continues to provide valuable ecosystem services to dependent communities.
  • Mitigation: The Maya Biosphere reserve acts as a carbon sink and mitigates emissions. A new project led by the Rainforest Alliance, “Payment for Environmental Services Project in the Maya Biosphere Reserve”, seeks to increase this mitigation potential even further by avoiding deforestation.
Lessons learned and recommendations

The model of granting communities forest concessions has led to better forest governance, and changed the institutional and organizational landscape of the region. Simplification of the certification process for communities and the harmonization of the requirements between different certification systems is a key challenge for the future.


  • 1

    FAO. 2013a. Climate-Smart Agriculture: Sourcebook. Rome, Italy: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. Between now and 2050, the world’s population will increase by one-third. Most of these additional 2 billion people will live in developing countries. At the same time, more people will be living in cities. If current income and consumption growth trends continue, FAO estimates that agricultural production will have to increase by 60 percent by 2050 to satisfy the expected demands for food and feed. Agriculture must therefore transform itself if it is to feed a growing global population and provide the basis for economic growth and poverty reduction. Climate change will make this task more difficult under a business-as-usual scenario, due to adverse impacts on agriculture, requiring spiralling adaptation and related costs.

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CCAFS Climate-Smart Agriculture 101

The basics

Climate-smart agriculture (CSA) is an integrative approach to address these interlinked challenges of food security and climate change, that explicitly aims for three objectives:

A. Sustainably increasing agricultural productivity, to support equitable increases in farm incomes, food security and development;

B. Adapting and building resilience of agricultural and food security systems to climate change at multiple levels; and

C. Reducing greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture (including crops, livestock and fisheries).

Entry points

Agriculture affects and is affected by climate change in a wide range of ways and there are numerous entry points for initiating CSA programmes or enhancing existing activities. Productivity, mitigation and adaptation actions can take place at different technological, organizational, institutional and political levels. To help you navigate these myriad entry points we have grouped them under three Thematic Areas: (i) CSA practices, (ii) CSA systems approaches, and (iii) Enabling environments for CSA. Each entry point is then described and analysed in terms of productivity, adoption and mitigation potential and is illustrated with cases studies, references and internet links for further information.

Develop a CSA plan

Planning for, implementing and monitoring CSA projects and programmes evolves around issues of understanding the context including identification of major problems/barriers and opportunities related to the focus of the programme; developing and prioritizing solutions and designing plans; implementation; and monitoring and evaluation. Most major development agencies have their own framework for project and programme formulation and management but CCAFS has developed a specific approach for planning, implementing and assessing CSA projects and programme called CSA plan. CSA plan was developed to provide a guide for operationalizing CSA planning, implementation and monitoring at scale. CSA plan consist of four major components: (1) Situation analysis; (2) Targeting and prioritizing; (3) Program support; and (4) Monitoring. evaluation and learning.


To meet the objectives of CSA, such as agricultural development, food security and climate change adaptation and mitigation, a number of potential funding sources are available. For instance, climate finance sources may be used to leverage agriculture finance and mainstream climate change into agricultural investments. This section offers an overview of potential sources of funding for activities in climate-smart agriculture (CSA) at national, regional and international levels and for a number of different potential ‘clients’ including governments, civil society, development organizations and others. Additionally, it includes options to search among a range of funding opportunities according to CSA focus area, sector and financing instrument.

Resource library

CSA Guide provides a short and concise introduction and overview of the multifaceted aspects of climate-smart agriculture. At the same time it offers links to references and key resources that allows for further investigations and understanding of specific topics of interest. In the resource library we have gathered all the references, key resources, terms and questions in one place for a quick overview and easy access that can be used as a part of or independently of the other sections of the website. The resource library is divided into six sections; (1) References – list all publications, links and blogs referred to on the website; (2) Tools – list all the CSA tools presented on the website; (3) Key terms – explains the most important and frequently used terms related to CSA; (4) Frequently asked questions (FAQ) – provides a rapid overview of the most common questions asked on climate-smart agriculture; (5) About – where you can find out more about the purpose and structure of, as well as on the organizations and authors behind the website; (6) Contact.

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