Strengthening water security and water governance of indigenous communities in Guatemala

IUCN @ Paul Aragón
Publié: 18 mars 2019
Dernière modification: 21 février 2023
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The Esquichá River micro-watershed (38 km2) in the upper part of the Coatán River Basin is experiencing high levels of deforestation and erosion, especially in water recharge zones. The 20 local communities are seeing more landslides and crop losses due to climate variability.


Ecosystem-based adaptation (EbA) is promoted through a process of governance strengthening and "action learning" aimed at diversifying productive practices and restoring degraded ecosystems for greater food and water security of communities. The solution combines increased dialogue, capacities and knowledge, with increasing environmental and social resilience, to achieve local impacts and up scaling.


Efforts contribute to strengthening the Esquichá River Micro-watershed Council as a platform for governance and the management of natural resources, while promoting agro-forestry systems and restoring forest cover in water catchment areas through natural regeneration, reforestation and community forestry nurseries.


Amérique centrale
Ampleur de la mise en œuvre
Forêt de feuillus tempéré
Rivière, ruisseau
Écosystème agricole
Écosystèmes d'eau douce
Écosystèmes forestiers
Adaptation au changement climatique
Distribution d'eau et gestion des ressources en eau
Fragmentation et la dégradtion de l'habitat
Gestion des bassins versants
Géodiversité et géoconservation
Moyens d'existence durables
Prévention de l'érosion
Autre thème
Ecosystem services
Food security
Forest Management
Gender mainstreaming
Indigenous People
Legal & policy frameworks
Science & Research
Précipitations erratiques
Dégradation des terres et des forêts
Perte de biodiversité
Mauvaise gouvernance et participation
Objectifs de développement durable
ODD 5 - Égalité entre les sexes
ODD 6 - Eau propre et assainissement
ODD 13 - Mesures relatives à la lutte contre les changements climatiques
ODD 15 - Vie terrestre
Objectifs d’Aichi
Objectif 5: Perte d'habitat réduite de moitié ou diminuée
Objectif 7: Agriculture, aquaculture et sylviculture durable
Objectif 10: Ecosystèmes vulnérables au changement climatique
Objectif 12: Réduction du risque d'extinction
Objectif 14: Services des écosystèmes
Objectif 15: Restauration et la résilience des écosystèmes
Objectif 19: Partage de l'information et de la connaissance


Tacaná, San Marcos Department, Guatemala | Esquicha River micro-watershed (Coatán River Basin)


  • The water flows of the Esquichá River have decreased, while the micro-basin's geo-physical characteristics, namely steep slopes and scare forest cover in areas where water sources are found, limit water recharge.
  • There is overexploitation of soil and forests (only 21.5% of the micro-watershed has forest cover) and unsustainable management of natural resources. Trees are cut mainly for construction, firewood, and crops without soil conservation measures.
  • The majority of households are indigenous and are in a situation of poverty or extreme poverty; community structures exist but with limited capacities. There is a need for greater local empowerment and a common strategic vision for adaptation to climate change. 
  • There is a high risk of landslides and loss of crops due to storms, strong winds, frosts or droughts, seriously affecting local livelihoods, housing and productive infrastructure, and food security.


  • 16 indigenous communities (Mam ethnic group; ~500 people)
  • 2039 families in the Esquichá micro-basin (~12125 inhab.)
  • Municipalities of Tacaná and San José de Ojetenam
  • Coordinator of Natural Resources and Environment of San Marcos (CORNASAM)

Comment les blocs constitutifs interagissent-ils entre eux dans la solution?

This solution combines local capacities, knowledge and alliances to foster socio-environmental resilience and achieve local impacts and up scaling. The building blocks work in paralIel. It promotes EbA through "action learning" (BB1) and governance strengthening (BB3) processes aimed at improving and diversifying productive practices and restoring degraded ecosystems (BB2) for greater food and water security in indigenous communities of the Esquichá River. Therefore, there are 3 BBs: 1) Capacities and knowledge; 2) Socio-environmental resilience; and 3) Governance.

This process begins by strengthening the existing organizational base (BB1 and 3), giving support to municipalities, Community Development Councils (COCODEs), Communal Forestry Nursery Commissions, and a strong agenda with the Esquichá River Micro-watershed Council. Through sensitization and participatory workshops (BB1 and 3), an EbA plan is consolidated within the Esquichá Micro-watershed Management Plan, which aims to ensure water production, diversify production and stabilize slopes (BB2) as adaptation measures. In addition, there is close coordination with the municipal government of Tacaná, with CORNASAM as a departmental platform, and with the central government.


  • Increase in 10 hectares per year of forest cover resulting from project actions that include training, technical assistance and follow-up of reforestation campaigns.
  • Agroforestry systems in 16 plots optimized with fruit and timber trees to improve soil conservation, productivity and food security.
  • Promotion, through communal forestry nurseries, of the participation of women in decision-making spaces and community organizational structures.
  • Active participation of 420 people (280 women and 140 men, including youth) around 16 communal nurseries that produce plants for the reforestation of water recharge areas, prioritized as community water sources.
  • Production of 53,000 native species plants (some in danger of extinction), for timber or with a function in water capture, of which 10,000 a year are destined to the restoration of water recharge zones.
  • Social capital and participatory governance mechanisms strengthened, with better-informed communities and greater organizational capacity.
  • Municipality of Tacaná allocates budget for the restoration of water recharge zones and incorporates EbA in the updating of the Municipal Development Plan.


IUCN @ Milton Navarro

In the Esquichá River basin, communities in the upper part, together with municipal representatives, identified the climatic threats to which they are exposed and prioritized the restoration of water recharge zones as the main EbA measure. In order to obtain the necessary inputs for the restoration efforts, one of the first steps was to strengthen the communal forestry nurseries in the area. This work promoted the participation of women, being women who ended up occupying many of the highest positions in the boards of the Communal Forestry Nursery Commissions, and also in other key decision-making spaces.


Mrs. Valentina Ortiz from the community of Tojchoj Grande, Tacaná (San Marcos), President of community's Forestry Nursery Commission and member of the Esquichá River Micro-watershed Council, tells of her experience and of the learning and empowerment achieved in her community.


“By being able to integrate into organized groups, we empowered ourselves to be able to take action to respond to climate change within our community and our micro-watershed, and the most important thing is to involve many people, including women, youth and all of us who are affected by climate change.


Before, us women had no participation and we had a lot of energy wanting to participate, but we were not allowed in these spaces. We are the ones who see the needs and the problems, how we are affected by climate change, for instance the reduction of water for human consumption and for our needs. We see the low yields due to droughts or heavy rains, we can see that the amount of production goes down and we see it in the amount of food we make, and that inspires us to carry out activities to prepare ourselves for these events.


Now there is a lot of participation of women, young people, and I feel happy because we have been part of breaking that fear of young women and telling them “if I could, then they can do it too”. And we will continue working so that this work is multiplied and other communities and later our children or grandchildren can see the results of all the work that we did within the nurseries and the Microbasin Council, such as the reforestation days where more than 500 people participated in getting trained, and all of this we can put into practice within our community and micro-watershed.”

Contribué par

Portrait de MARTACLAUDIA.PEREZ_36296

Marta Pérez de Madrid

Autres contributeurs

Milton Navarro Meza
International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN)