Guatemalan Caribbean

The beautiful forests along the Guatemalan Caribbean coastline are a critical migratory corridor for biodiversity connecting North and South America. This small piece of land is home to an incredible 7-10% of the world’s known species.

Hundreds of species of birds depend on these forests as part of the Central American ‘flyway,’ a kind of migratory superhighway. And our work, together with your support, helps to ensure it stays that way.

Protecting Nature

Climate Change Mitigation

These amazing forests harbour almost 50% of Guatemala’s total biodiversity. But sadly over 65% of the region’s original forest cover has been lost to agriculture, cattle ranching and subsistence agriculture. Our project works to address the root causes and reverse this trend.

Forests are amazingly efficient at absorbing and storing massive amounts of carbon from the atmosphere – until they’re burned or processed. This then creates carbon dioxide emissions, the most abundant greenhouse gas causing climate change.

Which means that protecting our forests, such as the one in Guatemalan Caribbean, is critical to managing global climate change.

By effectively putting a value on the carbon that the park stores in its forest, our Guatemalan Caribbean project reduces global emissions by a total of 4.6 million tonnes of carbon dioxide– that’s equivalent to more than 485,000 homes’ energy use for one year.

This means that carbon revenue creates a reliable financing stream we can use to help target the causes of deforestation and create alternative economic activities.

But can just one area in one part of the world really have an effect on our global climate? Two independent, transparent, and globally recognised standards firmly believe it can. The Climate, Community, and Biodiversity Alliance (CCBA) verifies the benefits of the project to local communities, wildlife and biodiversity, and the climate. And the Verified Carbon Standard (VCS) ensures the quality and accuracy of the accounting methodology used to measure the project’s climactic benefits. Read more about these standards here.

The beautiful coast line of the Guatemalan Caribbean project. Photo credit: FUNDAECO archive

Climate Change Adaptation and Ecosystem Resilience

The high levels of deforestation in the area have weakened the structure of the forest, threatening its biodiversity and degrading ecosystem functions. Improving the region’s resilience is a priority.

The project focuses on protecting the ‘cloud forests’ in Izabal, which are a key ecosystem for water production and so we are helping to safeguard the local water supply. Also strengthening the more vulnerable coastal areas supports the project’s ecotourism plans for the region. The Guatemalan Caribbean project takes a holistic approach, incorporating conservation and the very real needs of local communities.

Species Protection

The Guatemalan Caribbean project is a bird-lovers paradise and is vital for migratory birds making their biannual treks up and down Central America. Nearly 500 species of birds have been documented in the project area and 120 species depend on the Mesoamerican corridor to sustain their great journeys. The project is also home to an abundance of species great and small, including 30 High Conservation Value (HCV) species such as the Jaguar, Baird’s Tapir, and the West Indian Manatee whose habitats are threatened by economic pressure on the region.

HCV species are outstandingly significant or critically important, at the national, regional or global level. HCV requirements are integrated into the principles and criteria of major sustainability certification schemes such as the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). They also factor into purchasing and investment policies and sustainability commitments of global banks, financial institutions, traders, retailers, processors and distributors of wood, paper and agricultural commodities.


The stunning biodiversity of the Guatemalan Caribbean. Photo credit: FUNDAECO archive.

Empowering People


The local and indigenous communities play a pivotal role in maintaining the integrity of this project. They are the drivers of their own transformation and in ensuring the global climate impact of what they do continues.

Izabal is home to a diverse community of some of Guatemala’s poorest communities, and tackling the economic drivers of deforestation is essential to achieving the project’s goals.

We’re proud to say that over 100 communities are impacted by the project – that’s 3,250 families whose lives are being transformed by job creation, agricultural training, and increased access to legal and financial resources. The project aims to support nearly 720 jobs, with 30% of held by women.

Our NGO partner on the ground, Fundaeco, is improving access to healthcare for underserved groups (such as non-Spanish speaking indigenous women) through establishing healthcare posts and mobile units with nurses to improve coverage for people living in remote areas, providing interpreters and transport to improve access to services, and running education on women’s health especially reproductive health and family planning.

The project works to empower women and girls in the Guatemalan Caribbean project. Photo credit: Fundaeco

Community Engagement

Community engagement is key to ensuring our project is socially inclusive. Our project partner, a local NGO called Fundaeco, has been working in the region for over 20 years to promote the active participation of all stakeholders, particularly local communities, in consultation, decision-making, and implementation of activities.

The communities in the project area have varying levels of land ownership and participation. Indigenous communities are among the poorest, and women have limited decision-making authority. The project aims to correct these inequalities, including securing land titles, which are barriers to achieving real, positive change.

We’ve seen how the strength of the Guatemalan Caribbean project depends on the unity and commitment of the local communities. And we will continue to help by focusing our efforts on supporting their capacity to establish sustainable economic opportunities.

Sustainable Economic Development

Sustainable Enterprise

Small enterprises are absolutely vital in creating positive change in rural communities, but many of them lack sufficient capacity or market connections to succeed without external support.

So to truly achieve scale, the Guatemalan Caribbean project prioritises working with local enterprises and provides technical assistance on business management, market support for agroforestry products and eco-tourism, access to finance and training.

The project aims to improve the capacity of 576 enterprises to provide sustainable economic opportunities in the region by 2021.

Green Commodities

The Guatemalan Caribbean project integrates conservation and sustainable approaches to productive land use. What this means is that the project is helping local people to develop a new relationship with their environment, one that helps raise them out of poverty at the same time as conserving the forest.

Over 1,000 ha of crops including cardamom, xate, pepper, rambutan, lychee, cinnamon, and timber are being produced through sustainable agroforestry systems, with the goal of achieving commercial scale. Other sustainable livelihoods, such as ecotourism, are changing the way that local people use the land and so are preventing further degradation of the forest.

Revenues to local stakeholders from these goods and services (beyond carbon) are expected to be over $20 million.

For more information on sustainable production on the project contact us here.

Farmer growing spices in the Guatemalan Caribbean project. Photo credit: Fundaeco.

Fair Economic Return

The Guatemalan Caribbean project is designed to be a new way of doing business that transforms the local communities and ecosystems through multiple revenue streams, such as forest carbon assets, agricultural products, textiles, handcrafts and ecotourism.

Through a benefit sharing agreement, the project investors also receive a fair return. Guatemalan Caribbean really does demonstrate the financial viability and sustainability of aligning economy and ecology.

And this perfectly shows how this model can be scaled globally.

How you can help

You can help support this project in the Guatemalan Caribbean through taking responsibility for your carbon impact and helping to protect the trees in this project.

We invite you to join us.

Sustainable Development Goals

Sustainable Development Goal 1 – No Poverty
Sustainable Development Goal 2 – Zero Hunger
Sustainable Development Goal 3 – Good Health and Well-being
Sustainable Development Goal 5 – Gender Equality
Sustainable Development Goal 6 – Clean Water and Sanitation
Sustainable Development Goal 8 – Decent Work and Economic Growth
Sustainable Development Goal 10 – Reduced Inequalities
Sustainable Development Goal 11 – Sustainable Cities and Communities
Sustainable Development Goal 12 – Responsible Consumption and Production
Sustainable Development Goal 13 – Climate Action
Sustainable Development Goal 15 – Life on Land
Sustainable Development Goal 16 – Pace, Justice and Strong Institutions
Sustainable Development Goal 17 – Partnerships for the Goals