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4. Annotated bibliography

1. Anonymous. Not dated. Diagnosis of the actual and future availability of fuelwood in Latin America.

About 223 cubic meters per person per year of fuelwood and charcoal is used in rural areas of Latin America, and this has been stable even though prices have increased. The cost of fuelwood produced from plantations is significantly higher than from natural forests. Even though this is recognised, there is little effort to develop management plans for natural forest areas or to reforest degraded areas as a solution for the production and distribution of fuelwood in rural areas.

Rural communities are used to collecting fuelwood very close to their homes, keeping the investment in money and the time low. In establishing fuelwood plantations it is important to keep prices low, and they should be close to the community to reduce the time and cost of transportation. There has been about 15 000 ha planted in Guatemala, of which 20% are not industrial plantations but rather natural barriers, boundaries, fences, etc.

Regionally, Latin America has a surplus of energy resources such as petroleum and hydropower, but Central America and the Caribbean have fewer alternatives. Around the 82% of wood produced in the region is used for cooking and heating.

Remarks: Document provides some data; lacks date and author.


2. Cabrera Gaillard, C. 1996. Síntesis Histórica de la Deforestación en Guatemala. Facultad Latinoamericana de Ciencias Sociales. Guatemala.

The author presents a historical analysis of deforestation in Guatemala, including the ancient Mayas, the Spanish colonial period and postcolonial times. He concludes that deforestation in Guatemala is due to agricultural problems, basically the lack of mechanisms that give landless people access to agricultural land or alternative employment. The agrarian problem increased due to the declaration of protected areas, 45 000 refugees and the resettlement of 1 million people. There are no incentives for forest production or good forest practices but many incentives for agriculture and cattle production.


3. Castañeda, Luis. 1992. PAF Guatemala. Segunda Reunión de Coordinadores Nacionales. Bolivia 1992. Santa Cruz .

The Tropical Forest Action Plan for Central America (1987) found that the forestry sector does not get enough support from central governments, which have acted as the "police" of the resources. Production is oriented to short-term economic benefit.


4. CEDARENA. 1998. Iniciativa Centroamericana de Conservación Privada, Fase II. PROARCA-CAPAS. Guatemala.

This document presents the results of Phase II of the project. CEDARENA evaluated the legal feasibility of implementing private protected areas in Central America. CEDARENA concluded that, from the legal perspective, all Central America countries have the necessary requirements for the establishment of "servidumbres ecológicas" (legal term used by CEDARENA).

5. Corrales, L. 1998. Estimación de los Beneficios ambientales por no emisión y fijación de carbono (masa aérea) por acciones de ordenamiento forestal en el Area Propuesta del Corredor Biológico Mesoamericano República de Guatemala. PROARCA-CAPAS. Guatemala.

This document estimates the potential for carbon sequestration in the Corredor Biológico Mesoamericano (CBM) in Guatemala between the years 1998 and 2025 under three main considerations: (1) that carbon fixation by the forest is threatened by deforestation; (2) the amount of carbon fixed by a forest with an area of 756 502 hectares corresponding to 50% of the estimated forest area; and (3) because of the present condition and the regional strategy of the CBM it is feasible to reduce forest change and promote the recovery of the forest. The biomass data was collected based on forest volumes provided at the national level and geographically referenced according to Holdridge’s life zones. The results show an estimate of 199 865 134 tons fixed up until 1992, with an annual fixation of 65 929 149 tons due to an increase in forest cover up to 2025, assuming that all the necessary forest management actions will take place in order to reduce deforestation in the CBM.

The author states that one of the main problems in conducting the study was that there is no forest information collected in a systematic way. Most of the information was based on commercial forest inventories but there is no forest assessment or information that evaluates the quality and quantity of the forest. The method for estimating forest cover was based on Holdridge’s classification scheme. Some adjustments were made to the commercial inventories to incorporate the non-commercial volume (diameters between 10-30 cm).

Just 38.44% of the SIGAP is included in IUCN categories I and II. For conservation purposes that means areas with the potential for CO2 sequestration. The other 60% represents areas that would be suitable only under appropriate management. It is also important to mention that the addition of 700 948 ha (25.37%) of protected area to SIGAP has been proposed.

The Sistema Nacional de Areas Protegidas (SINAP) is comprised of:


Area (ha)

Declared (ha)

Proposed (ha)


% Country


47 447

47 477




Forest Reserve

19 046


19 046



Multiple use

817 010

817 010




National park

834 561

834 561




Biological reserve

220 810

220 810




Wildlife sanctuary

231 542

78 042

153 500



Cultural Monument

6 365

6 365




Regional park

4 695

4 695




Sanctuary zone

5 061

5 061




Natural monument




less than 0.01

Without category

575 830

47 428

528 402




2 762 401

2 061 483

700 948



*Biotopo is a local protected area category. The Universidad de San Carlos De Guatemala manages these areas.


6. Cortes Salas H. de Camino, R. Contreras A. 1995. Proceedings Workshop on or Forestry Conservation and Development in Latin America. Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture. Costa Rica.

This workshop on government policy reform illustrates the impact of non-specific forest policies on forested areas; for example, the colonisation of forested areas, road construction, oil company operations, etc. Also mentioned were the differences between local and national objectives. The local tendency is toward rapid development based on natural resources while the national tendency is to build more slowly using a controlled development process.

Some policies, such as overvaluation of local currencies and management and control of interest rates, have had a powerful negative impact on the forestry sector. These policies not only lower efficiency and waste resources, but they also accentuate the unequal distribution of income where the industrial manufacturers are few and wealthy while the forest owners are often poor and numerous.

The participants concluded that forestry policies in general have not been harmonised and consistent with agricultural and macro-economic policies. Viewing forests as a subsection of agriculture has contributed to effectively isolating the sector. Nor have the policies been stable over time or costs fully identified, which in turn produces unclear objectives.

The role of the forestry sector at the national and international level has been unclear and is there no advocate for the sector that can place it on the national agenda.

Information and scientific methods for dealing with the complex problems of the forestry sector are incomplete or lacking.

The lack of clearly defined property rights contributes to a short-term view of forests as merely a source of timber.

International agencies have provided more credit to support agriculture than the forestry sector. In some cases, general government spending cutbacks proposed by these agencies have affected the availability of resources for the forestry sector.

Forestry policies have been designed by a very limited number of social actors, usually government entities. The underlying premise of the recommendations is that development cannot be built upon an environmentally degraded resource base and that the natural environment cannot be protected unless, in the process of growth, consideration is given to the different social actors and to the cost of environmental destruction.


7. Décimoseptima conferencia regional para America Latina. Experiencias y Problemas en el desarrollo de la Frontera Agrícola con Particular Referencia a los Recursos Forestales. 1981. Primer Borrador.

Latin American Region land use (ha)





Total area

2 040 472

2 040 472

2 040 472

Total land

2 005 984

2 005 984

2 005 984

Arable land and permanent crops

114 988

no data

no data

Arable land

91 974

117 648


Harvested area

70 923**

105 937


Permanent crops

23 111

26 355 *

no data

Permanent grass

493 873

528 797*

no data


1 050 662

1,017 863

no data

Other lands

346 561

320, 355*

no data

*FAO statistical service. La agricultura hacia el año 2000. Problemas y opciones de America Latina. Febrero (February), 1975.

** Principal crops 1981.

There is continuous degradation of agricultural and forest systems due to the adoption of so-called "modern technologies" that are not appropriate to the ecological and social characteristics of tropical areas.

The land tenure system has had a negative impact, especially when campesinos "open" their land when they settle (encroachment) and then when soil conditions deteriorate and they migrate to another area. There are also economic motivators of migration such as the establishment of new industries, road building, infrastructure, markets, job opportunities, etc.

An interesting point is the interaction between energy needs (fuelwood and charcoal production) and how they "compete" with food production. If forests are managed in an appropriate way wildlife could serve as an additional source of food, but due to poor forest management, wildlife is also decreasing.

The agriculture sector has increased not because of production efficiency but because the area farmed has increased. The agricultural area has increased from the depletion of the forest (especially dense forest). This includes not only areas that have been deforested or are in bush fallow, but also natural prairies that have been incorporated into the so-called agricultural frontier. An estimated 4 million hectares has been converted from dense forest to agriculture and animal production.

Shifting cultivation is one of the most important causes of deforestation in Central America, comprising around 50% of the dense forest depletion. For Guatemala the area was 80 000 ha per year during the years 1976 to 1980. (FAO SINUVIMA)

Annual dense forest deforestation, 1981-1985 (ha)


Shifting cultivation

Others causes


Central America and Mexico

405 000

597 000

1 002 000


The law gives property rights to people who have cleared an area and this is an incentive for cutting and burning the forest.

In mountain areas, there is high pressure from the population on natural resources. As a consequence, there are many areas that are now deforested. The food production technology that has been used in these areas is that originally developed by the Mayas and used during the pre-colonial period. Now new technologies from the USA and Asia are being used.

Other causes of deforestation reported in the document are: Shifting cultivation without rotation in areas where the slopes do not allow soil recovery; extensive cattle production for export and raising sheep, goats and other small farm animals on a subsistence basis with a long-lasting negative impact on the soil; logging without management plans; and spontaneous colonisation processes, especially in the Guatemala highlands up to the Peten.


8. Del Camino, R. Alfaro, M. 1997. La Certificación Forestal en Centro América. PROARCA-CAPAS. Guatemala.

Central America’s forest cover is 18.2 million hectares (35% of the total surface area). Primary (virgin) forest is 90.4% of total forest cover, 7.4% is secondary forest and 2.2% is in forest plantations. The regional deforestation rate is 2.26%, equivalent to 387 653 ha per year. The region has 411 declared protected areas and 391 more proposed with a surface approximately of 12.3 million hectares. The authors state that the challenge is to protect 18.2 million hectares. Certification processes exists in Honduras, Nicaragua and Costa Rica. Initial efforts are now taking place in Guatemala.


9. Food and Agriculture Organization FAO-Oficina Regional para America Latina y el Caribe. 1986. Ordenación Integrada de los Manglares. Síntesis de siete seminarios nacionales en América Latina. Ed. Rollet B. Chile.

Between 1965 and 1978 around 7 300 hectares of mangroves along the Pacific Coast of Guatemala were transformed into grassland and farming areas. The main reasons are reported to be the expansion of the agriculture frontier, lack of control over forestry licensees by the Instituto Nacional Forestal (National Forest Institute, INAFOR) and the use of mangrove fuelwood for salt production.


10. Gibson, Clark. Lehqchup Fabrice. Williams, John. 1999. Does Tenure Matter to Resource Management? Property Rights and Forests in Guatemala. Department of Political Science. Center for the Study of Institutions, Population and Environmental Change. Indiana University. USA

This article evaluates property rights and forest conditions in two private and three communal forests in Guatemala. Using measures of social and biological phenomena, the authors conclude that legal property rights are not a powerful predictor of variation among these forests. Instead, de facto institutions and their enforcement are much more important to forest management. Institutions are defined as humanly devised constraints that structure human interactions (North, 1990).

Forest condition is related to biophysical measures, including elevation and slope. Communal ownership and its management institutions so often disparaged by economists have produced the best overall forests. The authors recommend a more sophisticated approach be taken to the study of rights and resources.

The authors identified two different types of institutions; those that develop informally and those that are formally established and supported by the Government or State. The informal institutions are the agreements that exist in communities and rural areas for the control and use of resources that have been used traditionally (indigenous rights, the so-called derecho consetudinario). The authors recommended that these informal institutions be recognised and taken into account in the management of natural resources.


11. Gibson, Clark. 1999. Dependency, Scarcity and Governance of Forest resources at the Local Level in Guatemala. Department of Political Science. Center for the Study of Institutions, Population and Environmental Change. Indiana University. USA

This article analyses forest governance by identifying the necessary conditions for the creation of institutions for the management of common-pool resources. Two conditions are necessary: scarcity and dependency.

If the difference between the cost and the benefits of building an institution (establishing norms and rules and monitoring them) is positive, individuals will invest time, effort and/or money in the enterprise. If no rules exist about the use of forests, it is to be expected that the pattern of use will be based on optimal foraging theory, which means maximising economic return while minimising cost.

Four regression models were developed to test the hypothesis. The models attempt to include both natural and human factors that may affect the forest. The variables analysed were DBH, tree density, elevation, slope, insect damage, and distance to settlement and distance to road. Taken together, the four models provide support for the hypothesis that in the absence of rules, individuals follow the optimal foraging theory. Individuals adopt rules and regulations in relation to forest use and management when they depend on that resource and when they perceive it as scarce.


12. Godoy, J. C. 1997. Hacia el Consenso del Sistema Centroamericano de Areas Protegidas SICAP. PROARCA-CAPAS. Guatemala.

The author reviewed the history of the declaration and management of protected areas in Central America and proposes mechanisms for better representation of the different ecosystems that exists in the region, better protection of endemic species and better management of the SICAP.

The author calculated that 58% of Central American forest cover is included in the Sistema Centroamericano de Areas Protegidas (Central American System of Protected Areas, SICAP). The major threats to protected areas identified during the period 1969 to 1981 were cattle ranching, population increase, rural poverty and agriculture expansion. In 1969 there were 25 declared protected areas (1.9 million hectares) and in 1981 there were 149 declared protected areas (6.1 million hectares). In 1989 the Central America region developed a SICAP Plan of Action 1989-2000. A total of 227 declared protected areas were identified (5.5 million hectares). It is interesting to note Godoy's comment that even though additional protected areas were declared in 1987 the total area decreased because in 1981 the total area of the biosphere reserves was overestimated.

As of 1997, IUCN recorded 411 legally declared protected areas in Central America (9.5 million hectares) and 391 proposed. The principal threats to these areas are the extension of the agricultural frontier, illegal felling of trees, hunting of wildlife and fires (mainly due to agro-forestry practices). Less important threats are the extraction of minerals and hydrocarbon and urban and tourist development. Management problems include poorly defined borders, conflicts related to land tenure, weak co-ordination between authorities and lack of professionals and trained people within the managing institutions.


13. Houghton R. Lefkowitz D. Skole D. 1991. Changes in the landscape of Latin America between 1850 and 1985. Progressive Loss of Forest. Forest Ecology and Management, 38 (1991) 143-172, Elsevier Science Publishers B. V. Amsterdam.

Houghton et al document changes in land use between 1850 and 1985through the use of historical statistics. Changes in the major uses of land (including permanent croplands, pastures, shifting cultivation and logging and degradation of forests and other natural ecosystems) were based on the area converted to cropland and were estimated by comparing maps of natural vegetation with maps of agriculture. Change in the area of pasture was inferred from change in the number of cattle and stocking rates.

Estimates of the rate of deforestation due to shifting cultivation were available only for recent years. The results showed that other types of ecosystems replaced 28% of the forest area during the time between 1850 and 1985. Most of the reduction was due to the expansion of pastures (44%), croplands (24%), degraded land (20%) and shifting cultivation (10%). The greatest uncertainty was related to historical rates of degradation and shifting cultivation and to the type of ecosystems converted to human uses. The paper suggests that uncertainty was generally within 5% for 1985.


14. Kaimowitz D. 1996. Livestock and Deforestation Central America in the 1980’s and 1990’s: A Policy Perspective. Center for International Forestry Research. Indonesia.

Kaimowitz’s report lists seven factors used to explain the conversion of forest to pasture in Central America between 1979 and 1994:

Favourable markets for livestock products;

Subsidised credit and road construction;

Land tenure policies;

Limited technological change in livestock production;

Policies that reduce timber values;

Reduced level of political violence;

Characteristics specific to cattle raising that make conversion attractive.

The Central America case is particularly interesting because the region has gone through both a cattle-raising boom and a period of decline.

Forest area of Guatemala (1 000 000 ha)



1990 (Utting)

1990 (FAO)





1950: OAS (1991)

1980: CONAMA (1992)

Thirty thousand hectares per year were deforested in Peten between 1976 and 1987 and 42 000 ha of medium and dense forest were cleared annually between 1987 and 1993 (AHT-APESA, 1992). Based on recent estimates of total national forest cover, it appears that the annual area deforested over the last twenty years has been between 50 000 and 60 000 ha rather than between 80 000 and 90 000 ha. (Cabrera, 1992).

The expansion of cattle production (1953-1990) was located in Escuintla, Jutiapa, Santa Rosa Departments (1950); Alta Verapaz, Chiquimula, Izabal, Quiche, Peten, Zacapa Departments (1960-1970) and Peten Izabal Department (1980-1990) per ICAITI (Instituto Centro Americano de Investigación y Tecnología).

Kaimowitz describes different types of livestock production. Traditional and large ranchers are those that produced cattle before the 1950’s. Cattle raising is important culturally to this group and livestock and land have substantial prestige value above and beyond their immediate economic worth.

After the 1950’s, capitalistic entrepreneurs began to view cattle ranching and meatpacking as an attractive sector for investment. These investment ranchers received subsidies and credits from the government. Most of these investors did not have experience in cattle production. Military officers were a subgroup within this type. These military officers obtained land by clearing forested areas, buying land from small farmers or by receiving government title to national land. Military officers are more likely to own land in isolated areas (such as Alta Verapaz and Peten) where tenure is insecure and their access to military force places them in a privileged position to defend their claims to land.

Medium and large agriculture frontier ranchers are located in or near agriculture frontier areas and usually have a more humble origin. They do not have large investments outside their residential region, but have different types of income generation activities. This group is not significant in Guatemala.

One feature of the medium and large ranchers is the system of "colonato". Poor rural families were provided with land to plant corn or other annual crop but in return had to do occasional jobs for the land owner, leave the crop residues for the rancher and after a few years plant grass and move to another plot. Through this system ranchers were able to convert large areas of forest to pasture at minimal cost. However, in recent years many large ranchers seem to have shifted to use of wage labour to convert forest to pasture because it is quicker.

Large ranches predominate in Guatemala. In 1979, some 300 ranchers with more that 1 000 animals each owned one third of the national herd, while ranchers with between 100 and 1 000 animals owned an additional one third (RUTA1993). Numerous small farmers owned the rest. The first thing that almost any small farmer in Central America does when they are able to accumulate a little land or money is to purchase cattle. This is a low risk activity and provides regular income from the sale of meat and dairy products through the use of marginal or degraded land that does not sustain crops.

The post-war cattle boom in Central America was accompanied by important advances in technology, including wider use of improved stock and artificial insemination, introduction of new pastures, increased use of veterinary services, fertilisers and herbicides and large investments in infrastructure. During the 1960’s and 1970 s, international agencies such as the World Bank, the Interamerican Development Bank and USAID also promoted beef production and exports as a central focus of economic growth. (Williams, 1986).

Another point of view as to why farmers cleared forest land in Central America is that government policies reduced the value of forest land and forest products and hence the potential profitability of maintaining the land in forest. (Stewart, 1992; Kishor and Constantino, 1993; World Bank, 1993; Stewart and Gibson, 1994).

Violence in Guatemala also had a major impact on the cattle sector. During the 1980’s, because of the violence, the number of ranchers interested in purchasing land from the government was substantially reduced and many others abandoned their lands or sold them at low prices. Had it not been for the military conflict in the 1980’s, deforestation in the Peten and Alta Verapaz would have probably been much higher. Since the levels of violence have subsided, investments in land and cattle production have increased markedly. Policy makers must be aware that less violence in agriculture frontier areas is likely to lead to rapid deforestation.

During the 1980’s, deforestation rates decreased significantly due to unfavourable market conditions, reduced access to credit, higher interest rates, expansion of protected areas and military conflict. Subsidies for cattle production also decreased.

Annual deforestation in Guatemala (ha)

Nation and Kromer



Merlet, Utting





60 000

90 000

81 000

90 000


15. Laarman, J. 1999. La relación del proyecto PROARCA-CAPAS con los acuerdos políticos centroamericanos sobre el medioambiente. PROARCA-CAPAS. Guatemala.

This work represents commitments by the USA and Central America under CONCAUSA, the Joint Central America-USA Declaration on conservation of the environment in Central America (Miami, October 1994). PROARCA-CAPAS (Programa Ambiental Regional para Centro America- Central American Protected Areas System) was designed to support environmental policies in Central America: the Convenio Centro Americano de Biodiversidad (Central American Agreement on Biodiversity); the Convenio Centro Americano de Bosques (Central American Agreement on Forestry; and the Convenio Regional sobre Cambios Climáticos (Central American Agreement on Climatic Changes).


16. Meganack R., Goebel J. 1979. Shifting Cultivators: Problems for Parks in Latin America. Parks. 4 (2) Third trimester.

Meganack and Goebel report that rapid population growth, lack of arable land and inadequate programs for meeting the growing demand for food, fibre and work are among the factors contributing to the problems of national parks and protected reserves. Latin America forests covered around 1 billion ha in 1979. According to the World Bank, forests could "disappear in 60 years" unless fundamental changes occur. In Latin America, the World Bank reports an estimated 5 to 10 million hectares are cleared annually for cultivation, for construction materials and for fuelwood (World Bank, 1978).

The author presents an interesting overview of the "milpa" production system in both the pre-Colombian and postcolonial periods. Pre-Columbian "milpa" practices took place on communal forest areas but because of the use of rotation the secondary forest recovered. After the rotation period, campesinos worked in areas of secondary forest that made their farming easier and avoided the clearcutting of virgin forests. When the colonial system was established, huge tracks of forestland was transformed into farms and cattle, horses, and sheep were introduced for private production. This transformed the original "milpa" system into the slash and burn technique used now.

The practice of spontaneous colonisation (agarradas) still exists, and in many countries protected areas policies have been developed primarily as a mechanism of preventing incursions. (the traditional preservation approach).

17. Mercy G. 1985. Synopsis of Latin American Forestry in the Early 1980. The Finnish Forest Research Institute. Finland.

The forestry sector in Latin America has not played a significant role in the economy of these countries. There are no country or sub-country inventories. The few inventories are mostly of small areas destined for industrial development.

There is a lack of information about the property systems prevailing in Latin American countries. State, private and community ownership is combined in a variety of ways in the different countries. Often, available information is contradictory. While almost all countries have legal rules and regulations concerning forest ownership, they very seldom are followed in practice. Extensive logging operations are often carried out in areas declared as protected areas, either as a result of allowing timber concessions in such areas or through illegal felling or spontaneous settlement.

In general, public ownership prevails in Latin America (McGughey, 1983). This forces landless peasants to practice shifting cultivation and migratory subsistence agriculture on land owned by the state. There is a tendency toward increased private ownership, but this may also increase the pressure on publicly owned lands.

Deforestation is largely due to clearing for agriculture, grazing or for urban areas, roads, etc. Natural factors such as disease, natural fires, prolonged droughts, storms, floods and volcanic eruptions have a very low impact in comparison to human actions. Almost all the disruptive human activities that have caused the rapid disappearance of forests are unplanned and consequently the carrying capacity of soils is not considered. Deforestation usually follows slash and burn activity that causes serious harm to vegetation and animal life. Most research on this problem does not differentiate between the causes and agents of deforestation.

Shifting cultivation, extensive grazing, firewood gathering and the production of wood for local or international industries are usually mentioned as main causes of deforestation. But deforestation is a very complex phenomenon that requires a holistic approach to understand.

Land and forest statistics for Guatemala

Total land (1 000 ha)

108 430

Population density (people/km2)


Closed and open forest per capita (ha)


Forest cover, %


Total volume (1 000 000 m3)


% of forested area in use





Woody vegetation of Guatemala

1 000 ha or %

Closed forest

4 442

Open forest


Total, closed and open forest

4 542

% broad-leaved


Other woody vegetation

1 865

Total woody vegetation

6 407



Parks and reserves

62 %

Annual deforestation rate


Data for Guatemala (FAO [Lanly], 1981)

In Latin America there are four major factors that influence land use:

The socio-economic underdevelopment that affects most Latin America countries. This relates to the dominance of economic values such as rapid profit recovery without considering the misuse of natural resources or the future repercussions of such actions.

Political instability, the precarious development of democracy and corruption reinforce these tendencies.

The existence of a system of export-oriented agriculture and cattle raising, the main goal of which is export and not the internal supply of goods. This affects rural people and influences them to move onto forested lands.

Institutional weaknesses and too little research on how to deal with these problems.

There is no reliable information on forest degradation, but it can be assumed that it is affecting not only closed forest but also open forest, shrub formations and forest fallow.

Plantations can also be another factor in forest degradation because they are often established in areas that are already forested.


18. Ministerio de Agricultura Ganadería y Alimentación. 1998. Política Forestal de Guatemala-borrador. INAB. Plan de Acción Forestal para Guatemala. Guatemala.

Forestry policy in Guatemala is to promote forest industry as a competitive sector and build opportunities to reach global markets. It is based on the potential use and development of Guatemalan resources, especially in rural areas.

Problems identified by the Ministerio de Agricultura Ganadería y Alimentación (MAGA) include (1) an increase in the agricultural frontier; (2) low competitive capacity to reach global markets; (3) land uses that are not suitable to particular land conditions and are thus unsustainable; (4) over-exploitation of forests due to fuel-wood collection and (5) poor co-ordination among governmental administrative institutions.

The increase of the agricultural frontier is the result of the previous agricultural policy that only recognised forests as unused lands. This process is linked to the increase in population, the need for agriculture land and fuel-wood collection.

The second problem is that markets do not recognise the environmental contribution of the forest, given the low value of forest products. The incentive is to change the forest into other uses for short term economic benefit. This could be changed if the use and management of forest provided job opportunities to local groups and if the benefits of the forestry sector could be more equitably distributed.

The goals of the forestry policy are, through appropriate management of forests, to:

Offer environmental goods and services to society through the protected area system;

Develop a land management strategy in urban areas based on the potential use and natural characteristics of the territory;

Promote sustainable forest management;

Encourage the equitable participation of different sectors of society;

Make the forestry sector more competitive by improving productivity, markets and prices;

Provide stability of formal norms and regulations while improving law enforcement;

Acquire and make available information through an appropriate forest monitoring system;

Improve access to world markets through participation in the Central American group for the commercialisation of forest products.

The document presents a map of forest cover with the following data:

Forest cover

Type of cover



Humid forests

2 196



1 777


Open coniferous

5 700



28 209



5 661





Open broadleaf

1 270



1 369


Mixed forest

2 458


Open mixed forest




56 844



3 237



108 889



19. Nations, J. and D. Komer 1983. Rainforests and the Hamburger Society. Environment. 25 (3):12-20.

Almost two-thirds of Central America's lowland and lower mountain rainforest have been cleared or severely degraded since 1950. The causes are bulldozing, burning, and chemical defoliation. While some scientists and many Latin American politicians blame slash and burn agriculture by Indian and peasant farmers for the destruction of Central America’s tropical forests, in reality the problem results from a combination of local, regional and international activities.

Deforestation occurs in stages. First, logging companies enter the forest to extract valuable hardwoods such as mahogany and tropical cedar on a selective basis. This damages non-commercial species. Studies indicate that selective logging may destroy between 30 % and 50 % of the forest canopy. The damage wrought by commercial logging is not so much the result of what is removed from the forest as what is left behind.

Roads that are built for logging initiate the second stage of deforestation, colonisation. Colonisation takes place because peasants do not have land for themselves. People settle on the land and use their traditional slash and burn methods. This process has a heavy impact on any indigenous people who live in the region.

Spontaneous colonisation is encourage by the government because it temporarily relieves pressure for land reform in other areas of the country, thus reducing demands to break up and redistribute large estates a company holdings. Population growth is an equally important force behind rainforest colonisation in Central America.

According to FAO, 7 % of the landowners in Central America control a surprising 93% of the arable land. In Guatemala, 2.2 % of the population owns 70 % of the agricultural land, mostly in the form of coffee and banana plantations and cattle ranches.

With colonisation comes the third stage of tropical deforestation. During this final stage, land cleared by Indian and immigrant farm families is absorbed into individual companies that use it to produce export crops and cattle.

For decades, tropical forests have been considered an obstacle to development, and governments have even given legal and financial incentives to peasant farmers and cattlemen to colonise and clear the forest. The author reports that beef importers turned to Central America because the region is free of hoof and moth disease. He says that only the fact that US law prohibits import of chilled or frozen beef from countries that have this disease has prevented the Amazon rainforest from being exploited more than it has for cattle production.


20. Palo, M. 1984. Proceedings Deforestation Scenarios for the Tropics. IUFRO Conference. Policy analysis forestry Development. IUFRO Division 4. Thessaloniki, Vol. II: 449-463.

Palo describes five main factors considered to affect deforestation: economic development; population pressure; political factors; traditional factors and natural factors.


21. Pasos, R. Rodríguez, J. Salas, A. 1998. Incendios Forestales y Agrícola en Centroamérica: balance de 1998. PROARCA-CAPAS. Guatemala.

The authors found three main reasons for forest fire problems: (1) institutional and political (2) agricultural and livestock and (3) forestry.

Institutional problems include the lack of a good system that can detect fires in time, very weak organisational capacity, inadequate legal structure, lack of co-ordination among official institutions, lack of trained people, lack of human capacity and incoherent government policies.

The agricultural-livestock aspects are related to land use change, industrial crops, extensive cattle raising and subsistence agriculture.

Forestry aspects relate to lack of appropriate management and lack of regulation and control.

The author estimates deforestation as of 1996:

Land area of Guatemala (ha)

Forest Cover (ha)

Area deforested annually (ha)

% total land

% forest

10 889 000

3 480 100

90 000



Fires in Guatemala and their impact on forestry and agriculture (December 1997-1998)

Number of fires

Damage to forested areas

Damage to rangeland

Total area affected

% of the total land area of the country affected

10 906

381 710

272 500

654 360


Estimated economic loss due to fires in Guatemala (US$)






114 513 000

4 389 600

2 249 300

2 249.0 300

123 401 200

The estimated loss of CO2 sequestration was US$1 213 160.


22. Plan de Acción Forestal Guatemala. 1996. Boletín informativos 1 del PAF Guatemala Enero-Diciembre (1) 1996. Guatemala.

The objectives of the Programas de Plan de Acción Forestal para Guatemala (PAFG) are to provide legal mechanisms to facilitate harvesting and support a viable forest industry that can provide revenue to the country and improve rural job opportunities while reducing the conversion of forest into agricultural land.

Officially, the forestry sector contributes approximately 7% of the PIB (producto interno bruto or gross domestic product). But wood comprises 65% of the total energy sector. There are other contributions that are not captured in the national economic system accounts.

The expansion of the agricultural frontier is a main cause of deforestation and forests are considered potential areas for agricultural practices. Many owners of forest areas do not have the economic capacity to manage their forests and receive direct economic benefit from them. As a result, these owners do not give the appropriate value to timber products. On the other hand, due to the scarcity of timber in urban areas, the price of timber in urban markets has increased, putting additional pressure on forest areas.

An article on the International Forest Resource and Institution (IFRI) mentioned that inappropriate management of natural resources is due to (1) the lack of appropriate knowledge in relation to the resources, (2) lack of information and (3) lack of capacity to evaluate forest resources, specially in those countries with substantial forest resources.

The bulletin includes general forest data for 1995-1996:

General Data

Surface area (km2)


Total area

108 889


Forest cover

37 502


Forest potential use

55 700


Protected areas

19 216


Proposed protected areas

10 004


Forest outside protected areas

11 500


Forest data


Total forest cover

37 502


Broad-leaved forest

30 176



2 282


Mixed forest

1 270


Mangrove forest



Secondary forest

3 600


Plantations, total area

46 300


Plantations due to incentives

17 250


Reforestation agreements

12 000


Investment projects

5 900


Voluntary reforestation

11 150


Annual deforestation

90 000


Consumption of raw material

Cubic meters














Slash and burn



Based on 130 cubic meters/ha of trees with DBH=>10 cm


23. Plan de Acción Forestal Guatemala. 1996. Boletín informativo 2 del PAF Guatemala Mayo-Agosto (2) 1996. Guatemala.

Includes a special article about the Sistema Guatemalteco de Areas Protegidas (SIGAP). There are 19 215 km2 of protected areas, or about 17.6% of the national territory. The two Biosphere Reserves, Maya and Sierra de las Minas cover 89%. It is estimated that the area protected will increase to 29 200 km2.

The National Congress estimated that during the last 18 months the agriculture frontier increased by 135 000 hectares. The main problems relating to forest depletion are that 82% of the population of Guatemala uses fuelwood as major source of energy and a total of 35 000 refugees have settled in forested areas.

Deforestation in Peten is due to the chaos and total anarchy that exists in this Department. The main beneficiaries of this anarchy are the non-forestry sectors (agriculture, cattle, energy, etc) that legally or illegally extract forest resources without any control.

In relation to carbon sequestration, the LUCS method (Land use Carbon Sequestration) supported by the World Resources Institute has been used in Guatemala to determine biomass for CO2 trades.


24. Plan de Acción Forestal Guatemala. 1996. Boletín informativo 3 del PAF Guatemala Septiembre-Diciembre (3) 1996. Guatemala.

The article Valdrá la pena conservar el bosque tropical (Is it convenient to protect the tropical forest), states that 90 000 ha are deforested each year, of which 80% is broad-leaved forest.

The article compares the prices (1970 to 2005) of the traditional export crops. The price of coffee has decreased from US$ 4.57 to US$ 2.04 per kilogram. Meat decreased from US$ 5.20 to US$ 2.62 per Kilogram, sugar from US$ 323 to US$ 262 per metric ton, bananas from US$ 659 to US$ 401 per metric ton, oranges from US$ 670 to 420 per metric ton and African palm oil from US$ 1037 to US$ 267 per metric ton. Timber prices increased from US$ 370 to US$ 672 per m3 this last year. It is estimated that the price of sawn timber and logs will be 150% higher than sugar and 714% higher than palm oil at the beginning of the new century.

The article Distribución Departamental de las tierras con vocación forestal en Guatemala (Distribution of land with forestry potential use by Department) reports that there are 40 354 km2 of land available for forestry production, equivalent to 37.1% of the total country. There are 15 421 km2 of land available for forestry protection in protected areas. Data by Department is available.


25. Plan de Acción Forestal Guatemala. 1997. Boletín informativo 4 del PAF Guatemala Enero-Abril 1997. Guatemala.

The editorial page of the bulletin reports a deforestation rate of 82 000 ha per year.

The article Oportunidades que ofrece la nueva Ley Forestal Decreto 101-96 para el desarrollo forestal de Guatemala (New Opportunities of the Forestry Law decree 101-96) says that just 34% of the land with forestry potential is still covered by forest. Population growth and food demand are some of the pressures on forested areas. The new law considers the forestry sector as an economic and job opportunity for rural areas. A major change incorporated in this law is that forestry areas that are used for agriculture purposes will have specific regulations on appropriate land use practices. The concept of "unused land" (baldíos, ociosas) is eliminated. It also creates a forestry incentive programme, using 1% of the total income of the Ministerio de Finanzas Públicas (Finance Ministry) for forest plantations. Of this amount, 80% is to be invested in plantations and 20% in management.


26. Plan de acción forestal Guatemala. 1997. Boletín informativo 5-6 del PAF Guatemala Mayo-Diciembre 1997. Guatemala.

The editorial page presents the concept of the Forestry Cluster and highlights the opportunities for productivity and competitiveness of the Guatemalan forestry sector.

Productivity is based on tree growth. In Guatemala, coniferous trees mature in 25 to 30 years, compared to Finland, which requires more than 80 years. Other advantages include floristic diversity (23 species of conifers, 26 species of Quercus, 500 species of other broad-leaved trees), a large percentage of land with potential forestry use, a geographic position that facilitates marketing and a large number of unemployed and under-employed workers available for competitive wages.


27. Plan de Acción Forestal Guatemala. 1997. Boletín informativo 7 del PAF Guatemala Enero-Agosto 1998. Guatemala.

The article Actores Rurales y Marco de Políticas de Funcionamiento (Rural actors and political framework) says that the rural infra-subsistence group represents 37% of the total agriculture producers but possesses only 3% of the total agricultural land. They have access to 40% of the total forest area of the country through communal land, municipal land and repatriation areas and are mainly indigenous people. This group has an advantage in water production and eco-tourism activities.

The subsistence group represents the 59% of the total producers with 17% of the land under cultivation and access to 30% of the forest area. This group is mainly responsible for shifting cultivation practices. An economic option for this group is to concentrate more on non-agriculture activities such as appropriate forest management, water production or CO2 sequestration, for example

Agricultural producers, representing 4% of national producers, have 10% of the agricultural land and mostly produce non-traditional crops such as organic coffee or raise cattle on a small scale and are often organised in co-operatives and similar organisations. Their comparative advantage is in food production. Policies should be oriented toward the creation of incentives and mechanisms that foster these practises.

Commercial producers represent only 0.15% of the national producers but own 70% of the agricultural land and virtually all their production is exported. Their competitive advantage is in the global market.

The article Impacto de los Incendios Forestales en Peten (Impact of Forest Fires in Peten) indicates that the remaining forest is 3 750 200 hectares, of which 30.7% is outside protected areas and 69.3% is protected. The deforestation rate is 82 000 hectares per year; 75.6% outside protected areas and 24.4% inside them. The contribution of forest fires to deforestation is 2%. Forest fires affected 155 018 hectares of forest within protected areas. Most of the fires (over 98%) burned only the surface, but 1.8% burned the tree crowns.


28. Plan de Acción Forestal Guatemala. 1997. Boletín informativo 8 del PAF Guatemala Septiembre 1998-Marzo 1999. Guatemala

The editorial section of the bulletin presents the National Forestry Policy, which emphases forest management and the production of social goods and services. The policy is oriented toward (1) protected areas, (2) productive management of forests, (3) silviculture and plantations, (4) agro-forestry programmes, (5) forestry industries and (6) marketing.

An article on forestry incentives says that this policy will increase the revenue of forestry investments, reduce the risk related to timing, increase industrial production and increase the return on the government’s social and environmental investment by producing job opportunities and environmental benefits.


29. Rodríguez, J. no dated. Plan Estratégico del CCAB-AP, borrador de consulta. PROARCA-CAPAS. Guatemala.

The Central American forest has been depleted by an average of 388 000 hectares per year. Between 1990 and 1995, FAO reported that 2 284 000 hectares were lost. There are different causes, from cultural patterns to economic structural adjustment. Forests are cut to produce food, timber and fuelwood. In Guatemala, 85% of the population still uses firewood as a source of energy.


Forest cover of Guatemala

Total forest land (ha)

Forest cover (ha)

% Territory

Virgin forest

10 843 000

3 841 000


3 813 000

FAO, 1995

Forest cover of Guatemala, 1996 (ha)

Total country land

Primary (virgin) forest

Secondary forest



10 889 000

3 030 200

360 000

89 900

3 480 100


Forestry plantations in Guatemala (ha)

Area in plantations, 1989

Reforestation rate, ha per year

Projected area, 1996

61 900

4 000

89 900


30. Shane Douglas. 1980. Footprints on the Forest: An Inquire into the Beef Cattle Industry in the Tropical Forest Area of Latin America. Prepared for Office of Environmental Affairs, U.S.

This report addresses the problem existing in 21 Latin American countries (including Guatemala) where the "most productive lands are for the most part held by small minorities of the population for cash crop production (coffee, bananas, sugar cane, cotton and beef)". These crops are important for earning foreign exchange but the negative effect is that these nations must often import part of their food for domestic use.

Based on FAO data, 60 000 km2 of tropical forest were lost before the 1980’s to agriculture and cattle ranching activities. During the 1950’s, 37% of the total tropical forest area of Latin America was destroyed as a result of development activities. Two-thirds of this total was in Central America

During the 1980’s, many Latin American scientists and officials identified cattle ranching as the principal cause and most environmentally damaging method of tropical deforestation in the region. The main reason for this conversion was that most of the productive land was already privately owned. The available land for the construction of roads and infrastructure and allocation for settlement were forested areas. The state or national government usually owned this land. The settlers employed their traditional slash and burn technique of forest conversion. When soils become depleted, farmers seek out new sites. As the colonists abandon the depleted land, it often becomes part of cattle ranches.

Cattle production needs at least one hectare per head in tropical areas, and when the condition of the pasture declines they can require as much as 7 hectares. Soil deterioration results from compaction and overgrazing. When these areas are abandoned the secondary forest is of limited value, both for human use and nature.

Cattle ranching expanded into tropical forest area for three main reasons: (1) the best lands were already used for the production of crops and permanent pastures; (2) a growing demand for beef, both for domestic and export markets and (3) government encouragement to open up and utilise inexpensive tropical forest frontier lands.

In Guatemala, most areas of tropical forest located outside the north-eastern Department of El Peten have been cleared for cattle ranching and crops. The Fomento y Desarrollo del Peten (FYDEP) recognises the environmental limitations presented by Peten soils, but nonetheless promotes cattle ranching, colonisation and related activities.


31. Southgate, D. 1992. Policies contributing to Agricultural Colonisation of Latin American’s tropical Forests. USA

Once they arrive in Peten, settlers are presented with strong incentives to convert forests into agricultural land. In the past the Guatemalan government has encouraged pasture by extending cheap credit to livestock producers. The system of property also favoured clearance. To win favourable adjudication of title to the land a settler must improve a caballeria (46 ha). Improvement generally means clearing. Settlers are obliged to assert informal use rights because of the time it tales to process an application for formal tenure. But once the land is cleared the farmer is often in a poor position to practice sustainable farming because of the lack of agro-forestry research and extension services.


32. Southgate, D. Basterrechea M. Population Growth, Public Policy and Resource Degradation: the case of Guatemala. Ambio (forthcoming).

The rural poor of the Guatemalan highlands are responding to population growth and land scarcity by emigrating to Peten. This region’s rural population, estimated at 159 000 in 1989, is increasing by 5.5% a year, primarily due to emigration. A disproportionately large share of the immigrants come from the highlands where overpopulation, poverty and resource degradation is especially acute.


33. Wille, C. Roldan, A. Gaitán L. Incrementando la Compatibilidad entre la Agricultura y la Biodiversidad: Recomendaciones políticas. PROARCA-CAPAS. Guatemala.

This document analyses the relationship that exists between agriculture and biodiversity, showing the mutual dependence between the two systems. For example, some wild species have been used for food or pest control. Agricultural practices developed by indigenous groups have increased the variety of crops. Biodiversity contributes to agriculture and agriculture can contribute to biodiversity.

Loss of biodiversity is related to changes in food production systems, especially the uniformity and high productivity that was promoted during the green revolution. Of 103 cropping systems that produce 90% of the world’s food, three of them (rice, wheat and maize) produce 60% of the world’s food. Recently, climatic changes and the effect of El Niño have resulted in a decrease in biodiversity in the region.

As a result of their research and communication with conservation experts, the authors found that the expansion of the agricultural frontier is the main factor in forest deterioration, caused largely by political refugees. The process involves encroachment into a forest area, the practice of slash and burn agriculture for some years, the sale of the land for cattle ranching and then encroachment into a new forested area where the process is repeated. There is general agreement between human rights organisations and small farmers support groups that legally recognised land tenure is a priority for any type of conservation programme. Land insecurity is the main factor in the increase of the agriculture frontier.

The document refers to an IICA publication (Anuario de Producción, 1990) that gives the percentage distribution of land use in Guatemala. Agriculture comprises 17.2%; pastures and meadows, 12.8%; forest land and forest, 35.2%, and other lands, 34.4%. In the CCAB-AP report (1996), forest cover is given as 31.1 % and the rate of deforestation at 62 500 ha per year.


34. World Forestry Congress. 1990. Latin American Report.

The Latin American Report presented at the Tenth World Forestry Congress in 1990 states that the extension of the agriculture frontier is the main cause of tropical deforestation. Even though many forest areas have been declared as protected, this has not stopped felling for cattle ranching, agriculture or fuelwood extraction. While there is some forest regeneration in some agriculture areas, in others there is continuing overexploitation as a result of the scarcity of agricultural land. Forests are the victims of a vicious circle of poverty and the degradation of natural resources.

The report describes the impact of the environmental movement on forest use and management. Forestry practices have been heavily criticised by environmental groups. Their position is that forests should be preserved untouched. In the case of Guatemala, the forestry industries asked the national authorities to intervene and mediate the dispute.

During the decade 1980 to 1990, the forestry sector was not considered a priority for development, and this was reflected in the reduced budgets of national Forest Services. During the years 1985 to 1990 around 7 million hectares of forest were lost. The failure of land use policies has been one of the major causes of pressure on natural forests.

Reforestation programs in the region reached 500 000 hectares by 1990, and are located primarily in Argentina, Brazil and Chile. The importance of forests for watershed protection is becoming increasingly relevant.

The wood production and industry decreased during 1985 to 1990, but fuelwood and charcoal production and non-wood products increased, especially in areas managed by rural and indigenous people. The report recommended supporting rural development based on sustainable management of forest resources, especially non-wood forests products.


35. WWF. 1990. Natural Forest Management Initiatives in Latin America. Workshop Views from the Forest: The experience of 14 Natural Forest Management Initiatives Throughout Latin America. Washington

WWF reports that expansion of agriculture and livestock production has been the predominant reason for the conversion of tropical forest in Latin America. The primary agents of deforestation are small farmers and colonists seeking to make a living from the land as well as large commercial cash crop and ranching operations. Their actions and investments decisions are influenced by a complex array of social and economic factors as well as policy incentives provided by the governments of tropical countries that often promote excessive forest clearing. For example, high population growth combined with gross inequalities in land ownership have resulted in a constant push to open up frontier areas to the landless.

Government policies often required forests to be cleared before title is awarded. Investment credits and government subsidies have promoted the unsustainable expansion of agriculture crops and livestock production, thus underwriting the social and environmental cost of deforestation. While primary tropical moist forests are rapidly being lost to land uses that are overvalued in economic terms, the governments of tropical countries similarly undervalue the forests themselves. For the most part, standing natural forests do not represent an asset in which people are willing to make an investment. It is only through changes in the way forest resources are valued that deforestation can be brought under control.



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