Enabling community participation in land governance in Guatemala


Communication for Development is a powerful means to enable the informed and active engagement of individuals and groups in decisions that affect their life. This is the case also with land tenure, and is the focus of an initiative promoted by FAO Advocacy Unit; The Investment Centre and the The National Representation in Guatemala, to support the recognition and responsible governance of communal land in the country. 

Over 1.5 million hectares, 15% of the national territory, is owned collectively, often under traditional or customary tenure systems. Communal lands are in fact mostly found in forest areas populated by farming communities and Indigenous Peoples. Due to uncertain tenure rights over their land, these communities are highly vulnerable to claims by external actors and are often involved in land and natural resource conflicts with neighbours or private companies. At the same time, they suffer from limited access to services, incentives and development opportunities in general.

In Guatemala, FAO collaborates actively with the Grupo Promotor de Tierras Comunales - a group of institutional and CSO actors, the Cadastral Information Registry (RIC) and other institutions in the land sector advocating for communal land rights, and assisting in the Implementation of the Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure, namely the use of participatory methods and development communication tools aimed to:

 (1) Inform local communities about the legal framework, concrete options, steps to follow to claim communal tenure rights and the related benefits

(2) Document and share successful experiences and lesson learned by local communities

(3) Facilitate capacity development, social dialogue, local consultations and concerted action using participatory communication methods and materials

FAO facilitated a series of consultations with local specialists and technicians to identify major issues, knowledge gaps and information needs, and to select relevant and illustrative cases that would help to develop the core content of the ComDev materials. In partnership with the Centro de Comunicación para el Desarrollo-CECODE were produced short documentaries involving local indigenous and farming communities that successfully manage communal land or achieved their legal recognition, as well as one instructional video composed of 5 thematic units. Watch the videos (in Spanish) of the Module for Communication and Capacity Development on Communal Land.

The multimedia module, developed in collaboration with the Faculty of Agronomy (FAUSAC), includes a participant's brochure and a methodological guide meant to orient facilitators in organizing and conducting participatory processes using the audiovisual materials to facilitate discussion and action planning in local communities. In addition, radio programs produced in partnership with the Federación Guatemalteca de Escuelas Radiofonicas (FGER) were broadcasted in Queqchi, Ixil and Chorti language across the country.

Based on this this experience FAO-Guatemala is currently developing a pilot initiative of strengthening local governance in communal lands, in collaboration with community-based and civil society organizations, and RIC as leading entity for administrative recognition of communal land.


Written by Marzia Pafumi, OPCA, Fabrice Edouard, TCIC and Klemen Gamboa, FAO Gt.