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GUATEMALA BLOG #8 (no) land governance and deforestation in Guatemala

Sometimes, an image says more than any numbers. Who needs tables and graphs on the pace of deforestation the Petén department in Northern Guatemala? –  when it is clear from the two satellite pictures below how fast this is happening and what the differences are with its neighbouring country on the East, i.e. Belize.

Source: About the Dispute. Government of Belize (2018):

In the right half of the illustration, one does not even need to draw the border line (that is not very well visible anyway) to see where Guatemala ends and Belize begins, or vice versa. The photographs are a perfect visualisation of the failure and (near-) absence of land governance mechanisms in Guatemala (see instalment #7 of this blog), with uncontrolled tree loss as a result. What you see above is caused by two factors: the demand for (fire-)wood in Guatemala, and changes in land use in Petén, i.e. the replacement of trees by agriculture and cattle breeding. Obviously, both mechanisms reinforce each other.

It is a familiar image along the roads in rural Guatemala: people carrying a heavy bundle of wood on their shoulders. Either they will sell it to their fellow-villagers, or they will use it for their own household needs; many people do not have access to any other fuel for their cooking and heating.  This phenomenon accounts for the lion’s share of timber demand in Guatemala, and in the absence of any controls, timber is transported from the sparsely populated North to the cities in the South massively and illegally: it is estimated that only 2,5% of all timber extraction in Guatemala is formally authorised.[1] 

But trees are also cut or burned in order to prepare the land for other activities. Two separate processes occur. One is spontaneous agricultural colonisation: smallholders with no or little access to land turn to the primeval forests in Petén, slash and burn a few hectares and start to work the land. The other process entails large portions of forest being turned into pastureland for extensive cattle breeding, often as a cover for clandestine drug trafficking operations: the Petén is comparatively flat and therefore an ideal place for airstrips that accommodate small planes. It is estimated that in the Laguna del Tigre national park alone, in 2017 there were some 65 illegal airstrips.[2] One can only guess at the figure for Petén as a whole. The authorities are ill-equipped to do much about it, or indifferent.

So much for the bad news. On a brighter note, and speaking of parks, most of Petén is a sort of protected area: the Maya Biosphere Reserve (MBR). Within this reserve, the sections that are under a regime of community forestry are doing best, as this 2018 map by the Rainforest Alliance shows. Thanks to concessions for sustainable marketing of timber and non-timber products, deforestation has been strongly reduced and incomes of community members have increased.[3] The work of the regional community forestry association ACOFOP, that represents 24 local organizations of agroforestry producers and sustainable management of natural resources,  was key in the consolidation of this effort, offering an alternative to the ‘fortress conservationist[4]’ set-up of the MBR.

Another promising experience is the PINPEP program of the National Forestry Institute (INAB), with incentives for farmers to use part of their land for forestry, for both conservation and production purposes. Over the past 12 years, about 127,000 hectares have been covered by this program, with 35,000 beneficiary families.[5] It is of particular interest to note that the most important incentive is security of tenure for the participating producers: with proof of participation in PINPEP, a producer can get a land title from his or her local government.

So, despite all the problems and setbacks that I have signalled in both this instalment and previous ones, there are glimmers of hope for land governance and tenure security in Guatemala. And it is on this positive note that I say goodbye: a few weeks ago, I have left the country and my blog ends here.  However, and with some pride, I can refer you to another recent text of mine on land governance in Guatemala. It won the third prize in the Land Portal’s Data Stories Contest and you can read it here.

[1] O. Monterroso, G. López y J. Gálvez (2012): Análisis sistémico de la deforestación en Guatemala y propuesta de políticas para revertirla. Guatemala, Universidad Rafael Landívar, serie técnica No. 38.

[2] S. Escalón: A new secret runway found in Laguna del Tigre National Park in Guatemala. Mongabay, 18 May 2017 (

[3] Community: The Secret to Stopping Deforestation in Guatemala. Rainforest Alliance, August 2018 (

[4] = without any human presence.


Group Manager Human Settlements Research Group (IIED)

IIED is a policy and action research organisation. They promote sustainable development to improve livelihoods and protect the environments on which these livelihoods are built. They specialise in linking local priorities to global challenges. IIED is based in London and works in Africa, Asia, Latin America, the Middle East and the Pacific, with some of the world’s most vulnerable people. They work with them to strengthen their voice in the decision-making aren as that affect them —from village councils to international conventions.

The role is based in the Human Settlements Group at IIED, which has worked on urban environmental and poverty issues since the 1970s. The group aims to support more equitable and sustainable development in urban centres in low-and middle-income countries. Their poverty focus is vital and informs everything we do because people on very low incomes, living in slums or squatter settlements, are the most vulnerable to environmental challenges. Their work has always been developed with partners, ensuring that it is rooted in the concerns of urban residents and practitioners, while contributing significantly to global research and policy debates.

Main responsibilities of the Group Manager

This is a critical role to ensure the effective operation of one of IIED’s four Research Groups. Working closely with research and coordination colleagues, the post holder will support the development and implementation of strategic goals, manage staff and consultants, and facilitate the effective functioning of the Group. The role of Group Manager at HSG is astrategic and evolving management role. While there will be a strong focus onresearchproject management at the start, we expect that as the group continues to grow, the Group manager position will evolve into a key leadership and management role, focusing on coordinating and growing the group.

For more information, take a look here.
Deadline for application: 31st July 2019

Invitation to submit to a special issue publication on “Land, Women, Youths, and Land Tools or Methods”

Developing the tools or methods for securing land rights for all, especially for the youth and women, is a primary objective of responsible land management and land administration. Understanding the challenges women and youths face (and possible ways of resolving these challenges) in their quest to access, use and secure land resources, is vital for knowledge building for achieving tenure security for all. However, a broad knowledge gap exists on the land–women–youth–policy nexus of land management study and practice.

All stakeholders in the global land sector are invited to disseminate their research and practical experiences to the Special Issue entitled “LAND, WOMEN, YOUTHS, AND LAND TOOLS OR METHODS” to the journal, LAND.

Dr Uchendu Eugene Chigbu, of the Technical University of Munich and Co-chair of the International Training and Research Cluster of the Global Land Tool Network (GLTN), is the Guest Editor of this Special Issue. The Special Issue hopes to build a knowledge base of researches that present emerging land tools or methods that can improve the understanding of land-women-youth-policy relationships. For details on the Special Issue and procedures for submitting articles to this Issue, please visit the official webpage of the journal, LAND, at

Call for research fellowships on land and gender for young researchers in the NELGA network.

NELGA’s research fellowship programme aims to support junior researchers in conducting a specific research projector field study at a NELGA partner institution and encourage them to pursue successful scientific careers. The invitation is targeted at staff members or students of NELGA partner institutions with a background in land governance or gender studies.

For more information download the flyers bellow:

For further questions please contact:

Ms Jana Bömer,

Ms Luisa Prior,

LANDac Annual International Conference 2019

The full programme and the Book of Abstracts 2019 to the Annual International Conference are now available!

Join us on 3 July 2019: Pre-conference welcome drink, pre-registration and documentary screening

Join us on July 3rd at 19:00 at Kargadoor, Utrecht City Centre, for a pre-conference welcome drink, pre-registration for the conference and the documentary screening of This Land, in cooperation with the Land & Accountability Research Centre.

Other pre-conference side-events

There are still a few places left!

More information on the side-events:


How to support transformations that work for people and nature?

The LANDac Annual International Conference “Land governance in transition” will take place on July 4 and 5, 2019 in Utrecht. It offers a podium for researchers, practitioners and private sector representatives interested in land governance for equitable and sustainable development. The 2019 Conference looks at land governance through the lens of transformations.

 This year, the LANDac conference is about Land Governance in Transition: How to support transformations that work for people and nature?

Central questions revolve around the long-term dynamics around land, water and food production. How is land governance itself transformed, as it seeks to respond to changing circumstances? And how is learning and knowledge building about these dynamics developing, what are promising concepts and tools? Particular questions relate to the different aspects of land governance, such as gender, food security, land tenure security, investments, conflict prevention and peace-building. In a fast-paced world of short-term projects and funding, how can we learn from past and current transitions, build sustainable partnerships and networks, and allow for seeds of innovation to bear fruit?

This conference builds on nine years of LANDac Annual International Conferences where rural land debates were connected to the urban agenda, where land governance from an SDG starting point were explored, and where its role in issues of mobility, migration and displacement was examined . The 2019 Conference builds on these discussions to return to core questions about land governance and transformation.

 Key note speakers

Prof. Pauline Peters 
Sr. Research Fellow – Centre
for International Development,
Harvard University
Dr. Lorenzo Cotula 
Principal researcher – IIED
Fridah Githuku 
Executive Director – GROOTS
Denis Kabiito 
CEO/National coordinator– UNYFA (National Federation of
Ugandan Farmers)
Dr. Eugene Chigbu 
Research Scientist – TU Munich & GLTN Training and Research Cluster Lead
Raul Socrates 
National Coordinator – PAKISAMA
National Confederation and
Movement of Peasant
Dr. Cecilia Tacoli 
Principal researcher – IIED

Conference themes 2019
Based on the received session proposals, LANDac presents seven conference themes for 2019:

  1. Inclusive Land Governance: Gender and Migration
  2. Urban Land Dynamics, Infrastructure and Deltas
  3. Community Rights: Climate Change and Natural Resource Management
  4. Realities of Dispossession, Displacement and Resettlement
  5. Land Governance and Agribusiness
  6. Land Governance in Practice: Approaches and Tools
  7. Land Governance and New Technologies

In the full programme and the Book of Abstracts you can find an overview of all conference sessions, categorized according to the conference themes. Please click on a theme to be directed to the session descriptions.

LANDac welcomes innovative and original ideas; if you have suggestions for materials to present or exhibit at the conference – such as short films, interactive websites, photos, posters – please contact the organisers at

Register now for the LANDac Annual International Conference 2019!
Registration costs are €200 (€100 for BSc and MSc students upon proof of a valid student ID). The registration fee includes catering for two days. We regret that LANDac is unable to cover participant expenses.

We look forward seeing you in Utrecht this summer!

The Organising Committee
Bianca de Souza Nagasawa, MSc student at Utrecht Univsersity
Chantal Wieckardt, LANDac/Utrecht University
Christine Richter, ITC University of Twente
Gemma van der Haar, Wageningen University
Griet Steel, LANDac/Utrecht University
Guus van Westen, LANDac/Utrecht University
Imke Greven, Oxfam Novib
Marthe Derkzen, LANDac/Utrecht University
Niek Thijssen, Agriterra

LANDac 2019 Conference Sponsors and Partners

To sign up to the LANDac mailing list, send an email to You will be kept up-to-date with happenings in the Netherlands land governance sphere, and specifically with LANDac events – including conference news.

Three things to know about women’s land rights today

This blog originally appeared on World Bank and on Stand4herland

By Anna Wellenstein and Victoria Stanley

Watch the video here

Gender equality is central to ongoing global efforts to reduce extreme poverty and improve livelihoods for all. An important part of gender equality is ensuring women’s equal access to – and secure rights to – land and properties.

Strengthening women’s land tenure security improves their rights and their dignity. Importantly, improving women’s access to and control over economic resources also has a positive effect on a range of development goals, including poverty reduction and economic growth.

What do we know about women’s land rights globally?

Although gains have been made to increase legal protections for women to use, manage, own and inherit land, in practice, women often aren’t able to realize their rights to the land on which they live, work and depend for survival.

In a video blog marking the International Day of Rural Women, World Bank Director of Strategy and Operations, Social, Urban, Rural, and Resilience Global Practice Anna Wellenstein and Senior Land Administration Specialist Victoria Stanley discuss three “headlines” one may encounter on women and land:

  1. Globally, there is an understanding that reducing poverty requires secure land tenure, and that women’s share in that is important.
  2. Researchers and policymakers don’t have enough gender-disaggregated data at the country level to understand the true scope of the challenge of women’s land rights, but efforts are underway to collect more data and gain a better understanding.
  3. There are strong pilots and initiatives of women themselves to gain equal access to land and improve tenure security, but now these efforts need to go to scale.

To drive broader development impact and affect lasting change, the World Bank joins global and regional partners – Landesa, Global Land Tool Network (GLTN), UN-Habitat, Habitat for Humanity, and the Huairou Commission – and local women and communities in preparing an advocacy campaign that aims to close the gap between law and practice on women’s land rights.

For more visit:  blog series.


The Regional Center for Social Science and Sustainable Development<> and the Mekong Land Research Forum<> will run a week-long intensive summer school on land research in the Mekong Region. Applications are welcome from early-career academics, government staff and those working with civil society organizations. The purpose of the summer school is to equip participants with a research orientation relevant to the challenges of land governance in the Mekong Region. A good working knowledge of the English language is required.

SCHOLARSHIPS are available for participants from Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam, covering travel and accommodation support. Participants from elsewhere (including Thailand and China) will need to fund their own travel and accommodation costs, but all tuition and meal costs will be provided without charge.

•       Summer school description, including provisional timetable: 2019 Mekong Land Governance summer school description

•       Details of information meetings around the region, to learn more from previous participants: Summer school 2019 – information meetings

The summer school Facebook page can be found here:

Realizing women’s land rights in Africa and Beyond – A Webinar Report

In October 2016, women farmers from 22 countries across Africa climbed the peak of Mount Kilimanjaro to claim women’s rights for access to and control over land and natural resources. This event coincided with the launch of a campaign of the African Land Policy Centre (ALPC) to reach the target of having 30 percent of all registered land in the name of women by 2025 and to embed women’s land rights into the targets of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

In line with these initiatives, there has been increased attention for women’s land rights by grassroots movements, local governments, civil society organisations, academics, and international organisations. Nonetheless, despite progressive policies, legal frameworks, and strong civil society engagement in many countries, there is still a lot to be done to feel a real impact on the ground. This webinar featured experiences from several grassroots initiatives and highlighted how they fight for women’s improved access to and control over land and other natural resources and to scale up women’s land rights.

The webinar was co-hosted by Acção Académica Para O Desenvolvimento Das Comunidades Rurai (ADECRU) (Mozambique), Action Aid, Both ENDS, ENDA Pronat (Senegal), Fórum Mulher (Mozambique), GROOTS Kenya, LANDac, the Land Portal Foundation and OXFAM International.

Download the report here: Realizing Women’s Land Rights Report

Sustainable Palm Oil Dialogue – Europe

We are pleased to invite you to the dialogue on reaching complete market transformation to sustainable palm oil in 2020.

Taking place on Friday 14 June 2019, at the Jaarbeurs in Utrecht, this dialogue will debate how we can reach our 2020 target and formulate a Framework for Action through interactive discussion.

During the day, the European Palm Oil Alliance (EPOA), Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), and IDH, The Sustainable Trade Initiative will also each give updates on recent developments. The Amsterdam Declaration Partnership will give a briefing on their progress as well. Specifically, this day is developed for networking amongst our shared stakeholders. Be prepared for a lively debate!

The draft program is available here. Registration is free but space is limited, please register here before May 20 to avoid disappointment. Cancellations after 10 June will be subject to an automated charge of 50 euros for catering expenses.

For more information, please contact RSPO Europe:

Let People Protect Nature

A botto­m-up perspective on environmental conservation and local development in Costa Rica.

Country: Costa Rica

Date: 11-10-2018

OSA PENINSULA, COSTA RICA. In the existing contrast between environmental conservation and local development, local people are often not taken into account. However, The conciliation between these two lies upon the local people.

Sign of forested area benefitting fom Payment for Environmental Services in the RFGD

Living off the forest

Eulalio is waiting for me at the beginning of the path. He greets me with a smile as white and broad as his hat. We ride horseback for over an hour up in the primary rainforest; it’s still very early in the morning and the wildlife of the most biologically intense place on Earth surrounds us.

Suddenly the rainforest turns into grassland: 60 hectares clear-cut with chainsaw and fire. This area was way wider when in 1965 Eulalio’s family obtained rights to possess no-one’s land through deforestation and created their ranch. Now the whole area belongs to the Golfo Dulce Forest Reserve (RFGD), a buffer protected area that surrounds the Corcovado National Park. Eulalio and his family live out of farming: rice, beans, cattle and few pigs. However, his livelihood has been notably affected by the Reserve’s regulation. «I cannot use my land the way I need it – he sighs – I left some area back to the forest, because it is not worth to work it anymore, but they [the Ministry of the Environment] pay me peanuts as compensation for forested land».

In the RFGD only a restricted range of extractive activities is allowed, limiting to a great extent economic possibilities; «If I leave any fallow land, I am not allowed to farm it anymore because they consider it as reforesting land. This way I have to keep it clear all the time and the soil loses nutrients and harvest is poor».

Many stories resemble Eulalio’s one. Traditional livelihoods in the Osa are based on natural resources exploitation, but they have been limited by environmental conservation. Those who possess land can play the card of (low)Payment for Environmental Services; those who do not have land or a land title often just bypass the law and base their livelihood on illegality.

Conservation VS development

Since the ‘70s, when protected areas was created in the Osa, local people have been displaced and/or limited in their economic activities. All this is happening in an area that has been traditionally affected by one of the lowest development levels in the country, namely for lack of economic opportunities, employment and public services. In its latest report, the Ministry of National Planning and Economic Policy classifies the Peninsula’s development index among the last quintile and shows a clear relation among protected areas and low development index. Is it then really impossible to reconcile environmental conservation and local development? Many attempts have been made in this direction, but the results have been alternate and the population often has not been actively involved.

Still, human activities are considered the main threat to the Peninsula’s biodiversity richness: urbanistic and touristic expansion go on runaway, forested areas are cut and cleared with fire to make space for monocultures namely oil palm. Animals are hunted illegally and gold mining activity is perpetrated within protected areas.

If it is certain that economic development entails trade-offs to environmental conservation, it is also true that lack of any economic alternative leads to illegal and unsustainable extractive activities.

Also, while environmental conservation in the Osa seems to be rooted both in governmental institutions and NGOs, this doesn’t seem to be the case of local development.

“Of course protecting Nature is important! But they get their pay check at the end of the month, while we are left with nothing”

Cut and burnt forest

Yield from oil plantation

Get to know the author:

After graduating in the Master in Sustainable Development/ID track Alice swung between her IDS studies and the belief that we should not only focus on developing countries but also on marginal areas of so-called developed ones. She just came back from one year in Northern Tanzania where she worked as project officer on a project focused on enhancing resilience of Maasai communities.

Click here for other IDS alumni blogs and experiences.