Today's series on Guatemala looks at the country's environmental and conservation issues. Guatemala is one of the most ecologically diverse countries on the planet, with a breathtaking landscape of volcanoes, rainforests, mountains and lakes. We take a look at organisations which are working to preserve Guatemala's unparalled natural beauty and wildlife.
Environment in Guatemala
The name 'Guatemala' translates as 'the land of trees,' as well as often being nicknamed 'the land of eternal spring.' These are fitting descriptions since this is a country of abundant environmental diversity and beauty. Four million hectares of sub-tropical forest are found in Guatemala, alongside dense jungles, secluded beaches and 33 soaring volcanoes. Elusive cat species such as jaguars and pumas, as well as more forthcoming howler and spider monkeys can be found in Guatemala's jungles and forests, alongside 250 mammal species and 800 types of birds.
However, much of Guatemala's natural habitat faces threats related to deforestation and over-exploitation of resources. This in turn jeopardizes the future of rural communities who depend on natural resources for their livelihoods. Alongside this, Guatemala is vulnerable to climate change and natural disasters, due to it's geographical location in an earthquake and hurricane zone. When these strike, harvests are destroyed and the food security of rural indigenous farmers is compromised.
Conservation Volunteering in Guatemala
A network of organisations exist in Guatemala which work to preserve it's natural beauty, from those that concentrate on protecting a single species to those that educate communities on environmental issues such as recycling.
For international volunteers, there are opportunities to work across Guatemala with these organisations, from the Highlands to the mountains or coastal areas. Work alongside biologists, environmentalists and community councils to make an important contribution to the environmental sector. Project examples range from rehabilitating and releasing sea turtles, to helping farmers on organic coffee farms build a sustainable income.
Here are a few volunteering programmes which are helping to preserve Guatemala's unique natural beauty:
Akazul - a project which works on a grassroot level with coastal communities in Guatemala, to strengthen sea turtle conservation.
Spanish Marks - we offer a range of conservation volunteering opportunities with fully-vetted organisations across Guatemala, from community educational projects to animal rehabilitaiton. Spanish lessons are included.
Climate Change Adaption - a project which works with the indigenous Chocabj community, to reduce their vulnerability to climate change through awareness-raising workshops, and action planning on sustainable natural resource management.