Challenges and opportunities of sustainable forest management through community forestry concessions in the Maya Biosphere Reserve, Petén, Guatemala.
In Guatemala, the community and industrial forest concessions in the Maya Biosphere Reserve were created as an innovative way to manage natural resource goods and services in a sustainable way while promoting the stabilisation and well-being of local communities. This case study shares experiences from different periods, including the initiation of the process from 1992 to 1994, its expansion through 2001-2002, its evolution through the period 2011-2012, and reflections about future prospects. The concessionary model was created and institutionalised as a means of stopping the advance in the agricultural frontier while promoting economic and social development based on the sustainable management of natural resources. It provided an avenue for reconciling the preservationist and productive views of conservation in a region subject to social conflicts and migratory dynamics. Despite more than 20 years of the successful implementation of this model, achieving sustainability and guaranteeing the conservation of the forest resources remains a challenge. The different needs, objectives, and capacities of the various actors dependent on the forest in the Maya Biosphere Reserve are not always compatible; and the external factors such as corruption and pressure from illegal activities threaten the consolidation of concession governance structures. In addition, the focus on the use and management of forest resources alone (timber, non-timber) has minimised the importance of integrating the different agricultural subsystems (crops, livestock) and off-farm activities into the land-use planning strategies for sustainable development that complement conservation goals and guarantee food security in a poor region.