The Inter-American Development Bank today announced the approval of a $30 million loan to Guatemala for a sustainable development program in the department of El Peten to promote the conservation of the Mayan Biosphere Reserve.
El Peten, Guatemala’s northernmost department, is home to Central America’s largest protected area, the Mayan Biosphere Reserve. The 21,130-km2 reserve, which covers 20 percent of the country’s territory, has a complex system of natural forests, magnificent archeological sites and a unique cultural heritage.
The reserve, however, is under assault due to a proliferation of illegal settlements, deforestation, forest fires, oilfields, smuggling of rare woods, wildlife and archeological pieces; unsustainable farming, ranching and logging; and the extreme poverty of a large portion of El Peten’s population.
Guatemala’s Ministry of the Environment and Natural Resources will carry out the new program, which takes into account the lessons learned, builds on the positive results and counters the limited effectiveness of an outdated model of conservation that largely excluded local stakeholders.
The program is based on a strategy for participative and inclusive conservation for El Peten, which was shaped in a process of broad consultations and workshops with local communities, NGOs and municipal leaders, and endorsed by a high-level interagency commission.
Loan resources will help finance investments in El Peten’s protected areas to strengthen participative conservation as well as in buffer zones, where they will generate alternative sources of income for the population. They will also support investments to improve the environmental management and reduce pollution in the Lake Peten Itza watershed.
In order to promote El Peten as Guatemala’s top tourism destination and to generate economic alternatives to reduce the pressure of agricultural expansion on the Mayan Biosphere Reserve and protected areas in the south of El Peten, the program will finance the creation of five tourism circuits backed by the Guatemalan Tourism Institute, involving and benefiting local communities.
In addition the program will support the construction and equipment of museums and a school of community tourism, the restoration of archeological sites and a road signage plan for highways and tourism circuits in El Peten.
The program will also provide resources to strengthen participating ministries, municipal governments and civil society organizations in El Peten in order to increase their management capabilities and ensure their continued presence in the region.
Grants from Spanish, Finnish and Canadian funds supported the preparation of the program. In parallel, a complementary project of the Global Environmental Facility was prepared. This project, which is pending approval, could provide $4.1 million in grant funds to finance technical assistance, training and investments in projects in protected areas, providing incentives for conservation and the sustainable use of biodiversity.
The program will be carried out over six years. The loan is for 25 years, at a variable interest rate.
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