The project implemented by the US Department of Interior’s International Technical Assistance Program (DOI-ITAP) strengthens the conservation of biodiversity, protected area management, environmental governance, civil society, and indigenous communities’ participation in the Mesoamerican tropical humid forest of Guatemala-Belize-Mexico, trinational region recognized as the “Selva Maya”.
Its effective actions build on over 15 years of collaborative working experience, maximizing through lessons learned and success capitalization.
GEOGRAPHICAL AND DEMOGRAPHIC APPROACH
The project conducts activities in Guatemala’s Maya Biosphere Reserve (MBR), the Chiquibul–Maya Mountains Biosphere Reserve (CMMBR) in Belize, the Guatemala-Belize adjacency zone and in the south of Mexico. Focalized interventions in Belize include the Chiquibul National Park (CNP) and other nearby protected areas.
CONTEXT AND CHALLENGES
The Selva Maya refers to the large tropical forest that extends from southeastern Mexico, northern Guatemala to and into Belize. It is the largest humid forest of Central America, and it contains extraordinary key biodiversity and important cultural Mayan heritage. The conservation efforts usually rival with development based on extractive industries or land use change. The anthropological pressures, such as illegal logging, narco-trafficking, and poaching are exacerbated through the negative impacts of climate change and the advancement of the agricultural frontier, which, in turn, threaten the potential for a sustainable development.
The biological and cultural significance of the Selva Maya and the cross-border nature of its threats lay the groundwork and justification for increased coordination within it to join efforts that lead to threat reduction through shared successful approaches.
APPROACH AND RESULTS
The project conducts a yearly identification of activities within eight objectives together with partner governmental and non/governmental organizations:
- Strengthen Local Governance and Civil Society
- Strengthen Protected Area Management through mapping and monitoring wildlife and threats to biodiversity, designing specialized tourism opportunities, reclaiming illegal cattle ranches, and restoring natural forest cover among others.
- Strengthen Legal Case Development, by advising environmental judges working on emblematic environmental cases.
- Support Environmental Governance Data Analytics for Decision-Making by monitoring the effectiveness of conservation actions to measure the changes and trends of land use, socioeconomics, political will, and biological/ecological factors.
- Social Safeguards, capacity-building with special focus on cross-border coordination and conservation activities in the field.
- Threat Monitoring and Patrolling to protect natural and cultural resources by assisting with the plan, design and conduct monitoring, patrolling for and documenting threats and human impact in highly vulnerable areas.
- Strengthen Outreach and Communications to raise awareness about threats and opportunities in this region.
- Generate Sustainable Income by strengthening community-based tourism and supporting small-scale agroforestry projects (e.g., alternative agricultural products, beekeeping, etc.).
This project has run from October 2010 through September 2026 with an estimated total USAID investment of $10.75 million.
USAID’s implementer for this project is the U.S. Department of Interior.