Guatemala: Growing awareness for climate change

Published: 9 October 2008 0:00 CET

Protecting the livelihoods of vulnerable communities against the future effects of climate change can take many different forms. The Guatemalan Red Cross, with support from the Netherland Red Cross, is working towards this goal by strengthening local capacities to respond to disasters and raising awareness about the effects of climate change.

One of the activities involves the planting of saplings near the community schools of Sabana Grande in the Chiquimula-region in the southeast of the country. This is done together with teachers, student and parents. Once the trees have grown, they will help keep the local stream in place, a vital water source for the whole community. Reforestation also helps to prevent the loss of green areas and provides a habitat to native animals and plants. In addition, it helps areas that have suffered from extensive logging recover and prevents top-soil from being blown away.

The challenge: to change consumer habits

Oscar Navas, a 23 year-old Red Cross volunteer from the region, explains the approach, “It is important to be well prepared in order to successfully face extreme climate events. But it’s equally important to make people aware that it is everyone’s responsibility to change our consumer habits so that we don’t damage the environment.”

Adán Jiménez Paíz, is 46 years old and lives in Aldea Sabana Grande with his wife and children. They, as well as the other members of their community, make a living from agriculture and farming activities. “The Red Cross project has brought many benefits for our community: in addition to the reforestation project and the awareness raising and capacity building activities for disaster preparedness we also received new equipment for the education centres as well as garbage cans.”

For the communities and by the communities

“The participation of local partners and governmental institutions has been good throughout the project and several aspects have been coordinated with them, other NGOs and universities. The municipalities have found the project interesting and are strategic partners”, explains Raúl Francisco García López, Red Cross Project Coordinator.

To this, Red Cross-volunteer Oscar Alejandro Navas adds “One of the things that I like most about this project is the enthusiasm with which the students support the reforestation activities here in Chiquimula. It is nice to see how the passion to improve their environment has started to grow.”

“Because of this project people now know more about the effects of climate change and are more conscious of their behaviour. They are aware that they owe it to themselves to not harm the environment”, says Adán Jiménez, President of the Community Development Council in Chiquimula.