Conservation Contracts as a Recognition of Community Rights in the Maya Biosphere Reserve, Guatemala
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The Maya Biosphere Reserve (MBR) is located in El Petén region of northern Guatemala. The El Petén region is rich with resource and biodiversity. It occupies 2,112,940 ha, which is 35% of the country's land area and 75% of its forests. Natural resources capable of creating wealth in the Petén region includes timber and non-timber products, and “precious minerals” . The type of timber produced in natural forests of Petén is tropical hardwoods, such as mahogany Swietenia macrophila and cedar Cederela odorata, which have very high value. Non-timber forest products such as chewing gum (Manikara zapota), palm leaves (Chamaedorea sp.) and spice (Pimenta dioica) are also in great demand globally. Moreover, Petén region is also the home of globally-important biodiversity and iconic wildlife species, including jaguar, puma, tapir and scarlet macaw (Hayward etc., 2013). As the Petén region is abundant with resources, it had always been aimed by large enterprises to make profit. At the time, Enterprise for the Pro-motion of Development of Petén, (FYDEP) is the enterprise which won precedence of dominating natural forests in Petén. During 1959 to 1989, FYDEP had been focused on colonizing the region and distribute usufruct for timber extraction. During the time, deforestation and other environmental issues such as “wasteful logging, encroaching agricultural frontier, and mounting threats to historical and cultural resources”  became threats to sus-tainability. Forest dependent communities were also facing crisis, because the forest products they relied on for living were extracted by FTDEP, while there was no compensation paid to them. The environmental and communal issue eventually forced the government to make a solution for this worsening situation in 1990. To resolve these issue, the National Council of Protected Areas (CONAP) established the MBR in 1990. The reserve has the area of 2.1 million ha, and is divided into three zones for multiple uses. The new zones include a core zone for strict protection, a buffer zone for serving as a boundary of MBR, and a multiple-use zone for “sustainable resource extraction”  and residential area for local communities. As a result, FYDEP or other company could no longer over-harvest timber. Thus, degradation of the land significantly reduced. During the initial stage of the establishment of tenure reform, trust became a problem between local communities and the government. The transformation of management system made some of the community members doubt whether it was an excuse for the government to exclude tradi-tional inhabitants from partial areas of MBR and continue extracting resources for private sector interests. To solve this problem, Association of Petén Forest Communities (ACOFOP) assigned as to negotiate with local communities, assist them to manage forests in the aspects of funding and technical support. Moreover, ACOFOP advocated for community resource access and management rights, and the result is success. As the local communities have considerable knowledge about managing the resources and characteristics of the environment, legalized rights for them to live, manage, and harvest on lands of MBR made tenure reform for sustainable management turned out successfully.
In 1990, and international conservation became a very hot topic and deforestation in Petén was getting more and more severe, the government seemed to have enough reasons expanding pro-tected areas in Petén. In 1990, over 2 million ha of natural area in Petén was established as MBR by the National Council of Protected Areas (CONAP). MBR was divided into three zones for mixed-uses, which includes a core zone, of 767,000 ha (36% of the total area of MBR), a multi-ple-use zone of 848,400 ha (40%), and a buffer zone of 497,500 ha (24%). The core zone is for strict protection, the buffer zone is the boundary of MBR, and the multiple-use zone is for sus-tainable resource extraction. In the case of MBR, bundles of rights are made up of access, use, management, exclusion and alienation rights. Access right is for the entrance of MBR, use right is for the extraction of timber and non-timber products in the forests of MBR, management rights are for decision-making of the regulations in MBR, and exclusion right to inhibit non-concessionaires from entering the MBR and using the resources in forest areas. Followed through the matureness of tenure reform, certain rights were granted to local communities step by step. The only right that was not granted is the alienation right to transfer rights by selling or leasing. This change brought by legalization of communal rights is called tenure reform.
The authority responsible for the management of this community forest is the Guatemalan government. As the local communities used to have very little connection with government of any level (local, regional, and central) and at the beginning human settlements were not allowed to be per-formed in the multiple-use zone, local communities considered that they did not have any rights granted despite the establishment of MBR. Therefore, resentment arose. Some communities regarded the tenure reform as an excuse for the government to take away their lands and sell them to private enterprises, because it seemed like that the establishment of MBR only legalizes the exclusion of local communities from accessing the land. To resolve this problem, the Guatemalan government legalized a formal community concession system within the multiple use zone in 1994. Tenure reform in MBR then granted the holders rights to “use, access, management, and exclude” in the multiple-use zone. However, alienation rights to sell or lease the land was not granted. Thus, claims arose. To resolve conflicts, the concession was made by the government to allow local communities to map out areas of traditional use. Then, through negotiation between the government with local communities, boundaries be-tween neighboring communities can be built. After the government's approval of the concession, a forest inventory was established for “management plan and environmental impact assessment”.  Eventually, a 25-year contract was signed to grant thirteen ACOFOP-affiliated community and community-based members exclusive rights to access resources respecting to the law. Concession approved by the government made management and extraction of timber and non-timber forest resources of local communities legal, but only if they have Forest Steward-ship Council certification. Also, the activities can only be performed in the Multiple Use Zone. To make the concession flexible, under special circumstances when management plan is not able to be performed, the concession can be cancelled. For example, if there is “insufficient capacity for operations, or if the concession declares bankruptcy” 
The affected stakeholders are local communities of the Petén region who had been living in the area decades before the establishment of MBR. Communities include villagers of Carmelita, Cruce a Dos Aguadas, La Pasadita, San Miguel la Palotada and Uaxactún. As their living are de-pendent on the environment, the local communities have significant resource-related knowledge and skills. Meanwhile, Forest management systems created by the local communities were essen-tial for their livelihoods. At this tenure reform activity, main objectives for these communities are to obtain access, harvest, and living rights for their traditional land. Even though at the be-ginning of tenure reform many of the local communities were quite doubtful for the decisions of the government, as time pass by, the government gradually established closer bonds with local communities by assigning associations to assist them. Through the effort of associations such as Association of Petén Forest Communities (ACOFOP), local communities had won rights to ac-cess and harvest in the multiple-use zone of MBR. Since the local communities have significant skill for forest management, “chances for success are greatly enhanced with secure resource rights, supportive policy frameworks and appropriate technical assistance”. As in this case study, the government is the right granter, and the local communities are the right receiver, local communities have relatively low power. However, as the government began to respect the voice of local communities and accept negotiations with them, the relative power of local communities can be medium at some times.
In the case of MBR, interested stakeholder played important roles such as funding the associa-tion, assisting local communities, resolving conflicts, deciding rules, and legalize certain rights. The main interested stakeholders of this case study include National Council of Protected Areas (CONAP), Association of Petén Forest Communities (ACOFOP), United States Agency for International Development (USAID), enterprise for the Promotion of Development of Petén, and other environmental organizations such as World Bank, the German aid agency Kreditanstalkt für Wiederaufbau (KFW), and Ford Foundation. The interested stakeholder with highest power will be the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). USAID was the agency that design and implement MBR. Moreover, from 1990 to 2004, USAID invested in total for about $40 million on forest management of MBR. It also promoted involvement of other international environmental organizations such as World Bank, KFW, and Ford Foundation to make investment. Another interested stakeholder with high power is the CONAP, which has the main objectives as reducing deforestation, lessening poverty of local communities (caused by degradation of land), establishing a sustainable community forest, and protecting threatened forests by linking conservation and local livelihood objectives. To better linking conservation and local livelihood objectives, CONAP assigned ACOFOP in 1995 to search after and ensure the needs of local communities. ACOFOP was responsible of resolving conflicts between different communities, fight for and protect their rights, negotiate between local communities and the government, and assist local communities to manage the forests. The main objective of ACOFOP is to improve the standard and quality of life of Petén's communities, through sustainable management of the forest's resources”. Effective organizations such as ACOFOP is important to maintain representation, equity and legitimacy. At the beginning, participatory initiatives usually “privilege powerful, male elites and exclude women, youth and newcomers”. Knowledgeable people may be excluded, and people who were able to participate may lack “traditions and skills necessary for sustainable management or pursue livelihood strategies that run counter to ecological goals”. Later on, when realizing the importance of creating “accountability mechanisms that ensure distribution of social and economic benefits among the different groups”, the concessionaire entity started to involve more and more female participants.
The aims and intentions of establishing MBR as a community forestry project can be categorized into three types, which are improving environmental health, improve community wellbeingness, and make the management system flexible, fair, and effective. The factor that triggered establishment of MBR is deforestation and wasteful logging, which is cause by commercial enterprises taking away the rights of local communities. The FTDEP which used to dominate Petén region focused on extracting resources, while local communities which have the knowledge and intention to manage forests had their land occupied by FTDEP. To achieve the goals of creating a healthy community and community forest, this situation must be ended. With the common goal of improving communities’ degree of well-being and expanding the capacity to “mobilize authority, ability and willingness to restrict access and use”, the government and other environmental organizations paid efforts to legalize the protection of land and the rights of local communities. Despite the presence of issues such as the difficulty for the communities to negotiate with “diverse actors across the scales of highly complex conservation and development contexts”, and the inequity for selecting participatory initiatives, under the assistance of ACOFOP, the result of this community project is success. Local communities had won the rights to access, use, manage, and exclude. By having technological and financial support from ACOFOP, local communities’ skills of management had been improved on their already professional level. At later stages, this project also involved experts from different aspects. (e.g. local communities with traditional knowledge about the local ecosystem, weather, and topography; experts who have technical skills; concessionaires who can effectively negotiate with the government) to participate in management. Effectively, deforestation was reduced. After periods of time of community forest based management, ACOFOP, local communities, and the concessionaires won awards, which includes “Guatemalan Presidential Environment Award, UNDP Equatorial Award for Excellence, and the World Conservation Union (IUCN)'s prestigious Environmental Torch Award (Premio Antorcha)”. 
As the affected stakeholder, local communities have relatively low power when compared with the government. The stakeholders are more vulnerable when certain changes are made. However, as the government is aimed to establish a community forest and ensure community well-being, the voice of local communities will be taken respectfully. Thus, the stakeholder who are willing to stand out to fight for rights and negotiate with representatives of environmental organization, can have medium level of power. Overall, the power of local communities in this project will only be enhanced when they are united. Also, the negotiations can only be processed when claims made by local communities are reasonable and applicable. Thus, community members with more knowledge and skills will have higher power. The interested stakeholders involved in this community forest project have relatively higher power when compared with local communities. The government and government assigned organizations such as the National Council of Protected Areas (CONAP) and ACOFOP have the power of making changes in the flexible concession to achieve the goal of reducing deforestation and lessening, poverty of local communities (poverty caused by degradation of land) establishing a sustainable community forest, and protecting threatened forests by linking conservation and local livelihood objectives when compared with CONAP, ACOFO is more focused on improving the standard and quality of life of Petén's communities, through sustainable management of the forest's resources”. Therefore, ACOFOP have to deal with more trifles such as resolving conflicts between communities and assisting the communities to manage forests in MBR. In comparison, CONAP has higher power than ACOFOP, because ACOFOP is responsible of protecting and allocating resource access rights for local communities, while CONAP is responsible of approving the request ACOFOP brought on the behalf of local communities. Another interested stakeholder which played important role in the case of MBR will be the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). USAID have very high power, because it was responsible for designing and implementing the MBR. Moreover, from 1990 to 2004, USAID invested for about $40 million in the community forest project. USAID also promoted involvement of other international organizations such as the World Bank, KFW, and the Ford Foundation to invest for MBR as MBR’s funding.
To make the extraction of natural resources sustainable, the government can consider about set-ting up standards for the price of forest products. For example, the price of timber and non-timber products can be high enough to support the well-being of local communities, but not too high to arouse people’s wills for over-extraction. As the amount of forest products being harvest-ed exceed a sustainable amount, the price for each product should be reduced, so people will not aim at extracting too much resources. Also, when comparing with the case study of Naidu village in Yunnan Province, China, there is not too much information about harvesting rule that can be found in currently existing literature. If this kind of rules have not been established yet, the government should consider about doing so. For example, people who harvest during non-harvesting seasons, or people who harvest immature forest products, should be fined or prosecuted. Also, to protect and support the tradition of local communities, annual festivals can be estab-lished and celebrated. In order for the community forest project to be successful, local communi-ties should love, be enthusiastic about, and feel proud of their tradition.
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