SICA: Conservation and sustainable use of the Selva Maya (completed)

Project description

Title: Protection and sustainable use of the Selva Maya
Commissioned by: German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ)
Country: Belize, Guatemala, Mexico
Lead executing agency: Central American Commission for Environment and Development (CCAD)
Overall term: 2011 to 2019

Selva Maya. Ramón nuts © GIZ


The Selva Maya is a tropical forest region extending over Belize, northern Guatemala and south-eastern Mexico. It is the most extensive tropical rainforest of Mesoamerica and covers an area of more than four million hectares of protected land. The Selva Maya hosts an extraordinary biological diversity with over 20 different ecosystems that reach from the evergreen rainforests of Petén to the dry forests of the northern Yucatan peninsula. 

These ecosystems play an important role in terms of water protection and landscape connectivity. The forest is a natural habitat to many species; many of which are endangered. Furthermore, it is of great importance to all three countries, as a safeguard for the water, biodiversity and natural resources in the area. However, the Selva Maya is exposed to extreme pressures that strongly compromise its short and long-term viability and operability. The main reasons are forest fires, illegal logging and exploitation of flora and fauna as well as excessive use of pesticides and fragmentation of the ecosystems. Vast areas of the forests have been destroyed by wildfires, at the hands of both large-scale farmers and the rural population, that depend on pastures and farmland for their livelihoods.

Additionally, the borders between the three countries that share the natural resources of the Selva Maya, emphasise the challenge of implementing joint strategies to mitigate these threats.


Key governmental and civil society actors are carrying out coordinated measures for the protection and sustainable use of biodiversity and natural resources in the Selva Maya.


Recognising that one of the central challenges in the area is the protection and conservation of the Selva Maya, the project seeks to strengthen adequate coordination and regional cooperation that allows to consolidate the conservation of this cross-border region through the sustainable use of its natural resources in the long term.
The programme operates in Belize, Guatemala and Mexico, where it cooperates with the institutions responsible for the protected areas, as well as with other governmental and civil society organisations whose aims include the protection and sustainable use of the Selva Maya. National counterparts are the Forest Department in Belize, the national nature conservation authority CONAP in Guatemala and the national nature conservation authority CONANP in Mexico. 
To promote its protection and sustainable use, the programme conducts activities in four thematic areas:

  • Protected areas and biodiversity
  • Land use planning, taking environmental protection into consideration
  • Sustainable income generating alternatives
  • Environmental governance in the Selva Maya region

The activities in Belize are implemented by IP Consult, in cooperation with the ECO Consulting Group.

A view of the Selva Maya © GIZ


Since the start of the project, the following results have been achieved, among others:

  • Five protected areas in the Selva Maya are implementing updated management plans . The Forest Department (FD) has a five-year Strategic Action Plan. 
  • An environmental planning approach has promoted the development and implementation of territorial management tools such as the Municipal Development and Territorial Planning Plan of the municipality of Poptún in the Petén department in Guatemala, and strengthened the Municipal Council for Sustainable Rural Development in Calakmul in Mexico.
  • Various instruments and models were developed and implemented to improve the management of the Selva Maya, including the local certification model for sustainable products and services: Sello Colectivo Calakmul (SCC) in Mexico. More than 30 target groups in the three countries have enhanced their technical, organisational and management capacities. 
  • More than 10,000 hectares of forest fires have been combated due to the increased capacity of more than 200 community brigades in Bala'an K'aax and Calakmul, Mexico. In seven municipalities, agricultural fires were prevented by the introduction of the Forest Fire Early Warning System in the Petén department in Guatemala.
  • In Calakmul in Mexico, the certification of “Areas Designated Voluntarily for Conservation” (ADVC) has increased the area of protected tropical forests by almost 100,000 hectares, thus improving ecological connectivity.
  • More than 700 people have improved their skills in handling non-wood products (honey and Ramón seeds). More than 3,000 families in the three countries benefit from the economic strengthening of these value chains.
  • Under different training models based on participatory methodologies, in Guatemala and Belize more than 300 families have diversified their land by farming it agroecologically, reducing the use of chemicals and agricultural burns. In the Petén department in Guatemala, 60 producers implement sustainable cattle raising practices on 400 hectares of land. 
  • The Selva Maya Strategic Coordination Group (GEC), founded in 2015, provides a platform for exchange and coordination as well as for regional decision making.
  • With the formation of the Operative Coordination Group (GOC) a platform for the representation of interests at the technical and operational level is active and fosters cross-border coordination. 

Additional information