Tropical forest protection and watershed management in the Trifinio region

Project description

Title: Conservation of tropical forests and watershed management in the Trifinio region (El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras)
Commissioned by: German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ)
Countries: Central America; El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras
Lead executing agency: Trinational Commission for the Trifinio Plan (Comisión Trinacional del Plan Trifinio)
Overall term: 2009 to 2017

Image Delimitación zona de recarga hídrica Region Trifinio, Honduras. With guidance from the project, representatives of local water authorities, municipalities and the national forestry authority jointly define the Quebrada Oscura watershed. © GIZ


The Trifinio region, which encompasses 7,500 square metres of border areas between El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, is strategically important to these three countries. Home to a vital forest ecosystem, this region is also the area of origin for three rivers that are essential water sources for the respective countries.

Situated within the Central American arid belt, the region is already facing significant effects related to climate change, and the local population has very limited options for adapting to these effects. 70 per cent of the region’s population lives in rural areas and many of its inhabitants suffer from extreme poverty. The majority of households operate small family farms with an average size of 0.2 to 2 hectares that only achieve low productivity and are subsistence oriented.

A technical cooperation agreement targeting sustainable transboundary sustainable natural resource management in the Trifinio region was concluded in 1986. Ongoing and steadily expanding cooperation supported by international agencies has since resulted in an international treaty for implementing the Trifinio development plan, in which the region has been designated as an indivisible ecological unit.
The Trinational Commission for the Trifinio Plan (CTPT) was established with the aim of implementing the plan. The commission's executive secretariat carries out regional projects, financed through both national funds and international donors, and assumes a coordinating function for the associated stakeholders and initiatives.

However, the technical, personnel and financial capacities of the main stakeholders in the region, including the CTPT, remain limited. Available models for the sustainable and adapted use of natural resources have so far only witnessed sparse implementation. The farmers are not sufficiently organised within supply chains and have little experience with marketing their products. Coordination and cooperation related to natural resource management and supply chains is still lacking among the CTPT, national sector institutions, municipalities and other stakeholders.


The key stakeholders in the Trifinio region work together in a cooperative and coordinated manner in the areas of natural resource management and supply chains. The role of the Trinational Commission for the Trifinio Plan (CTPT) as a regional coordinating institution and in relation to supporting sector and transboundary planning processes is strengthened.

Trifinio Region, Guatemala. With training provided through the project, Melbis Ortíz became an agricultural village advisor. Here he demonstrates how to prepare bocashi, a plant-based fertiliser, in the Mezcal watershed. © GIZ


The project utilises a multi-level approach that aims to enhance the capabilities of the Trinational Commission for the Trifinio Plan (CTPT) in terms of planning, executing, monitoring and evaluating programmes and activities in Trifinio and in terms of knowledge management and communication.

Key regional stakeholders, such as branch offices of authorities responsible for protected areas and forestry, community associations and civic organisations, receive advice to improve decision-making processes and to plan and implement measures targeting natural resource management. The project also strongly incorporates factors related to climate change.

It supports local state and non-state advisory centres, training institutes and farmer groups in disseminating models of sustainable natural resource management and further developing the associated supply chains. This includes agroforestry models such as coffee, avocado and peach production, practices for livestock and pasture farming, and models for preserving the availability of water and forests through compensation measures.

The project particularly focuses on supporting women and indigenous segments of the population. A major portion of project activities are being carried out by the GOPA consulting firm.

Results achieved so far

87 per cent of the smallholder farms receiving support through the project, one third of which are operated by women, achieved an average revenue of USD 1,320 per hectare in 2015, an increase of 137 per cent. The shift in land use from corn and bean production to agroforestry systems has led to a decline in erosion of between 15 and 45 per cent.

The forestry model of compensation payments for water as an ecosystem service is being implemented in 21 communities, to the benefit of nearly 3,000 families. At present, financial resources for compensation payments and forest conservation are being generated through a payment mechanism linked to the price of water. The ‘institutional agreements on the management and preservation of watersheds through compensation payments for ecosystem services in the area of water’ that is being supported by the project in Marroquín, Honduras, and El Volcán, Guatemala serve as innovative instruments for locally safeguarding the sustainability of the compensation mechanisms in each of the watershed areas.

Surveys have confirmed that strengthening the Trinational Commission for the Trifinio Plan in relation to the key issues of communication and visibility has contributed to fostering dialogue and communication with other stakeholders as well as to implementing a management and evaluation system for improving inter-institutional coordination.

Trifinio Region, Guatemala. Members from the executive level of the Trinational Commission for the Trifinio Plan during a workshop addressing preliminary integral operative planning for the institution, held in Antigua, Guatemala. © GIZ


Further information