Rural Development and Adaptation to Climate Change

Project description

Title: Rural Development and Adaptation to Climate Change
Commissioned by: German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ)
Country: Guatemala
Lead executing agency: Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources of the Republic of Guatemala (MARN)
Overall term: 2013 to 2018



Guatemala contributes only 0.5% to global greenhouse gas emissions. Yet due to its geographical location the country is particularly affected by the impacts of climate change: hurricanes, extreme rainfall and increasingly prolonged periods of drought. The quality of overused resources such as soil, forest and water is in decline. Guatemala is one of the ten countries most affected by climate change worldwide.

To compound the situation, poverty and population growth are leading to farmers overusing the soil and shifting the cultivation line. This minimises productivity and the resilience of ecosystems to the effects of climate change.

In recent years, Guatemala has been hit by several tropical storms of great intensity: Hurricanes Mitch (1998), Stan (2005) and Agatha (2010). Hurricane Stan alone caused damage equating to 3% of the country’s gross domestic product.

Weak, decentralised structures impede the implementation of national climate change and rural development policy.

95% of all surface water bodies in the country are highly polluted (Rio Montagua). This puts the water supply of rural communities in peril. Alongside the impacts of climate change, insufficient resources and a lack of expertise make it difficult to ensure the sustainable management of the water supply.


In selected regions, national ministries, regional administrations, the private sector and civil society organisations implement measures in the field of environmental management and adaptation to climate change in a coordinated manner.


The programme aims to strike a balance between protecting and using resources. It develops measures in fields such as erosion protection in small water catchment areas and promotes the efficient utilisation of natural resources. Measures for protecting drinking water sources, conserving drinking water and developing waste water treatment are carried out to improve access to drinking water and water supply for rural smallholders, ultimately increasing agricultural production and reducing poverty and malnutrition.

Water and soil use are improved at various stages of selected value chains, such as the production of coffee and green beans, in order to achieve more efficient agricultural production that is also more resistant to the effects of climate change. This service is rendered by a consulting firm.

The programme supports municipal administrations in implementing regulatory frameworks and policies for the protection and sustainable utilisation of natural resources. The programme advises municipalities on how to put into effect structural and regulatory measures by mutual agreement with the affected population, for example, provisions regarding the protection of municipal water catchment areas and regulations governing the slash-and-burn clearance of land for agricultural use. In addition, the municipalities and the population jointly implement measures in the areas of erosion protection, reforestation and the reinforcement of riverbanks. Advisory support is provided in the planning of municipal sewage plants.

The programme provides policy advice to the environment and the planning ministries and supports their knowledge management systems. Results achieved in the pilot provinces of El Progreso and Baja Verapaz are discussed and disseminated at a national level to provide models for other regions. One example is the decision by the Guatemalan National Council for Urban and Rural Development (CONADUR) to support environmental projects in the municipalities in future.

In addition to the Ministry of Environment, the programme also collaborates with the Ministry of Agriculture (MAGA), the agriculture ministry's climate change unit, the National Institute for Seismology, Vulcanology, Meteorology and Hydrology (INSUVMEV) and the National Planning Secretariat (SEGEPLAN).

Support for project implementation comes from the consulting firm GOPA which is helping selected municipalities build their capacity to manage water catchment areas and treat wastewater, with a view to increasing their resilience to climate change.


First step towards a sustainable water supply for the city of Salamá (Baja Verapaz): in consultation with the municipal administration, especially the mayor, the local council has decided to declare the water catchment area of Rio Cachil a protected area.

In Morazán, El Progreso, a provision regarding extensive slash-and-burn practices in that region is ready for implementation. It has been drafted in cooperation with the municipal administration.

In Rabinal, San Miguel Chicaj and Cobulco, more than 60 municipal administration employees and technicians have received several days of training on environmental policy and implementation measures.

Municipal environmental administration units have been established in six selected communities in cooperation with the local authorities.


In these communities, 19 of 42 planned measures for the protection of water catchment areas and adaptation to climate change are being carried out. The communities contribute at least half of the funds for these measures (November 2014).

In October 2014, the programme organised the first international conference on rural development and adaptation to climate change in Guatemala and Latin America. It attracted 300 participants from all the country's departments as well as from 20 other countries.