For more than 12 years, the Colectivo Madreselva has been working closely with the community of San Buenaventura in the municipality of Chuarrancho in Guatemala, supporting their resistance and restoration efforts to protect and clean up the Motagua River. Initially, they supported the community’s tireless struggle against the construction of the Sisimite hydroelectric dam by the company GENASA on the Motagua River, a project that was canceled in April 2021 by the Guatemalan Ministry of Energy and Mines. Now they continue to collaborate, particularly with the women of the community in their efforts for the recovery of the river and the restoration of its ecosystems.
Only a few decades ago, the municipality of Chuarrancho had a diverse forest ecosystem of sub-tropical rainforests and a healthy water basin. However, logging, cattle ranching, and grain production in the area, without soil conservation and regeneration practices, have caused uncontrollable deforestation and soil erosion, further exacerbated by the impacts of the climate crisis. Today, the surface water sources (rivers and springs) are polluted and unfit for human consumption, mostly as a result of sewage discharge from municipalities in the department of Guatemala. In San Buenaventura specifically, the contamination of the Motagua River directly affects the community, and especially the women. As women, they are traditionally responsible for caregiving tasks and so the lack of access to the drinking water means that their workday is overloaded, as the search for water for cooking and washing, among other tasks, represents long hours of walking and carrying loads each day.
The Movimiento Juvenil Por El Motagua (Youth Movement for El Motagua) was key in the struggle against GENASA, strengthening the community organization of the inhabitants of San Buenaventura. Young women, in particular, played an important leadership role in community decision-making. After more than 10 years of collective struggle, they continue to organize in the defense of the Motagua River. For them, recovering this river means recovering life. During the last few years, they have developed their ecological agenda and built various strategies for the recovery of the river, among them:
- Alliances and awareness campaigns with neighboring communities to present and expose the problems and seek solutions with the municipality, ensuring the participation of women and young people in these spaces,
- Campaigns to collect native seeds, clean and reforest the riverbanks,
- Construction of a water reservoir to capture rainwater and water from the aquifers to supply the community during the dry season.
Throughout this period, the Colectivo Madreselva has accompanied these processes through different trainings. Thus, at the end of 2022, together with the International Analog Forestry Network (IAFN), an introductory workshop was held on the principles of Analog Forestry, to complement many of the reforestation practices that were already being carried out. Through the workshop, the women saw the importance of retaining and regenerating the forest around the reservoir and river to plant and capture water. In 2023, with the recovery of native seeds and family nurseries in the community, a demonstration site of Analog Forestry will be developed on the plot of one of the young women who is part of the group.
From San Buenaventura, the struggle and resistance of the indigenous and local community, particularly from the leadership and proposals of women, will not stop until ensure the respect and care of their territories, their way of life, and their way of making decisions.