Terracing with plants on steep slopes is an important measure to hinder soil erosion. One incentive to make such measures attractive is to offer “green interest rates,” i.e. access to microcredit linked to soil improvement activities. Thus, the local environment is improved.
Secure and stable access to high-quality seed is important for any farmer. In Guatemala, where there traditionally exists a great diversity of seed (maize, beans and tomatoes are among the local plants), the Development Fund supports the establishment of local seed banks, where farmers can store seed, borrow seed in case their previous crop failed, and keep collections of various local and traditional seed varieties.
Given that most of the population we work with are Maya Indians, it is important to keep in mind the cultural meanings of traditional plant varieties. Maize, for example, plays a central role in the Mayan creation myth, as this is described in their history (Popol Vuh). Our partners exchange traditional knowledge with each other and contribute to new knowledge. In a fast-changing culture, we experience the importance of revitalizing “forgotten knowledge.”
As regards local seed banks, we educate farmers on their maintenance, on how seeds are best stored, on quality control of seeds and on responsible management. Farmers participate in identifying the local plant varieties that are found in the vicinity, and in testing which of these they themselves want to use on their farm.
An important arena in addition to the local seed banks are the regional markets, which are held once or twice a year. Here, materials and knowledge are exchanged, presentations are arranged, and competitions held. A key effect of the markets is to increase self-confidence and pride in the important work performed locally. Press coverage is therefore also vital. The local seed banks have good connections with the national gene banks, from which they gain access to new varieties of seed and animals.
Forest conservation is important for the climate on both global and local levels. In Guatemala, forest management is closely associated with local self-determination, and there exist traditional ways of taking care of the forest. These are under strong pressure from other actors with economic interests. The Development Fund will therefore strengthen local forest management, and seek acceptance of this work as qualifying for climate incentives from the national authorities.
The Development Fund has designed its own model for climate adaptation. In Guatemala we use participatory methods in vulnerability analyses and in the development of action plans that give opportunities for access to incentives (e.g. green interest rates). This model, which we call Climate-Adapted Villages, is used in several local communities and leads to increased consciousness and ownership of measures that strengthen the capacity for adaptation.