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Mennonite Men Partners Plant Over 30,000 Trees in Guatemala

12/11/2023 By: Mennonite Men

Mennonite Men Partners Plant Over 30,000 Trees in Guatemala

​     On Oct. 22, 2022, EPIC, the Ecumenical Project for International Cooperation, Inc., received $20,000 from Mennonite Men to facilitate the planting of 20,000 trees by the Baja Verapaz Sustainable Agriculture and Health Education Program. Program staff expects to greatly exceed planting expectations with up to 34,248 trees planted this grant year. The exact number of trees that are planted will be known when the tree planting season has finished.

     Trees were planted this grant year in 18 communities with a total of 277 families involved in planting. These families receive the trees without cost, but they are not paid anything for all of the work they do carrying the trees to the planting locations (sometimes long distances), digging the large holes for planting, and caring for the trees.

     About 40% of the trees will be used in reforestation of badly eroding land. Frequently this serious deforestation has been caused by powerful lumbering companies or wealthy individuals coming in and cutting forests illegally. The deforestation causes soil erosion and multiple negative effects in the environment. Perhaps one of the most serious effects is that the small streams on which local populations depend for their farm and household use have less water. Doing reforestation is the most difficult work of the project.

Photo: (Right) Members of the village of Chivaquito are planting seeds of several varieties of native trees in a seed bed they have prepared. Note that the seed bed is near water so that in the dry season it can be watered. (Below) Women of the group transplant the seedlings from the seedbed into individual grow bags.

     Approximately 30% of the trees will be planted on the farms of local participants in a wide variety of small agroforestry projects. These consist of a managed mix of trees planted to produce various products: food to eat or sell, fodder for livestock by cutting lower tree branches, lumber for houses, sustainably grown firewood for the family, etc. Producing lumber and fuelwood from these plantings protect trees from being removed from more valuable intact forest ecosystems. The objective is to restore the land while also producing an economic advantage for the farm family.

     Another on-the-farm way the trees will be used is to create living fences. Planting rows of cypress trees can solve a major problem contributing to deforestation in the region. Farmers cut down small native trees to make fence posts for barbed wire fences, but the life of these fence posts is only 6 to 8 years. Planting rows of cypress as living fences solves this cause of deforestation. About 28% of the trees planted will become living fences.

     To curb the consumption of junk foods and to improve local nutrition, especially that of children, 375 grafted fruit trees have been planted this grant year. These have mostly been planted by women relatively close to their homes to enable easy access to the fruit and to be able to bring water to the trees in very dry weather

     Many of the trees were grown on local family farms before being transported to their final planting spots. A total of 54 families were actively involved in creating tree nurseries to produce trees for transplanting. These program participants had hoped to produce many more trees than they did, but their nurseries suffered large losses because of drought and the much hotter than normal temperatures that were experienced in Guatemala as a result of climate change.

     The climate and food security situation is very worrisome in this area. The temperatures this year have been unprecedented, and for several years most of the Baja Verapaz region has experienced droughts and the rainfall that has arrived has been erratic and not with the normal timing. As a response to these challenges, the leaders of the Baja Verapaz program are planting only native trees and those of other regions that have been shown to be adapted to a dry area. However, they are continually searching for more drought resistant varieties to mitigate the climate crisis.

     This large grant and planting project follows a similar grant and project in 2022, where Mennonite Men granted 20,000 and EPIC Baja Verapaz Sustainable Agriculture Program planted 35,385 trees. You can read about Don Antonio and Doña Hermelinda who, with their family, helped to supply trees for the project in their nursery.

     Once other large-scale tree projects like this receive sufficient funding and are completed in 2024, Mennonite Men's JoinTrees program will be 1/3 of the way toward its goal of planting one million trees by as a way to combat climate change. Read more about the program and ways you can get involved at


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