Meet Carmen: Guatemalan landscape heroine

Carmen Gómez from San Marcos, Guatemala, says the greatest achievement in her community, 31 de Julio, has been gathering women, youth, and men together to work in unity in order to protect the area’s mangrove ecosystem.

Carmen works to protect the mangrove ecosystem in Guatemala.

Carmen works to protect the mangrove ecosystem in Guatemala.

This community is located on the Pacific coast of Guatemala which is one of the most important agricultural areas in the country. Here, large-scale production of bananas, oil palm, and sugarcane flourishes. 

However, the lack of natural resources governance, historical deforestation and the inefficient use of water by upstream and downstream stakeholders threaten the water supply, the mangrove ecosystem, soil quality, and the local livelihoods in the landscape.

A community leader

Solidaridad and its partners have worked with stakeholders in the 31 de Julio community, which is located within a mangrove landscape, through the LandScale pilot. In May 2021, the LandScale consortium launched a campaign called “Sembrando Huella”, promoted by the National Forest Institute (INAB) in Guatemala. Carmen is one of the community stakeholders, and she actively participates in mangrove restoration and many other activities.

An illustration of how the mangrove ecosystem works.

Mangroves have the capacity to absorb up to four times more carbon dioxide per area than upland terrestrial forests. The remarkable traits of the mangrove ecosystem translate into a wide variety of goods and services that we benefit from.

Carmen and José Luis López, Solidaridad's Biodiversity manager.
Carmen and José Luis López, Solidaridad’s Biodiversity manager.

Carmen is a leader working to promote conservation practices in the landscape. She is the president of her community’s environment and reforestation committee and says the biggest challenge has been raising awareness and changing behaviors around single-use plastics for community members and visitors. The community would like to stop single-use plastic entirely and has been encouraging people not to leave behind any trash or waste when visiting the mangroves.

The challenge is great, however, Carmen points out that the community has come together to face it; it is exciting to learn of the great impacts that have been achieved through the mangrove restoration initiative. The community is filled with satisfaction when they highlight their progress and efforts to visitors and other stakeholders on this topic.

A very important point, which has been achieved thanks to the organizations that are supporting us, is that the group is more united and balanced in terms of gender equality. Women and men work equally. We are also giving young people the opportunity to get involved.

Through smiles and laughter, Sandra López shares her appreciation for Carmen and the work she performs for the 31 de Julio community in San Marcos, Guatemala.

Her neighbors say they are grateful for Carmen’s work in the community. “Not many of us are willing to dedicate so much time working on the landscape and supporting our community asCarmen does,” said Sandra López, a community member. “In the mangrove restoration project, Carmen’s enthusiasm motivates others in the community to work. She is the reason we have been able to work with Solidaridad and the other organizations.”

An advocate for the inclusion of women and youth

For Carmen, it’s important to include all the people in the landscape, if they are involved, they can appreciate the work done. She is an advocate for the inclusion of youth, children and women in conservation efforts. She believes that if young people and children are left out of conservation efforts, then they won’t be aware of the damage they can cause through their actions. 

Since they are children, they don’t know the procedure involved in planting trees or the care they require. It is important that they participate, so they see the work that is needed and to take better care of the progress already made. 


Also, we need to include women and motivate them, so that they gain self-confidence, says Carmen. She uses a short speech and a pep talk that helps her encourage women in her community to participate in landscaping efforts when they are reluctant to get involved.

I would ask the male partners to motivate their wives and daughters, to give them the opportunity to excel. That they are able to study and be trained, that they should have access to options and opportunities. Because remember that these men will not be there forever. If we raise our daughters to be afraid, they will continue to be. We have to change the idea that women “only belong home”.