zeroCO2 was born in Guatemala, where today we collaborate with around 60 farming communities: all of them have their own essence, history, trajectory, and meaning. Each of them expresses its own identity and commitment to local development and environmental protection in a unique way. 

Roots: the story of Monte Carmelo 

Monte Carmelo is a small farming community born five years ago in the Petén region in north of Guatemala. Personal stories, heterogeneous families, and various cultures merge in the community’s daily life, where people share social and rural development objectives, resistance to climate change and the superpower of agricultural multinationals. 

Roberto, Monte Carmelo, Guatemala 2022

The land question in Guatemala

After the 1996 Peace Accords – sealed after 36 years of civil war, the Guatemalan government granted credits to peasants or families without lands or whose properties were located in protected areas to rent land pieces they would pay back in the future. However, the redistribution measures put in place were not effective: on the one hand, many of the allocated plots were unproductive and overpriced; on the other hand, the government only “redistributed” the hectares of land under concession without providing the peasantry with training or the means to cultivate the land.

Furthermore, foreign multinational corporations in Guatemala hold a historically negative reputation: agribusiness is mainly responsible for the phenomenon of land grabbing and the extraction of local raw materials for agricultural products in other parts of the world. In 2003, Guatemala was still the country in Central America with the highest level of unequal land redistribution, with 78% of arable land controlled by large landowners.


Time of change: the Ley Pro Bosque and the arrival of zeroCO2

In 2015, the Guatemalan State promulgated the Ley Pro Bosque (Pro-Forest Law), which aims to encourage all agricultural activities promoting the restoration of degraded forests, the establishment and management of ecosystemic services, forest plantations and agroforestry systems, as well as the safeguarding of native forests. This law grants incentives to social entities, indigenous communities or private entities that carry out activities of this kind. 

It was 2020 when zeroCO2 arrived, offering trees to reforest the area. “However, the local peasantry welcomed us with distrust,” says Cecilia Monari, head of Forestry and Operations at zeroCO2. To contextualise the situation: the population had already received promises from public institutions and national and multinational private companies – which are also the ones responsible for deforestation in Guatemala.

Although they accepted our proposal, they believed this project was “another promise” to be added to the unrealised hopes” list. “When we arrived with 20,000 trees, no one appeared at first. But we did not give up and started planting trees in the designated plots, just as we had promised them.  When they saw what was happening, more and more people started to join and help us with the planting process,” shares Cecilia. “They offered us help, food, and a shower. And the food was not just any dish: it was a caldo de gallina, a typical dish that means family, closeness, and trust.” And this bond endures until today. 

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Supporting reforestation in Guatemala.


Environmental protection
330 Kg of CO2 offset


A sustainable community model

In Monte Carmelo, zeroCO2 donates and plants forest trees, for which the communities can receive financial aid through the Pro Bosque Law, and fruit trees. The trees received pushed Monte Carmelo to integrate sustainability in their community processes from an environmental, economic and social perspective. Through caring for seeds, trees, leaves, and fruits, people’s environmental awareness increased. Furthermore, agricultural activities provided them with a deeper sense of collective entrepreneurship: agricultural training and increasing crop yields have promoted crop diversification and boosted the monetary revenues accrued.

In Monte Carmelo, families do not only share activities, but they also collectively invest the proceeds into concrete collaborative social projects: in 2021, the money raised from the pineapple crops was allocated to the construction of a school. Additionally, some of the plots are fully managed by groups of women and mothers who were left alone when their husbands moved into the United States. 

Receiving a tree and taking care of it may seem like an individual activity. Still, community investment of the proceeds in human development and educational projects is the kind of sustainable independence growing in Monte Carmelo.

Written and translated by Alice Spada


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