The Central American Community Agro-forestry Indigenous and Peasant Co-ordination Association, known as CICAFOC, operates in Central America --involving Guatemala, Belize, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama-- and is a community-based social, non profit-making organisation, gathering organised associations, co-operatives, federations and community groups of small and medium sized agro-forestry producers, indigenous people and peasants. These groups are working to achieve access, use and management of natural resources, seeking community food security and economic sustainability in harmony with the environment.
CICAFOC was formally established in June 1994, as a result of a series of efforts, meetings and exchange among the different community experiences in the region that are working towards natural resource management. As a process, it has its own initiatives, experience, a vision placed on self-sufficiency, clear principles of transparency and trust, promoting tools making natural resource use and management possible.
Among its strategic objectives is the strengthening of technical capacity and local knowledge of natural resource management, the identification of the capacity of socio-productive experience with a view to making a better use of forests as a local development alternative to enhance their living conditions.
The opening up of political fora at a local, national and regional level has strengthened this process in construction and the experience of the indigenous and peasant communities has achieved an enhancement of the context for negotiations with local, national and regional governments. A good methodology has been to share experience among organisations. This horizontal exchange has made it possible to transmit lessons and techniques learnt to improve the process. It has also helped to understand that CICAFOC is an organisation promoting local processes that does not represent the groups and does not attempt to substitute them. Its input is to facilitate fora for negotiation with Universities, co-operation bodies, governments and NGOs, and to seek orchestration and dialogue among the parties.
CICAFOC has launched a new style of impact in the Central American region because it seeks technical and financial support that the groups can access. It is an organisation with socio-productive proposals aimed at strengthening local groups and already has 1:036,670 families involved in the project.
With regard to forest use and management, it should be noted that out of a total of 18 million hectares of forest cover in the Central American region, peasant and indigenous communities participating in the process manage 2:602,425 hectares --375,749 in agro-forestry systems. Thus, the percentage of forest cover in the region in the hands of CICAFOC member groups is 14,5 %, reflecting an encouraging situation at a time when increasingly, communities all over the world are struggling to recover access to and management of natural resources, once their source of life and now taken away from them by the successive central powers.
Based on numerous experiences of peasant, indigenous and Afro-descendants working towards the development of socio-productive proposals strengthening Central American biodiversity, CICAFOC emphasises the need for recognition of the existence of a Community Eco-Development Corridor (Corredor de Ecodesarrollo Comunitario - CEM), as an on-going proposal which is also a community regional development strategy. CEM is framed in a modern concept of forest conservation based on appropriate use and management of natural resources by the communities depending on them. Experience has shown that this approach is much more effective than demarking protected areas and excluding the local populations. On the contrary, for CEM, the involvement of local populations in resource management and use is precisely what ensures their long-term sustainability, while improving the peoples’ living conditions.
By Alberto Chinchilla, Regional Resource Person, Central American Community Agroforestry Indigenous and Peasant Coordination Association (Asociación Coordinadora Indígena y Campesina de Agroforestería Comunitaria Centroamericana - ACICAFOC), e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org , web page: http://www.acicafoc.org