WHO WE ARE
Chico Mendes (fondly known as “El Proyecto” or “The Project”) is much more than just a reforestation organization in a rural town in Guatemala. With each tree planted, soil bag filled, and weed cleared, we sow the seeds of environmental justice in Guatemalan indigenous communities. We strive to protect forested lands from unjust exploitation, reverse climate change, empower the next generation of Guatemalans, stand up for local community decision-making, cultivate biodiversity, and inspire supporters from around the globe to take action.
How It All Began
In 1998, Jorge Armando López Pocol and two friends became disillusioned with the politics of their local environmental organization. With 2,000 seedlings and a small tree nursery near Armando's home in Pachaj, they began reforesting community lands affected by illegal logging. Over the following year, Armando’s friends moved on to other work, leaving him in charge of the fledgling project. Armando subsequently named the initiative the "Chico Mendes Reforestation Project" in honor of the famous Brazilian environmental activist who was murdered while peacefully defending the Amazon rainforest and the indigenous people who live there.
Community In ACTION
We See the
Where We Are Today
Since our conception, we have grown to include two tree nurseries and now plant over 15000 trees per year. We also provide local Cantel water committees with an additional 3000-5000 trees per year to plant around natural mountain springs. Our team includes several year-round employees, students from the Instituto de Educación Básica por Cooperativa Choquiac (IMEBCH) of Pachaj, and supporters from around the world who join us as volunteers. Over the past 19 years, we have planted thousands of alder, oak, pine, and other trees endemic to the Guatemalan western highlands.
In 2016, we reforested a 15 hectare parcel of government land surrounding the prison, La Granja Penal. The site borders the Samalá River, a local waterway contaminated by untreated sewage and chemical waste from nearby factories. Our forest of 15,000 new trees will both purify the river and silently protest government plans to expand the prison. In 2017, we planted nearly 20,000 trees, embarking on a 10-year project to reforest 252 hectares of Las Cumbres Paraxk'im de Cantel with 250,000 new trees.
Surrounded by green mountains and dotted with cornfields, Pachaj (pronounced "pach-ah") is a quiet village steeped in Mayan K'iche' culture. With a population of only 6500, everyone knows just about everyone and locals customarily greet one another in passing. Community members dedicate themselves to a variety of trades, from weaving, baking, and farming maize (corn), to teaching and managing small businesses. Many also find work in the city of Xela (pronounced "shey-la"), located 10 km from Pachaj and easily accessible through regular public bus service. Pachaj is located in the municipality of Cantel, department of Quetzaltenango (popularly known as Xela).