World Development Perspectives | 2019
Youth, forests and community in the Maya Biosphere Reserve, Petén, Guatemala
Abstract Maya Biosphere Reserve is located in Northern Guatemala, covering more than two millions hectares of forested lands. Youth living in Uaxactun, Guatemala, are in daily contact with local forests. As is normal at their age, they hold particular aspirations and have concerns about the future. We engaged Uaxactun youth to understand better their views and perspectives, and the nature of their connection to local forests and the community as a whole. In this paper, we reflect on those conversations, beginning by introducing Uaxactun’s context within the Maya Biosphere Reserve, and provide background on the community’s history, land use, demographics, and their expansive forest concession managed by OMYC, a community-based organization. We then report on the outcomes of the youth engagement workshop (held in November 2017, with a total of 15 youth (mix of males and females), which revealed strong connections between village youth, their community and their forest, but also their limited knowledge of community projects and processes. The workshop became the catalyst for participating youth to approach community leaders to request a greater voice and engagement in community decision making and management. Finally, we reflect upon these developments and what they may mean for both Uaxactun and other communities in the region.