Make people live off
the Land sustainably

Defending indigenous Ixil lands in Guatemala

Supporting community organization and the training and participation of over 800 young people in the economic development of Ixil Indian lands

In partnership with Fundamaya

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Click on the video below to see the project in action.

Video by Frédéric Apollin

The Ixil region is an indigenous territory located in the north of the El Quiché department in Guatemala. It has a dense population—most of whom are young people—and includes the towns of Santa María Nebaj, San Gaspar Chajul and San Juan Cotzal. In the early '80s, the slash-and-burn methods used by the Guatemalan army took a heavy toll on the region. In just two years, almost all the communities were destroyed by the army. According to the Historical Clarification Commission, 16% of the Ixil population was massacred. Survivors had to flee the region or go into hiding in the mountains. In the mountains, the communities defended their way of life, their history, their culture and their right to change their situation (slavery, exploitation, etc.). Though the democracy-building process following the peace accords didn't bring about deep structural change, it did allow civil society and actors in the community to re-emerge.

This project helps:

  1. Support 200 ancestral Ixil community authorities and the indigenous town halls in Chajul, Cotzal and Nebaj, so that they can have greater influence in dealings with the government and companies. They were successful in getting a group of companies who wanted to operate a baryte mine in their region to back out, and they have resolved a number of local conflicts through the Mayan Ixil legal system.
  2. Support the integration of 200 young people by strengthening the Network of Young People. The network has launched a project for 25 young farmers—13 women and 12 men from six different communities—giving them access to family lands and financial support to help them set up as smallholders. The project also supports the Ixil University, which was founded in 2011 by FUNDAMAYA, AVSF and the ancestral authorities of the Ixil region. The university is dedicated to saving the knowledge, savoir faire and traditions of the Mayan Ixil communities, and working to build a future based on respect, dignity, equal rights and unity through cultural diversity.
  3. Promote smallholder and indigenous farming systems that improve food sovereignty and allow smallholders to increase their income. In an effort to save ancestral knowledge and practices, smallholder competitions were organized to identify and promote the families and communities with the most products, the best products and the greatest variety of products. More than 420 families from 38 communities are taking part and sharing local knowledge, saving traditional practices and cultures and making smallholders proud of their heritage. The project has helped 195 smallholder families diversify their land, with more than 70 different varieties for a total of 130 hectares of different crops. Two weekly smallholder markets have also been set up.

This project is funded by the European Union and the Provictimis Foundation.