Vivamos Mejor

Project title

Life thanks to water: Securing the basis for survival in the Yatza Valley, Guatemala.

Project Teaser

Vivamos Mejor works with local farmer communities and authorities in Guatemala, to improve how they manage water, forests and soil - the basis of their livelihoods. They take an integrated approach based on the implementation of watershed management plans, education and capacity building, recovery of deforested areas to reduce erosion, use of efficient stoves to reduce firewood consumption, and adoption of organic farming for better yields and income.

Active countries

Key Figures

Project Results

Results in the previous project (2015-2017):

• The watershed management plan has been elaborated.
• 118 hectares reforested in cooperation with the population in the adjacent watershed.
• 974 families sensitized to the economical use and protection of their natural resources.
• Efficient stoves installed in 211 families.
• Supported coffee producers were able to sell more coffee and at a 85% higher price than before.

Vegetation type

Focused on native wild species. Efforts have included the production of seedlings from 35 different endangered, endemic, and keystone species, including Juglans olanchana (Walnut), Quercus benthamii (Oak), Quercus skinneri (Oak), Abies guatemalensis (Guatemalan fir), amongst others. The seeds come from different ecosystems: pine-oak forest, cloud forest, rain forest and seasonal dry forest.

Climate conditions

Short, heavy rainy seasons are followed by longer and more intensive periods of drought in which water is scarce.

Funding Sources

Funding Government
Funding Internal
Funding Religious groups
Funding International Aid
Funding Private Sponsoring
Funding Inhabitants


Vivamos Mejor
Organisation contact
Michael Willisch
Hermetschloostrasse 70
Postal code


Project background

Forests, water and healthy soils are the basis for the survival of the 22,000 indigenous people in the Yatza Valley, in western Guatemala. They live off subsistence agriculture. Their forests protect them from natural events and regulate the water cycle. Their fields provide them with food.These bases of survival are at risk due to over- exploitation and climatic changes: short, heavy rainy seasons are followed by longer and more intensive periods of drought in which water is scarce. With this project, Vivamos Mejor is helping the inhabitants of the upper reaches of the Yatza water catchment area to preserve their forests, waters and soils for the next generation and the valley's 22,000 water consumers.

Project Goals

  • The authorities in the Yatza estuary have technical knowledge of the water situation and the central storage areas.
  • The water catchment committee is organisationally strengthened and can implement the water area plan.
  • 800 hectares of forest are protected and 63 hectares of degraded deforested area have been reforested.
  • 30 ha of degenerated agricultural land has been converted to sustainable organic farming.

Project Activities

Awareness-raising and decision basis
135 community and village representatives on the upper reaches of the Yatza Valley are sensitized to the water cycle and the effects of climate change. Together with them, Vivamos Mejor's partner has already drawn up a watershed management plan. In a next step, an experienced geologist will supplement this plan with clear maps of the most important water resources. Vivamos Mejor presents these to the authorities in the valley and supports them in protecting strategic areas. In addition, 325 residents in 8 villages are being educated with workshops on climate change, raising their awareness of the importance of the natural basis for survival.

Reforestation and efficient cooking ovens
8 village communities are being helped to use their forests more sustainably. Normally, the families cook with wood that they cut uncontrollably, but the consumption of 150 families is being reduced with efficient stoves that save 50% wood and store heat.
At community level, Vivamos Mejor is helping the authorities with seedlings and technical advice to reforest 63 hectares of forest in strategic locations and protect forests from devastating fires.

Strengthening the Watershed Committee
In the previous project (2015-2017), representatives of the municipalities and citizens of the three political municipalities founded an overarching watershed managing committee. This community of interest will now be strengthened in terms of organisation and by training its members so they can implement the developed watershed management plan.

More productive, sustainable cultivation
Because farmers produce in an unbalanced and unsustainable manner, they harvest too little. As a consequence, they clear the forest for new crops. In order to stop this process, Vivamos Mejor will support the farmers to achieve better yields. An experienced agronomist trains 60 small farmers in sustainable organic coffee cultivation, supports them with higher-yielding plants and trains 35 small farmers in bee-keeping. In addition, farmers are supported so they can sell their coffee to a Fairtrade market channel.

Partnerships & Collaborations

sustinova logo

Sustinova is a non-profit organisation based in Zurich, Switzerland, and devoted to promoting Sustainability in the NGO area.

As a partner, Sustinova provides operational support to Reforestation World in its public activities.

ETH Zurich - Chair of Ecosystem Management

The Chair of Ecosystem management at the ETH Zürich organised the Latsis Symposium ETH 2018 “Scaling-up forest Restoration”, on June 6-7 & 9, 2018.

Reforestation World collaborated with the link to NGOs, practitioners and others stakeholders in the field of forest restoration.