In 2006 The Nature Conservancy facilitated one of the largest debt-for-nature swaps in history — and scored a significant victory for tropical forest conservation in Guatemala in the process.
Under the agreement, the U.S. government is forgiving $24 million in debt owed to it by Guatemala. This $24 million instead is being used to finance forest conservation in Guatemala over 15 years — efforts that will protect crucial habitat for some of the most abundant biodiversity on the planet.
Guatemala has a rich cultural heritage and unique biodiversity. Jaguars, ocelots, scarlet macaws, and howler monkeys make their home in the country’s amazing tropical forests, which are also a refuge for rare and endangered species. In addition to the country’s natural beauty, Guatemala is also home to breathtaking ancient Mayan ruins.
The main threats to Guatemala’s tropical forests are improper agricultural practices, natural disasters and large-scale development projects. The $24 million is being distributed from a Conservation Trust Fund and used to conserve Guatemala’s magnificent forests in these areas:
Debt-for-nature swaps are an innovative mechanism to sustain long-term conservation efforts in countries with rich tropical forests. Under the Tropical Forest Conservation Act of 1988, eligible countries agree to use their debt payments to finance tropical forest conservation in their countries.
The Guatemala deal is the fifth swap facilitated by the Conservancy, allowing us to magnify our conservation efforts here.
The Conservancy raised $1 million in the United States toward the deal — $500,000 of which was donated by American Electric Power and $200,000 by the Conservancy’s Maine program. The U.S. government is providing $15 million towards the agreement.June 08, 2012