RCE Guatemala - 2019

Learning activities to love our biocultural diversity: rivers.
Basic Information
Title of project : 
Learning activities to love our biocultural diversity: rivers.
Submitting RCE: 
RCE Guatemala
Contributing organization(s) : 

Faculty of Odontology and Faculty of Veterinary (Universidad de San Carlos de Guatemala)

Focal point(s) and affiliation(s)
Eduardo Sacayon
Organizational Affiliation: 
Ministry of Education
Marvin Lizando Maas Ibarra
Organizational Affiliation: 
Faculty of Odontology
Sergio Veliz
Organizational Affiliation: 
Faculty of Veterinary
Format of project: 
Language of project: 
Date of submission:
University strategic plan 2002- 2022
At what level is the policy operating?: 
Geographical & Education Information
Address of focal point institution for project: 
Ministry of Education. 6a calle, 1-87,zona 10. Guatemala
Target Audience:
Socioeconomic and environmental characteristics of the area : 
It is considered that our country has a great wealth of water resources, using only 10% of full capacity. However, one of the big problems is the use and unequal and inequitable distribution of this resource. 38% is used by the industry, 32% agriculture, 25% the production of hydroelectric power and 3% for households. In addition, 50% of the total population has no water services in their home. The other 50% of the total population, 60% does not apply any treatment to the water used for drinking.
In Guatemala, another social contradiction, is the fact that the social groups living in the territories possessing the greater abundance of water resources, are characterized by the highest rates of poverty and low levels of human development. These territories, which is abundant in water resources, are of great interest of the private national and international groups to set up businesses with the water and generate individual economic benefits. An example of this are the sources of several rivers where operate or are operated several hydroelectric companies.
In Guatemala there is a high degree of social unrest resulting from the installation of hydroelectric companies. From 40 hydroelectric projects in Guatemala, 26 present or have experienced social unrest during the stage of construction and operation.
An extreme case was the installation of hydroelectric power in the Chixoy River, 40 years ago. Due to this conflict there were massacres of indigenous communities in Río Negro, displacement of thousands of people who lived close to the reservoir, destruction 471 homes, 10 public buildings and 45 archaeological sites.
January, 2018 to December, 2019
In Guatemala the teaching of education for sustainability and the environment was established in the Public Educational Project or Core National Curriculum for children in primary and secondary education, after the signing of the Peace accords in 1996. The National University, as only public institution, also established in its strategic plan 2002-2022, the environmental education, as one of its curricular axes, for the training of students, in all University disciplines.
Very little or almost nothing of these educational plans have been implemented. Meanwhile the environmental problems in the country are intensified every year. Poor management of river basins. Relentless destruction of the rivers. Pollution of surface water and groundwater. Loss of forest cover. Reduced flows of surface water and groundwater. Erosion and degradation of soil. Flooding, drought and landslide.
Organizations of civil society are the most active on teaching and education on water. There are several books, brochures, and other educational resources dealing with environmental education on water.
However, the study and teaching of the rivers is very biased from disciplines such as biology and Agronomy. While its study requires an holistic and integral perspective. This results in a study of the rivers descriptive, fragmented and out of the historical, socio-economic, cultural and political context.
Critical thinking about big businesses that consume and squander water, with lucrative interest for the establishment of private hydroelectric and urban development is not encouraged.
There is a lack of didactics and methodologies to understand the meaning of natural heritage, landscape conservation, aesthetic appreciation and active participation for the integral management of water ecosystems.
Provide new approaches to study biocultural diversity, with critical thinking and promote social participation to value, protect and conserve the water ecosystems, especially rivers, as a national heritage.
Training University teachers with teaching strategies that allow them to live the beauty of biocultural diversity, knowing and experiencing identity, affective, historical and heritage of rivers, generally associated with knowledge of native peoples.
Incorporate in the content of university curricuum, teaching and learning aspects associated with the price of water and their equitable and fair distribution among consumers and beneficiaries.

Training teachers with a new water culture, a comprehensive vision with knowledge, skills and sense of commitment to the sustainable use of water and the conservation of river ecosystems, permitting the construction of a more sustainable society and solidarity.
Activities and/or practices employed: 
The central activity are educational trips to the main rivers of the country that have a long cultural history, associated with the development of the maya civilization, the struggles for land rights and the identity of the current indigenous peoples.
The methodology requires students to perform theoretical and practices activities before, during and after the educational trip to rivers to understand water as a fundamental condition of life. That water is part of many interrelationships and complex environmental systems. That benefits derived from rivers are distributed of unequal ways. To understand the concept of integrated management of water resources to ensure the availability and the sustainable management of the water including the prevention of the risk of floods and droughts.
Size of academic audience: 
120 university teachers and 20 students
Although the course is aimed at university Teachers, is expected to provide a similar course for teachers of primary and secondary education at national level, next year.
Lessons learned: 
university teachers can connect easily with scientific knowledge of wáter ecosystems using teaching methods that let them to know the meaning of natural and cultural heritages such as rivers.
International cooperation and student contribution


File Name Caption for picture Photo Credit
Image icon IMG_8723.JPG (1.44 MB) Didactic trip to Usumacinta River (an maya sacred river) in the Guatemala Mexico border E. Sacayon
UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)
(https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/sdgs) and other themes of Education for Sustainable Development (ESD)
SDG 4 - Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all 
SDG 5 - Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls 
SDG 6 - Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all 
SDG 7 - Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all 
SDG 10 - Reduce inequality within and among countries 
SDG 11 - Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable 
SDG 13 - Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts 
SDG 14 - Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development 
SDG 15 - Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification and halt and reverse land degradation, and halt biodiversity loss 
SDG 16 - Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels 
Disaster Risk Reduction 
Traditional Knowledge  
Curriculum Development 
Plants & Animals 
Global Action Programme (GAP) on Education for Sustainable Development – Priority Action Areas
Priority Action Area 2 - Transforming learning and training environments 
Priority Action Area 3 - Building capacities of educators and trainers 
Priority Action Area 5 - Accelerating sustainable solutions at local level