About The 5 Great Forests of Mesoamerica

THE 5GFM: A regional initiative for climate, biodiversity and communities

The 5 Great Forests of Mesoamerica are being destroyed at an alarming rate: in the last 22 years, three have been reduced by almost a quarter of their size. Illegal cattle ranching is responsible for more than 90% of recent deforestation. Poverty, drug trafficking, organized crime and the impacts of climate change compound the threats to Mesoamerica's 5 Great Forests and communities.

Since 2019, organizations such as Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), Comisión Centroamericana de Ambiente y Desarrollo (CCAD), Alianza Mesoamericana de Pueblos y Bosques (AMPB), Re:wild and ministries of environment, joined together to develop a long-term impact initiative to increase the resilience of "The 5 Great Forests of Mesoamerica" with the participation of indigenous communities, civil society organizations, academia and governments.

This union drives collective and community collaboration to formulate the Concept Note and prepare the full proposal to be submitted to the Green Climate Fund for consideration. The goal of the project is to create the enabling conditions for Mesoamerican countries and indigenous peoples to develop and participate in a regional GCF program focused on the resilience of forests and forest-dependent communities.

The 5 Great Forests of Mesoamerica are the Selva Maya in Mexico, Guatemala and Belize; La Moskitia in Nicaragua and Honduras; Indio Maiz-Tortuguero in Nicaragua and Costa Rica; La Amistad in Costa Rica and Panama; and El Darien in Panama and Colombia.

Reference map of The 5 Great Forests of Mesoamerica by Marco Martínez (WCS)


  • To achieve the resilience of The 5 Great Forests, the following objectives have been set:
  • Address the main causes of deforestation by formulating policies that discourage them.
  • Reforest and restore areas degraded by cattle ranching to maintain large contiguous tracts of forest.
  • Align policies and improve governance to strengthen law enforcement and eliminate illegal livestock from key areas.
  • Strengthen sustainable livelihood alternatives in conjunction with communities, where gender-sensitive activities are involved in economic development models

Goals for 2030

  • Protect 10 million hectares of forest
  • Recover and restore 500,000 hectares of forest that has been illegally claimed or cleared
  • Stamp out illegal cattle ranching
  • 0 extinctions of species
  • Improved human well-being, especially for indigenous peoples and forest communities

The Strategy

Among the main ways in which we are going to achieve these goals, we have designed the following strategies:

1. Climate and Forest Resilient Agriculture: Climate-adaptive, forest-friendly, culturally appropriate, and scalable alternative livelihoods to livestock adopted by indigenous and local communities of the five forests that will enhance local economies, strengthen resilience to climate change, and increase forest cover.

2. Restoration: Reforest and restore areas degraded by cattle ranching in order to maintain large, contiguous stretches of forest. Pilot restoration projects implemented in each of the 5 Forests in areas reclaimed from livestock to convert ranch lands into productive forests that support local livelihoods.

3. Rebalanced Policies: Mesoamerican governments will rebalance policies and incentive programs to reduce pressures on forests and support identified alternative livelihoods, including increased investment in forest restoration with rural communities.

4. Stop Smuggling: Mesoamerican governments address illegal markets and cross-border livestock trafficking that undermine climate-resilient and sustainable local development and promote high rates of deforestation.

5. Improved forest protection: Improved management, governance, and monitoring of forests, including surveillance, SMART patrol, justice, and protection of environmental defenders, in areas protected by the state and lands administered by indigenous and/or rural communities.

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GEF@COP26 · The 5 Great Forests of Mesoamerica