International Award “Leader of Change” for the Eradication of Child Labor 2023 Goes to Central American Sugar Sector Campaign

The International Organization of Employers (IOE), based in Geneva, Switzerland, has bestowed the prestigious International “Leader of Change” Award upon the Association of Sugar Producers of Central America (AICA) for its annual campaign “I Take Care of You” aimed at preventing child labor in the Central American region.

The “I Take Care of You” campaign focuses on preventing child labor in the sugar sector of Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica, through publications and training and awareness activities for both producers and surrounding communities.

“In this context, and as part of the commitment of governments and businesses to the Durban Call to Action adopted at the V World Conference on the Eradication of Child Labor in 2022, the AICA relaunched its regional campaign (…). The “I Take Care of You” campaign seeks to raise awareness about child and adolescent labor, along with the corresponding protective legislation. It also advocates for the importance of caring for boys and girls and ensuring their right to education,” explains the IOE on its website:

“IOE’s Chief Adviser, Rita Yip, announced the winner of the Award during the 14th Annual Meeting of the ILO Platform on Child Labor: ‘We are pleased to award this year’s prize to AICA. The campaign of this association, supported by IOE members in the region, is making significant efforts to eradicate child labor. It also serves as a significant source of inspiration for other regional and national sectoral bodies to commit to preventing and eliminating this unacceptable practice,'” adds the IOE.

The Sugarcane Agroindustry in Guatemala transforms waste into a resource


The Sugarcane Agroindustry in Guatemala utilizes waste in a Circular Economy system. A clear example of this practice is the use of sugarcane bagasse as a valuable source for renewable energy generation.

Circular Economy aims to promote the reuse, recycling, and renewal of resources instead of following the traditional “use and dispose” model. Sugarcane bagasse is a fibrous residue left as a byproduct after extracting sugarcane juice in the sugar industry. Instead of being discarded, sugar mills use this residue for renewable energy generation.

Sugarcane bagasse is used as fuel in boilers to generate steam. This steam is then used to produce electricity through a process called cogeneration. This form of renewable energy generation offers multiple benefits for both the Sugarcane Agroindustry and the environment.

The Guatemalan Sugar Industry cogenerates renewable energy

Renewable Energy vs. Fossil Fuels

By harnessing sugarcane bagasse as an energy source, the need for using fossil fuels like coal or oil to produce electricity is reduced. This contributes to the diversification of energy sources and reduces the emission of greenhouse gases, thus aiding in the fight against climate change.

Fossil fuels are non-renewable natural resources formed over millions of years; burning them releases significant amounts of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. The gradual shift away from fossil fuels in favor of renewable energy is crucial to addressing current environmental and social challenges.

Generacion de energía renovable con biomasa de caña de azúcar

The utilization of sugarcane bagasse as a source of renewable energy is a concrete and successful example of how circular economy can be integrated into agroindustry to promote more sustainable practices.

By turning waste into a valuable resource, energy generation from sugarcane bagasse benefits both the Sugarcane Agroindustry in Guatemala and the environment. This practice can serve as a model for other industries and pave the way for a more circular and planet-friendly economy.

More than 2700 youngsters have graduated in the “Opportunities for Study” Program of the Guatemalan Sugarcane Agroindustry

In an ongoing effort to provide educational opportunities and enhance employment prospects for youth in Guatemala’s South Coast, the Guatemalan Sugarcane Association (Asazgua) has initiated a program that has trained and graduated over 2,700 young individuals through the “Opportunities for Study” program, driven by the sugarcane agroindustry.

The scholarships granted by sugar mills through Asazgua have enabled these young individuals to access high-quality technical education across various disciplines at the Technical Training Institute (Intecap).

Fields of study encompass industrial mechanics, automotive electromechanics, industrial welding, industrial electronics technician, automotive mechanics, milling machine mechanics, as well as hydraulic circuit maintenance.

Alfredo Vila, President of Asazgua, has expressed his pride in the “Opportunities for Study” program, which not only contributes to the technical education of young individuals but also enhances the country’s human resource competitiveness. He emphasized the commitment of the Guatemalan Sugarcane Association to promoting education and development in the region.

This program has been made possible through collaboration between the sugarcane industry and the Technical Training Institute, forging a robust partnership to drive personal and professional growth among the youth.

In the Sugarcane Agroindustry, we firmly believe that investing in the education and development of young individuals is a pivotal step towards a more prosperous and sustainable future.

UNISAN Drives Sustainable Development through Water and Sanitation in Guatemala

The Sugar Cane Agroindustry has a specialized technical unit dedicated to the development of technical studies for the implementation of potable water, sanitary sewer construction, and treatment plants in Guatemala. This service, named the Engineering and Sanitation Unit – UNISAN – was established in 2001 and is provided at no cost to the communities.

UNISAN engineers and technicians conduct studies for potable water, sanitary sewers, and wastewater treatment plants with a 20-year outlook, considering demographic growth. Upon completion, they provide communities with a descriptive report that includes the execution budget, timeline, and hydraulic design calculations. It also encompasses operation and maintenance manuals, material technical specifications, and plans endorsed and stamped by an active licensed engineer.

This support holds significant meaning for the communities, as they would otherwise need to pay amounts that could even range from USD 25 to USD 40 thousand to hire specialized companies for these studies. These studies are crucial, as they are a government requirement in the infrastructure development process.

With these studies, the communities take charge of managing and progressing through the governmental procedures involved.

We must not forget that access to secure water systems and adequate sanitation services are key elements in enhancing people’s quality of life and promoting socio-economic growth in rural areas of the country.

Thanks to the investment and commitment of the Sugar Cane Agroindustry, through Fundazucar, a total of 301 technical studies have been carried out in southern Guatemala to date. These studies have been instrumental in identifying critical areas and specific needs of each community, thereby enabling the implementation of effective solutions tailored to local conditions.

Contribution to the Sustainable Development Goals

UNISAN’s work aligns with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) set by the United Nations, specifically with SDG 6, which aims to ensure the availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all. Additionally, this initiative directly contributes to SDG 3, which focuses on ensuring healthy lives and promoting well-being for all at all ages.

UNISAN and Fundazucar’s commitment to social responsibility and sustainable development has been recognized by various stakeholders, including international organizations and local governments, who highlight the importance of these actions for the country’s progress.

The Sugar Cane Agroindustry, through Fundazucar, undertakes transformative projects that have a positive impact on the quality of life for local communities. Its dedication to the Sustainable Development Goals and its long-term vision makes UNISAN a fundamental initiative for Guatemala’s prosperous future.

The Guatemalan Sugarcane Agroindustry participates in the High-Level Political Forum event of the United Nations

As part of the United Nations High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development 2023, which takes place at the headquarters of the international organization in New York, Luis Miguel Paíz, CEO of Asazgua, and Andrea Bolaños, Manager of Sustainability of Asazgua, participated as a panelist in the Side Event titled “Integrated Water and Energy Solutions Supporting Sustainable Cities and Human Settlements,” organized by the UN Global Network of Sustainable Water and Energy Solutions.

Andrea Bolaños participated as panelist to share the initiatives implemented by the Guatemalan Sugarcane Agroindustry, which directly contribute to achieving Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 7, 6, and 11. These goals focus on ensuring access to affordable and clean energy, clean water and sanitation, and sustainable cities and communities.

During her participation, Bolaños shared the good practices of the Guatemalan Sugarcane Agroindustry, focusing on the adoption of sustainable technologies, efficient water use, renewable energy generation, and the promotion of sustainable agricultural practices.

An example of this is that 30% of the energy consumed in Guatemala is produced by cogeneration mills during the Zafra season. Additionally, the Guatemalan Sugarcane Agroindustry, through Fundazúcar, has conducted technical studies to enable communities in the southern part of the country to manage and access water and sanitation systems.

“The Sugar Cane Agroindustry of Guatemala is proud to participate in this United Nations High-Level Forum and to have the opportunity to share our experiences and achievements in the field of sustainability, as well as to gain valuable insights into what is being done in other parts of the world,” stated Andrea Bolaños.

“We firmly believe that producing responsibly involves being efficient in the use of natural resources and having a positive impact on society, as generators of opportunities and prosperity for millions of people,” added Bolaños.

The United Nations High-Level Political Forum is a key platform for discussing and reviewing countries’ progress in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, held annually in New York. This year, the forum began on July 10 and will conclude on the 19th.

International partnerships for sustainable development

Since 2019, the Guatemalan Sugarcane Agroindustry, through Asazgua, has actively participated in the UN Global Network of Sustainable Water and Energy Solutions, an initiative led by the Division for Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA).

The event “Integrated Water and Energy Solutions Supporting Sustainable Cities and Human Settlements” brought together various stakeholders, including government representatives, international organizations, the private sector, and civil society. The participation of the Guatemalan Sugarcane Agroindustry highlights the country’s commitment to seeking comprehensive and sustainable solutions to the water and energy challenges in the context of cities and human settlements.

Preparatory meeting for the UN event to be held in Guatemala

The Guatemalan Sugarcane Agroindustry participated at the preparatory meeting for the event: “Synergies for the implementation of sustainable water and energy consumption and production in support of the fulfillment of the 2030 Agenda and the Paris Agreement”.

The event will take place in Guatemala on October 18th and 19th, under the auspices of the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, in partnership with the Sustainable Water and Energy Solutions Network and the Guatemalan Sugar Association – Asazgua.

The preparatory meeting was attended by Luis Miguel Paiz, General Manager of Asazgua, and Andrea Bolaños, Sustainability Manager; Minoru Takada, leader of the Energy team at UNDESA; Nadine Salame, UNDESA officer; Ivan Vera, senior consultant at UNDESA.

On Guatemala’s side, Ambassador Carla María Rodríguez Mancia, Representative of the Permanent Mission of Guatemala to the UN, participated; María José Del Águila Castillo, Alternate Delegate of the Mission, and Sharon Juárez, Counselor of the Guatemalan Mission at the UN.

Central American Sugar Sector presents the 2023 Regional Campaign for the Prevention of Child Labor

The Sugar Cane Agroindustry of Guatemala, due to its commitment to eradicating child labor, was part of the presentation of the 2023 Regional Campaign for the Prevention of Child Labor in the Central American Sugar Sector.

The event, organized by the Association of Sugar Producers of Central America – AICA, took place in San Salvador, El Salvador, and involved the participation of regional representatives from the International Labor Organization – ILO, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization – UNESCO, and representatives from the sugar associations of Central America.

The Regional Campaign for the Prevention of Child Labor in the Central American Sugar Sector continues with the slogan “I take care of you” as an invitation to all individuals and sectors to take responsibility for protecting children as they are the future.

The Association of Sugar Producers of Central America – AICA – will work in coordination with the ILO and the Regional Initiative for Latin America and the Caribbean Free of Child Labor to access tools for eradicating and raising awareness about child labor.

The Sugar Cane Agroindustry of Guatemala is firmly committed to promoting sustained, inclusive, and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment, and decent work for all. This 2023 regional campaign for the prevention of child labor is aligned with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, specifically Goal 8.7, which focuses on the elimination of child labor in all its forms by 2025.

Guatemalan Sugar Cane Agroindustry will reforest with more than 955,000 trees in 2023

The Guatemalan Sugar Association and the Private Institute for Climate Change Research -ICC- presented the 2023 Reforestation Plan, which this year consists of planting more than 955,000 trees in 11 departments of the country that will cover around 860 hectares of land, a space that is equivalent to about 1,229 soccer fields.

With the first reforestation day, of the season, the 2023 Reforestation Plan began. The activity, in which 500 trees were planted, took place at the Limones farm at the outskirts of the town Santa Lucía Cotzumalguapa; located at 90 kilometers (56 miles) at the south of Guatemala city.

The event included the participation of Alfredo Vila, president of the Association of Sugar Producers of Guatemala -Asazgua-; Dr. Alex Guerra, Director of the Private Institute for Climate Change Research -ICC-; Ing. Rony Granados, Manager of the National Institute of Forests -INAB-; as well as collaborators of the sugar mills and journalists from the media.

With this year’s reforestation plan, 8.8 million trees will be planted since 2011, in strategic areas for the recovery and conservation of basins that influence the South of Guatemala. This as part of the commitment of the Sugarcane Agroindustry to sustainability and the care of natural resources,” said Alfredo Vila, president of Asazgua.

Reforestation will take place in 11 departments of the country: Escuintla, Chimaltenango, Retalhuleu, Suchitepéquez, Sacatepéquez, Santa Rosa, Jalapa, Quetzaltenango, Sololá, Jutiapa and San Marcos.

“In 2011 Asazgua, ICC and local partners started a program for the conservation and recovery of forests in strategic areas to contribute to the protection of riverbanks, water recharge zones and biological corridors. Around 7,000 hectares have been reforested, to which 860 will be added this year. By the end of 2023, the equivalent of 11,000 soccer fields will have been reforested,” said Alex Guerra, Director of the ICC.

Since the beginning of the program in 2011, 55 native species have been reforested, among them: matilisguate, aripín, cenícero, madre cacao, conacaste, cedar, mahogany, palo blanco, volador, plumillo, hormigo, caulote, among others.

ICC technical support

The ICC provides support and technical and scientific advice and is the link with communities, organizations, municipal and regional authorities, for the installation of nurseries and identification of reforestation areas. The 955,000 plants that will be planted this year were produced in 67 nurseries installed in different locations. In addition, this program has the support of the National Institute of Forests -INAB-.

In addition to this effort, the sugar mills have individual reforestation programs and their own natural forests, through which they total 14,800 hectares, equivalent to 21,144 soccer fields.

2023 Reforestation Plan

These efforts and those that are planned, contribute to the management of the Guatemalan Pacific basins since forest resources are vital to maintain the water cycle, protect the soil, maintain the diversity of flora and fauna, among other benefits.

Reforestation is also part of the contributions of the Sugarcane Agroindustry to the Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations Organization, especially goal 15: “Life of Terrestrial Ecosystems”, which aims to manage forests of sustainable manner and objective 13 “Climate Action” which implies actions to combat the effects of climate change.

Guatemalan Sugar Cane Industry, hand over case studies at the UN

On May 2nd, at the headquarters of the United Nations Organization in New York, the president of the Guatemalan Sugar Association -Asazgua- Alfredo Vila and the general manager of Asazgua, Luis Miguel Paiz, handed over to Mr. Minoru Takada, Leader of the energy team in the Sustainable Development Goals Division of the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs, the 17 case studies that document the contributions of the Guatemalan Sugarcane Industry for compliance with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Asazgua is the first guild worldwide to present case studies regarding its contributions to the SDGs, which were made as a member of the United Nations Network for Sustainable Water and Energy Solutions. Minoru Takada highlighted that the Guatemalan Sugar Cane sector is an example of good practices in terms of Sustainability.

This delivery took place within the framework of the Presentation of the Sustainable Development Action Plan of the Union of Latin American Sugar Producers (UNALA). The case studies were prepared by Mr. Iván Vera, Senior United Nations consultant, in coordination with Asazgua.

UNALA presents its strategic sustainability plan at UN headquarters

The Union of Latin American Sugar Producers -UNALA- held its annual meeting on May 2nd at the United Nations building in New York, in which the presentation of its Strategic Sustainability Plan took place.

“The basis of the sustainability strategy that we present today is a sign of our commitment to a sustainable future and the need to work together to achieve it. We are committed to implementing sustainable practices in all our operations, reducing our environmental impact, and contributing to the social and economic development of the communities in which we operate,” said Alfredo Vila, president of UNALA and the Guatemalan Sugar Producers Association -Asazgua-.

Similarly, Luis Miguel Paiz, general manager of Asazgua, who oversaw presenting the basis of the strategic plan for sustainable development, highlighted that the actions promoted by UNALA contribute to the fulfillment of the UN Sustainable Development Goals, as well as other global agendas such as Climate Change and Biodiversity.

He added that sustainable production is carried out through the efficient use of resources and the development of renewable energies that help reduce the environmental impact and that UNALA, in its Sustainable Development plan, works to improve local communities and promote actions to mitigate deforestation and loss of biodiversity.

“The sugar industry contributes to the economic growth of the region, allowing not only new opportunities for its workers, but also the development of the countries. It also ensures the social development of its areas of action”, expressed Paiz.

He indicated that the Latin American sugar sector is not only efficient, but also environmentally responsible, and that the sustainable development of the sugar industry is key to reducing environmental impact, reducing greenhouse gases, and protecting biodiversity. Therefore, the Latin American sugar industry is much more than sugar, it is energy for sustainable development.

In this regard, the president of UNALA, Alfredo Vila, indicated that the adoption of sustainable practices in the industry represents important benefits for society in general, such as the reduction of poverty, the generation of employment, as well as the preservation of the environment.

“We are strongly committed to meeting the Sustainable Development Goals by generating development opportunities, producing almost 6.5 million jobs, and producing renewable energy, such as ethanol and the cogeneration of electrical energy from sugarcane bagasse”, Vila said.

Juan Antonio Bernard Estrada, Chargé d’Affaires a.i. the permanent mission of Guatemala to the United Nations Organization; Alfredo Vila, president of UNALA; Luis Miguel Paiz, general manager of Asazgua; Minoru Takada, Energy team leader in the Sustainable Development Goals Division, Nadine Salame of the Sustainable Water and Energy Solutions Network. Directors and representatives of the 12 organizations that make up UNALA were also present.