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.

The Guatemalan Sugar Industry takes part in the UN 2023 Water conference.

The Guatemalan Sugar Industry, represented by the Guatemalan Sugar Producers Association, took part in the United Nations 2023 Water Conference at the side event: Water and Energy for Sustainable Development: Integrated solutions supporting regional cooperation, climate resilience and biodiversity.

The objective of the event was to provide an opportunity for the exchange and dissemination of knowledge and experiences on integrated water and energy solutions in different regions of the world, for which representatives from public and private organizations from Spain, Finland, Guatemala, the Netherlands, Mexico, Ethiopia, Brazil, and Paraguay, shared their experiences.

The event supports the objectives of the Global Network on Sustainable Water and Energy Solutions, which Asazgua is part of, and brought together multi-stakeholders to discuss and showcase existing initiatives on effective solutions addressing the water-energy nexus. Luis Miguel Paiz, CEO, and Andrea Bolaños, Sustainability Manager, and director of Fundazucar participated on behalf of Asazgua.

During her presentation, Andrea Bolaños explained how sugar production in Guatemala is committed to meeting the objectives and goals, as well as other global objectives, such as Climate Change, Biodiversity and Human Rights. Bolaños pointed out: “We are more than sugar; we are energy for sustainable development”. Asazgua shared her experience regarding sustainable water management and renewable energy generation.

Andrea Bolaños, Sustainability Manager, and director of Fundazucar

“Since the year 2000 we have developed 7 policies that provide the sugar industry with business and human rights frameworks,” added Bolaños. Asazgua recently presented the contributions of the Guatemalan Sugar Industry to the SDGs promoted by the UN.

Bolaños added that the Sugar Industry produces renewable electricity for the operation of sugar mills and covers at least 30% of the electricity demanded by the country (Guatemala), all this using 100% of the residual biomass that allows the production of green energy.

The Sustainability Manager of Asazgua shared the main practices that the Sugar Industry in Guatemala has implemented to make sustainable use of water in production processes, ranging from reuse to the development and implementation of technology to optimize and reduce water use. Likewise, she shared the actions that are carried out to promote access to water and sanitation in the communities of the south of the country.

The event was held within the framework of the United Nations Water Conference 2023 that takes place in New York and that brings together representatives of different sectors in the world with the purpose of establishing a common agenda of immediate actions to accelerate the implementation and impact of solutions to address global water challenges.

The Guatemalan Sugar Industry supports the conservation of gallery forests

Guatemala Sugar Industry Forest
Guatemala Sugar Industry Forest

The Guatemalan Sugar Industry has supported the conservation and creation of gallery forests and biological corridors as part of reforestation efforts. Only on the banks of the rivers of the south of the country, more than 310 hectares of land have been reforested, equivalent to more than 430 soccer fields.

Gallery forests are a type of forest found in lowland areas with groundwater close to the surface. The presence of trees and shrubs creates a strip of shade and humidity that protects biodiversity and improves water quality. These forests develop along rivers and streams and are important for biodiversity conservation and climate change mitigation.

These forests on the banks of rivers help water recharge and soil conservation by preventing erosion and are also natural barriers that prevent flooding, while harboring species of flora and fauna.

Efforts to reforest river basins

Since 2011, the Guatemalan Sugar Industry has contributed to the planting of 7.7 million trees since the beginning of its National Reforestation Program. As part of the commitment to the environment, during these 12 years, efforts have been integrated with communities, local authorities and organizations, which have allowed us to contribute to the conservation and recovery of forests on riverbanks and upper parts of the basin.

In addition, the Sugar Industry has 2,507 hectares of natural forests, which are protected and cared for, which are part of the agro-landscape of the south of Guatemala and benefit the conservation of biological diversity.

Do you know about the nutrients applied to the sugarcane?

Use of drones for aerial applications of nutrients

During its growth, the sugar cane needs nutrients that help it retain more sugar in its stems. The Guatemalan Sugar Industry uses nutrients that comply with the recommendations and regulations established by national and international organizations and authorities.

The Sugar Industry has regulations and protocols that guarantee that the applications meet their objective without causing negative impacts on the environment and on residents of the areas near the crops.

Prior to the application of nutrients, planning is carried out in which all safety measures are taken to guarantee that the nutrients reach the sugar cane.

The elements that are considered are the amount of nutrients applied according to the area to be harvested, the delimitation of security strips and, in cases close to communities, the leaders and neighbors are informed of the work that the sugar mill will carry out.

Delimitation of security strips

Technology helps in precision

Aerial applications are carried out and controlled by experts from the sugar mills, who rely on new technologies to ensure that the nutrients reach the sugar cane directly and safely, such as the use of Global Positioning System (GPS), hydrosensitive cards, helicopters with automatic sprinklers and the use of drones.

The advantage of the drone is the efficiency in the application of the product, which reduces the possibility of it being deviated by the wind. Work has also been done to improve the level of precision, drone capacity, application volume and aircraft with greater flight independence to cover more areas.

The applications are made with precision techniques to avoid impacts on other crops and communities.

The Guatemalan Sugar Industry presents its contribution to the UN Sustainable Development Goals and GRI sustainability report

The Sugar Industry, in addition to being an economic engine for Guatemala, is an ally of sustainable development and there are various initiatives and projects in the environmental, social, and economic areas, through which the sector supports compliance with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), of the United Nations Organization (UN) and this Thursday, the Guatemalan Sugar Producers Association (Asazgua) presented the Case Studies that detail these contributions.

The event was attended by Mr. Ivan Vera, UN Senior Consultant; Alfredo Vila, President of Asazgua; Luis Miguel Paiz, General Manager of Asazgua; Mr. Ricardo Rapallo, Ad Interim Resident Coordinator of the United Nations in Guatemala; as well as representatives of the diplomatic corps, public officials, and managers of Asazgua.

“Our sector is a key actor in the development of the country and therefore our responsibility is also great. We understand our role as generators of opportunities and prosperity for millions of people in Guatemala,

Alfredo Vila, presidente de Asazgua

but we also assume the responsibility of doing so by generating decent employment, promoting development in communities, taking advantage of and using natural resources in a sustainable manner, and for this we have implemented concrete actions, such as precision agriculture techniques, use and development of technologies in our processes, water reuse, renewable energy generation, among others”, commented Alfredo Vila, president of Asazgua.

The SDGs were adopted by the United Nations in 2015 as a universal call to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure that by 2030 all people enjoy peace and prosperity.

Luis Miguel Paiz, gerente de Asazgua

The Guatemalan Sugar Industry, as a member of the United Nations Network for Sustainable Solutions in Water and Energy, presented 17 case studies on the contributions of the sector to the fulfillment of the Sustainable Development Goals, as well as the Guild Sustainability Report under the GRI methodology.

SDG compliance economic axis:

  • Each year more than 55,000 direct jobs and 278,000 indirect jobs are generated in dignified and decent conditions. The value chain of the Sugar Industry reaches more than 6,000 companies -small, medium and large-, which are suppliers of goods and services, which in turn generate opportunities for thousands of families.
  • The economic footprint of Sugar in Guatemala is USD1,568 million per year, this economic benefit reaches 90% of the country’s municipalities. Every year USD375 million are distributed in wages and salaries.
  • Guatemala is the third largest sugar producer in Latin America, and the sixth worldwide. It also ranks third in productivity of tons of sugar per hectare globally.
  • The products of the sugar industry represent the second place of agro-industrial exports in the country.
  • The sugarcane bagasse or the biomass that remains after the juice is extracted to produce sugar, is used for the generation of renewable energy and contributes to the national interconnected system around 30% of the electricity that the country consumes during the Zafra.

SDG compliance social axis:

  • The Sugar Foundation -Fundazucar-promotes social programs focused on the areas of health, education, and municipal strengthening, through a self-management model that promotes the empowerment and citizen participation of women, youth, teachers, health professionals, community leaders and local authorities.
  • Through the Better Families program, Food and Nutrition Security, self-esteem, self-management, and leadership are promoted in women as agents of change for the development and well-being of their families.
  • The Health Comes First program trains health professionals at the first level of care in the municipalities of the South of Guatemala to develop technical skills with the purpose of improving service and promoting preventive health.
  • Through the Fundazucar medical clinics, access to healthcare is facilitated for thousands of people in the south of the country.
  • Since 1976, the fortification of sugar with Vitamin A has been essential to combat childhood blindness caused by deficiency of this micronutrient.
  • Study opportunities are provided for young people between the ages of 15 and 25 so that they can study in technical or university careers. The goal of these scholarships is to provide them with opportunities to lift themselves out of poverty.

SDG compliance environmental axis:

  • The sugar industry has invested in research and development with the Guatemalan Sugar Cane Research Center -Cengicaña-, which among its main functions is the development and promotion of good practices for cane cultivation, sugar production and other by-products, as well as the promotion of precision agriculture and crop adaptation to climate variability.
  • The Water Footprint of Guatemalan sugarcane producers is 45% lower than the world average, according to the study of the Water Footprint of sugarcane.
  • In a joint effort between ICC, community members, local authorities, and the sugar sector, since 2010 the program for the recovery and conservation of forests in the basins of the Pacific slope has been carried out. 7.7 million trees have been produced, which contributes to water recharge, biodiversity, among other functions for flora and fauna.
  • The Sugar Industry actively participates in technical water tables on the south of Guatemala with communities, local authorities, government institutions, human rights organizations, and other agricultural producers, for the coordinated and responsible use of river water. It is a unique organizational model in the country.
  • Cengicaña scientists developed the Cengiriegos application, which allows the crop to apply only the amount of water it needs, depending on the type of soil, the age of the plant and the climatic conditions.
  • Use of water recirculation systems in factories for its reuse and optimization.

For more information you can access all the case studies here.

Sustainable use of water in Guatemalan sugarcane cultivation and sugar production

Riego de caña - Azúcar de Guatemala

The Guatemalan Sugar Industry has implemented new technologies and processes, both in sugarcane cultivation and in industrial activities, to reduce its water consumption.

Since 1992, with the creation of The Guatemalan Sugarcane Research and Training Center -Cengicaña-, research has been committed to the development of sustainable cultivation and production practices. For this reason, the Sugar Industry has implemented more efficient irrigation systems that use less water and apply only the amount that the plant needs.

Likewise, the sugar mills have invested in systems for the reuse of water in sugar factories. The water used in the manufacturing process is taken to a cooling system, since it comes out at a high temperature, where, after being cooled, it returns to the factory, through a recirculation system, to be used again.

Reutilización de agua - Azúcar de Guatemala

Water footprint of the Guatemalan Sugar Industry

According to the study carried out by the Private Institute for Climate Change -ICC- each ton of sugarcane produced in Guatemala uses 45% less water than the rest of the sugarcane-producing countries.

During the 2020-2021 harvest, 76% of the water used to produce sugarcane in Guatemala was provided by rainwater. These data were presented by the Private Institute for Climate Change Research -ICC- in the report Water Footprint in Sugar Production in Guatemala.

During this period, the availability of rainwater for sugarcane cultivation increased by 3% compared to the previous harvest. That is, the weather conditions allowed more rainwater to be available for cultivation.

During the 2020-2021 harvest, irrigation water used for sugarcane production represented only 19% of the water footprint. This is 2% less compared to the previous harvest.

The Guatemalan Sugar Industry is committed to the sustainable use of water and energy

Alliance for Water

Since 2018, the Guatemalan Sugar Industry through the Sugar Producers Association -Asazgua- has actively participated in the Global Network of Sustainable Water and Energy Solutions of the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs -DESA-. In this space, international organizations and the private sector are joined to share and explore best practices in relation to the sustainable use of water and energy.

The importance of these issues is recognized this is why are included in the Sustainable Development Goals 6, which addresses the availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all; and the ODS 7, which demands access to reliable, modern and affordable sustainable energy.

The Global Network of Sustainable Water and Energy Solutions works with the vision of a world in which there is equitable and sustainable use and management of water and energy resources for all, in support of human well -being, the integrity of ecosystems and a solid and inclusive economy under the umbrella for sustainable development.

The Guatemalan Sugar Industry actively participates in the UN Sustainable Water and Energy Solutions Network

Asazgua is considered a key member to contribute to the fulfillment of the SDGs since it is an active member, with experience and practical cases that are considered as an example of private sector participation, necessary for sustainable development.

Long-term collaboration for water and energy solutions

The Guatemalan Sugar Industry takes part in the UN meeting on water, energy, biodiversity, and health

Since its creation, the Global Network for Sustainable Water and Energy Solutions has worked to mobilize and expand multisectoral action towards sustainable development. For this reason, a series of activities and publications have been carried out to create spaces for dialogue to share best practices and experiences on water-energy interrelationships and their contributions to other SDGs.

Asazgua promised to satisfy at least 30% of Guatemala’s electricity demand during the three dry months of the year through renewable energy, increase ethanol production for transportation by 20%, and develop a new method of bioenergy from biological waste.

Contributions of the Guatemalan Sugar Industry to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals

The activities of the Guatemalan Sugar Industry are recognized as examples of “Good Practices” in the effective implementation for Sustainable Development and the Sustainable Development Goals.

We present the activities of the Guatemalan Sugar Industry that support the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals -SDGs- of the United Nations for Sustainable Development.

Find all the case studies here:


The Guatemalan Sugar Industry is committed to the preservation of mangroves and wetlands

Restoration of mangroves and wetlands sugar cane farms

As part of the commitment to the conservation of biodiversity, the Guatemalan Sugar Industry has assumed the responsibility of preserving and protecting mangroves and wetlands located on farms where sugar cane is grown.

There are actions that have been carried out directly by the Sugar Industry individually or collectively, and indirectly through the Climate Change Institute -ICC- with financing for actions in the conservation and restoration of mangroves and other forests along the basins.

With the technical support of the ICC and the German Technical Cooperation -GIZ-, the guidelines for the preservation and restoration of biological diversity in the production of Sugar in Guatemala were prepared, which is a guide that guides the actions of the Guatemalan Sugar Industry.

Presentation of the guidelines for the conservation and restoration of biological diversity

Guidelines related to mangroves and wetlands include:

  • In the expansion of new cultivation areas, modification of the water system within the farms that could put the permanence of the mangrove forest and any type of wetland at risk should be avoided. Protection will be provided for the freshwater bodies that feed this ecosystem.
  • Do not change the use of land in the flood-prone areas and natural wetlands that are found within the farms and their protection is promoted.
  • New cultivation areas will not be expanded within protected areas or wetlands recognized by the RAMSAR convention.
Bird seeing in forest within cane fields in Guatemala

The biological wealth that has refuge and lives in the sugar cane agro-landscape is a treasure that must be cared for, because the work of protecting biological biodiversity is a commitment to which we are all called.

The biological treasure in sugarcane farms

Reptile in a sugar cane farm in Guatemala
Reptile in a sugar cane farm in Guatemala

70% of the planet’s biodiversity is concentrated in 10% of the earth, specifically in 20 countries in the world, which are known as megadiverse countries, among which is Guatemala.

In the south of Guatemala you can find great biological diversity. For example, in the farms where sugar cane is grown there are forests, rivers, flora, fauna that together form the so-called agro landscape. Twenty-two families of amphibians and reptiles have been identified, as well as 219 species of trees, which provide food and shelter for fauna in the sugarcane agro landscape.

The National Reforestation Plan of the Guatemalan Sugar Industry carried out every year benefits the conservation of biological diversity. The Sugar Industry has 2,507 hectares of natural forests, which are protected and cared for.

Bird shelter

The agricultural landscape on the farms where sugar cane is grown is home to 248 different species of birds. According to studies by the Private Institute for Climate Change Research -ICC-, 55 of these species are protected according to international and national conservation lists.


In addition, ICC researchers have identified 78 species of migratory birds, which find refuge in the agricultural landscape of sugarcane. These species travel each year from the northern hemisphere of the continent towards the south.

Migratory birds travel between September and November of each year and return to North America between March and May. When they pass through Guatemala, the forested areas of the cane fields provide them with food and shelter, thus they manage to accumulate energy to fly and continue their journey.

This agro-landscape, and the scientific evidence compiled by experts, reaffirms the commitment of the Sugar Industry to be environmentally sustainable and conserve the biological diversity of the South of Guatemala.