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.

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.

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.

The Guatemalan Sugar Industry implements sustainable practices to maintain soil health

Conservación de suelos - Azúcar de Guatemala

Since 2014, every December 5th, World Soil Day is celebrated, a date proposed by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations -FAO-. This year it focuses on “Soils, origin of food” with the aim of raising awareness about the importance of soils for food production, while calling for sustainable management that guarantees soil health.

According to the book “Cultivation of sugarcane in Guatemala” by Cengicaña, plants, like sugarcane, require 16 elements called essential elements for their growth and development. Carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen come from water and air; the other 13 nutrients are minerals that are obtained from the soil or are added as fertilizers.

Practices focused on soil conservation

Sustainable soil management has been key to sugar production in Guatemala. The Sugar Industry carries out a set of practices focused on soil and water conservation, including use of green manures, seedbeds in strips, design of areas with soil and water conservation structures (trenches, contour lines, and infiltration wells) and planting of the first third.

Estudio de escorrentía

This set of activities focused on soil health and water conservation, contributes to:

  • Decrease in the use of chemical fertilizers.
  • Increase in organic matter, which means improvement in soil structure, moisture retention and soil biodiversity.
  • Slight increase in yield in sugar production.
  • Reduction of water erosion and surface runoff, which optimizes the infiltration of water that feeds the groundwater table.

The Guatemalan Sugar Industry, with the support of Cengicaña and the ICC, works for the development and implementation of practices for soil conservation and thus promotes a sustainable, more ecological operation and sustainability of nature.

The Guatemalan Sugar Industry presents the Sustainability Guild Report under the GRI standards

The Guatemalan Sugar Industry presented its Sustainability Guild Report for the 2019/20 and 2020/21 harvest seasons, elaborated with the assistance and collaboration of the International Labor Organization -ILO-; The report highlights the progress achieved in terms of environmental, social, and economic sustainability.

The Sustainability Guild Report uses the GRI methodology to integrate into documentary reporting with evidence. The GRI Standards are international best practices designed to inform the public of a variety of economic, environmental, and social impacts. Sustainability reporting against these Standards provides information about organizations’ contributions to sustainable development.

The report addresses 16 key sustainability points of the Guatemalan Sugar Industry. Among them: environmental actions,  generation of clean and renewable energy, the rational use of water and the implementation of systems for the efficient use of the resources, the commitment of the sector to the care and restoration of biodiversity, the reuse of waste, among others.

In the social area, the promotion of decent working conditions with safety and health, training to promote skills improvement and professional development to employees, the guarantee that there is no child labor, the evaluation of compliance with regulations in cane suppliers, evaluation of compliance in the matter of  respect of human rights, actions in communities to mitigate impacts of the operation, among others. In the economic sphere, taxation, support for local suppliers and vulnerable groups.

“It has been a great effort through several years to advance to this point with the integral perspective of PEOPLE + PLANET + PROFIT”, commented Alfredo Vila, president of the Guatemalan Sugar Producers Association -Asazgua-.

He explained that since 2000 there is a system of Guild Governance, within the framework of national legislation, with Policies and Regulations. “In the Guatemalan Sugar Industry, we are committed to agricultural sustainability and sustainability,” he added.

Similarly, Randall Arias, Principal Specialist in activities with employers ACTEMP/ILO Central America, Panama, the Dominican Republic, and Haiti highlighted that, in addition to the quality of the report, the methodology and academic rigor, the guild vision of business associations is remarkable. “Today you set the standard for guilds not only in Guatemala, I serve 10 subregional countries, this is the first report from a guild. I want to congratulate Asazgua leaders for this extraordinary effort and for their commitment and ethics to report transparently”.

In addition, the document lists the governance policies and actions: Corporate Social Responsibility CSR, Labor Policy, Transportation Policy, HIV Policy, OHS Policy, Alignment to the Millennium Development Goals that when changing the Alignment to the Sustainable Development Goals, Environmental Policy, Environmental Guide of the Sugar Cane Sector with the Ministry of Environment, Policy for Suppliers and Policy of Respect for Human Rights.

The Guatemalan Sugar Industry acquires commitments to preserve and restore biodiversity

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

The Guatemalan Sugar Industry, with the technical advice of the Private Institute for Climate Change Research -ICC- and with the support of the Biodiversity and Business program in Central America and the Dominican Republic of the German Technical Cooperation -GIZ-, announced the commitments and “Guidelines for the Preservation and Restoration of the Biological Diversity in the Guatemalan Production of Sugar”.

Aware that Guatemala is one of the 20 megadiverse countries in the world, the directors of all the sugar mills, members of the Guatemalan Sugar Producers Association, approved the guidelines to take specific actions to meet the goal of care and restore the biodiversity in the sugarcane zone.

“In the agro-landscape where sugarcane is grown were documented a third of all the birds know to live in the country. 248 species of birds have been identified in the forests and forest segments within the land where sugarcane grows, 55 of these species are protected according to international and national conservation lists, in addition 78 species of migratory birds find refuge in the sugar cane agro-landscape. ”, explained Alex Guerra, director of the ICC.

“Caring for this biological wealth in our environment is fundamental; thats why we’ve made commitments to carry out our operations in a sustainable way, prioritizing conservation and restoration so that the present and future generations can enjoy the flora and fauna that take refuge in the sugarcane zone”, said Alfredo Vila, president of the Guatemalan Sugar Producers Association -Asazgua-.

Result of over 5 years of investigation

After more than 5 years of studies at the sugarcane landscape, ICC experts documented the existence of a great biological wealth. In Guatemala the sugarcane grows at the south of the country, in a landscape mixed with forests and other plantations.

With the technical support of the ICC and GIZ,  guidelines for the conservation and restoration of biological diversity in the production of Guatemalan Sugar were developed.

Bird seeing in forest within cane fields in GuatemalaThe Guatemalan Sugar Industry will have the scientific advice of the ICC to implement the guidelines, according to the natural conditions of each work area.

“The biological wealth that provides refuge to multiple species in the sugarcane agro-landscape is a treasure that must be taken care of.  It is crucial to protect the biological biodiversity in the world and here, the Guatemalan Sugar Industry has taken important commitments to allow Guatemala’s natural legacy to be perpetuated and inherit it to future generations” added Alfredo Vila president of the Guatemalan Sugar Producers Association -Asazgua-.

Click here to see the full document (in Spanish).