During April 2013 participatory video (PV) training was carried out in the town of San Andres Sacjabja in the Quiche district in Guatemala. The training was one part of a longer-term engagement of custodians of sacred sites in the district of Quiché with ‘Oxlajuj Ajpop’ (an indigenous Mayan organization) in collaboration with Sacred Natural Sites Initiative. The programme, funded by Hoja Verde Foundation, aims for enhancement of sustainable and culturally appropriate and community- based forest and natural resource management.
The training involved 19 members from the communities of Buena Vista and Rij Juyub, in the municipality of San Andres Sajcabaja, and 2 from the community of Chupol in the Chichicastenango municipality. Four members from San Andres Sajcabaja completed the entire training, while 2 members from Chupol completed the technical aspects of the training in preparation for carrying out their own participatory video training at a later date.
The primary video focused on the value and conservation challenges of local mountain forests for the population as a whole, and on their spiritual importance for the Mayan people in particular. The second shorter video documented the ceremony carried out at the local important natural sacred site of Chusaqrib’al on the 13th April. The videos were planned and filmed by the participants themselves.
Forest in the area is under continued pressure for agricultural land and timber as communities cook extensively on firewood. Many areas of forest have also suffered from fires, particularly during the dry season whilst other areas are being threatened by mining.
Even though it is sometimes a fight, we must not give up. Thanks to Oxlajuj Ajpop we are starting to organise ourselves and are talking about these issues.’ Don Miguel Castro traditional Maya elder from San Andres Sacjabja.
Village elders and custodians were interviewed and opinions and recommendations sought as part of the film-making. The training exercise culminated in participatory editing and showing to community members. The films are in the local language of Quiché and will soon be subtitled in both Spanish and English.
The importance of mountain forest cover for protection of springs and provision of water to local inhabitants is stressed during the main film, emphasizing the need for water in all aspects of daily life. Lorna Slade participatory video trainer.
Recommendations have been given by villagers for actions needed to conserve remaining forests and sacred natural sites with a great emphasis on awareness raising and community organization. The application of local and national laws relevant to forest and sacred site protection is key to this and has been discussed by the villagers as part of the film and the participatory process that lead up to it.
Thanks goes out to all the villagers, Oxlajuj Ajpop and PV trainers Lorna Slade and Sophie Conin. A screening, including the local authorities, has already been scheduled in the village for May 26th.