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Zoila Choc Coy(36) and her family moved to a farm in Finca del Receurdo after tropical storms destroyed their home in La Isla Photo Credit Trocaire

Climate change

COP26 may be over. But in Guatemala indigenous people like Zoila still battle the impacts of climate change every single day

Zoila Choc Coy is still rebuilding her life one year on from the devastation caused by Hurricane’s Eta and Iota. Indigenous communities in Guatemala are on the breadline, suffering devastating losses as a result of extreme weather events.

Mother-of-seven, Zoila Choc Coy, (36) is from the Semarac Cooperative in Alta Verapaz, north-central Guatemala. She is a member of the indigenous Poqomchi Mayan community.

Despite being the location for multimillion dollar mining, hydroelectric and oil palm industries, Alta Verapaz is still one of the poorest areas in Guatemala, with more than half (53.5%) of people living in extreme poverty.

Zoila has only every known poverty. Her father, a cardamom farmer, was the family breadwinner, but the average income for this kind of farming is only between €163 to €234 a month. Not enough to provide all that was needed.

Zoila and her husband Don Lorenzo have seven children aged between the ages of one and 19 years. They suffered immense losses after last year’s tropical storms tore through their community of La Isla. Zoila was pregnant with their 7th child at the time.

The first storm caused the nearby Polochic River to flood, destroying the families crops and livestock and sweeping away their personal belongings. Don Lorenzo and Zoila’s livelihoods were gone as they relied on growing crops and rearing farm animals to feed their children.

The family were advised to move to an emergency shelter, but they refused as they wanted to stay to try protect what little belongings they had left. They boarded up the doors of the house but it wasn’t enough to withstand the force of the second hurricane which wreaked even more havoc, taking all they had left.

The family was one of three from La Isla who were moved to new homes in Finca del Recuerdo on land acquired through the Land Fund with the support of Trócaire’s partner CUC, the Peasant Unity Committee.

They received basic foodstuffs and were given corn and bean seeds so they could start growing their crops again.

The change has not been easy for the family, but they had to adapt in order to survive.

Thanks to the ongoing support of CUC life is getting better. Zoila’s husband is now planting corn, and she is raising chickens. The three families have access to a plot of land each and a common area of to cultivate community crops.

Education and health services are difficult to access from their new home, however. It costs €3 to have the children driven to the town of Panzós to go to school.

Zoila wants a better future for her children, one with opportunities and security. Her dream is to secure the land they are on now, so the family are secure and don’t have to worry about being evicted.

Guatemala is one of five Latin American nations identified among the 11 countries most at risk from climate chaos

Guatemala is one of five Latin American nations listed as one of the 11 countries most at risk from climate chaos due to a combination of geography and poor governance in a recent US government report on climate and global insecurity.

The country was devastated last year by Hurricanes Eta and Iota. It was the first time two major Atlantic hurricanes were recorded in November. They came after six years of drought in Central America’s dry corridor, an impoverished region that is highly vulnerable to catastrophic extreme weather events such as storms, torrential rain, droughts and heatwaves – all of which are getting longer and more intense due to global heating.

Guatemala has contributed very little to greenhouse gas emissions, but its people are suffering acutely from their impact.

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