Graduate Student Rachael Shenyo
Analyzes Climate Change in Guatemala
Rachael Shenyo has undertaken a research project in the Cuchumatan and Sierra Madre Altiplano highlands in the Departments of San Marcos, Quetzaltenango, Totonicapan, and Huehuetenango, Guatemala, in order to perform an economic impact analysis of the effects of climate changes on the region's different altitudes. This work is an extension of work she and her colleagues started while she served as a Peace Corps volunteer in 2002.
The data collected is being used to create a business case for the creation of a non-profit organization that would serve a scientific and advisory role in assisting the coordination of policy makers, development specialists, and rural farmers and landowners. The expectation is that the non-profit could reduce the lag time of connecting emerging appropriate technology to the people who need it most, and thus be a very powerful tool for combating environmental degradation and climate change.
Rachael and her colleagues work with individuals who farm at the subsistence level 7,000'-13,000' above sea level. They work with several of the various indigenous Maya Indian groups who inhabit the highland region, similar in many ways to Peru's Altiplano region. The Guatemalan cloud forest/ Altiplano region is considered to be one of the most ecologically vulnerable places in the world, and Guatemala has been listed as the country second most impacted by climate change in 2010.
Previous work identified methodologies that reduced the impact of deforestation, and focused on providing alternative livelihoods to the people living there. Future directions will involve efforts to expand agricultural education, identify cheap protein sources for people and animals, develop new markets, introduce fast-growing sustainable fuel crops, improve water storage, and to further diversify production options in the highlands. It is hoped that an innovative social entrepreneurship model can be used to provide a framework for other development regions in fragile ecosystems to use for their own efforts. Her project was recently featured in UConn Today.