Skip to main content

82 DEATH THREATS : Conservation superhero José Román Carrera

The Rainforest Alliance’s Carrera put his life on the line to protect forests in his native Guatemala. Now, he even provides scholarships for children of forest-dependent people


 The Rainforest Alliance’s José Román Carrera, at right, says: “If we want people and the planet to prosper together, we can’t get depressed. We don’t have time.” Photograph: The Rainforest Alliance

For José Román Carrera, protecting forests is a matter of life and death.

“I received 82 death threats,” Román recalls of the years he spent helping to establish Guatemala’s Maya Biosphere Reserve in the 1990s.

“And those were just the written ones. I also got many, many calls saying, ‘Leave the country or we’ll kill you, we’ll get your mother.’ I was shot at in my car – 17 bullets. Another time they put a bomb at my house.

“But I’m still here,” he says with a laugh. 

“They tried to kill me and they didn’t. Eventually they realized I would never leave. I had to protect the Maya Biosphere Reserve.” 

A matter of survival: fortifying Guatemala’s climate resilience through community forestry

Read more

Those who know Román say his extraordinary commitment hasn’t waned once over the course of his 25-year career. Born and raised in El Quetzalito, a rural community in the state of Petén, Guatemala, the 48-year-old Román started working in 1990 with the National Council of Protected Areas of Guatemala (CONAP) – the organization tasked with making the 2.1m-hectare (6m-acre) Maya Biosphere Reserve a reality – and has worked in conservation ever since, including as director of CONAP. Fourteen years ago, he joined the Rainforest Alliance and currently supports forestry communities all over Latin America with his unflagging, fearless dedication – and, thankfully, with fewer death threats.

His great passion is for the forestry concession system, which grants local and indigenous communities the right to harvest forest products as long as they do so sustainably. “The idea is to improve their incomes without destroying the forest,” Román says. “I am totally convinced that it works. Just look at the Maya Biosphere Reserve. In the buffer zone, the rate of deforestation is 7%. In the core zone [where no deforestation is allowed] it’s 2%. In the concession areas where the Rainforest Alliance has been continuously working with forest communities for 10 years, the deforestation rate is zero.”
Carrera supports community forestry operations all over Latin America. Photograph: The Rainforest Alliance

Román traces his love for conservation to his childhood, when he would walk five kilometers (more than three miles) through the forest every day to get to school. “I saw macaws, deer, sometimes I would see a jaguar,” he remembers. 

This was during Guatemala’s civil war, when the army and guerillas were fighting, making the area unattractive to businesses. 

After the peace accord, companies – as well as illegal loggers, marijuana growers and looters of the famed archeological site Tikal – started coming in and destroying the forests.

 “Now, where my family lives, most of the tropical forests have disappeared,” Román says.

Andreas Lehnhoff, who hired Román in 1990 to help establish the Maya Biosphere Reserve, recalls: “We were operating on a shoestring, and it took a lot of force of personality to make change. I pride myself on being a talent-spotter and I nailed it when I hired Román,” he says.

 “He’s a real talent, a visionary, and he’s a great negotiator.”

Lehnhoff adds: “He’s truly tireless. He’s almost obsessed with his passion for community-based forest management.”

Román admits he’s “in love” with his work and calls his wife an angel because she also believes in conservation and improving livelihoods of forest-dependent people. Together the couple provides four to six scholarships each year to boys and girls from Román’s hometown.

“If I hadn’t had scholarships, I couldn’t have studied,” explains Román, who was one of 10 children. 

“I had to leave the community to study. We didn’t have roads! I left when I was 11 years old and saw my family only three times a year.”

Román secured scholarships for every phase of his education, including a Fulbright to attend Louisiana State University for his bachelor’s degree in forestry. 

“I’m just paying back what I received. My dream is to provide even more scholarships.”

For Román, maintaining his zeal for community-based forest management is easy. 

“When you go to one of these communities and you see women integrated into timber and nontimber production and also in the governments of these enterprises, when you see teenagers becoming professionals – teachers, nurses, technicians – you have faith.”

He adds: “If we want people and the planet to prosper together, we can’t get depressed. We don’t have time.”

Popular posts from this blog


While "Flavor" is very subjective, and each country that grows mangoes is very nationalistic, these are the mango varieties that are the most sought after around the world because of sweetnesss (Brix) and demand.

The Chaunsa has a Brix rating in the 22 degree level which is unheard of!
Carabao claims to be the sweetest mango in the world and was able to register this in the Guiness book of world records.
Perhaps it is time for a GLOBAL taste test ???

In alphabetical order by Country....



Alphonso (mango)
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Alphonso (हापुस Haapoos in Marathi, હાફુસ in Gujarati, ಆಪೂಸ್ Aapoos in Kannada) is a mango cultivar that is considered by many[who?] to be one of the best in terms of sweetness, richness and flavor. 

It has considerable shelf life of a week after it is ripe making it exportable. 

It is also one of the most expensive kinds of mango and is grown mainly in Kokan region of western India.

 It is in season April through May and the fruit wei…

Mangoes date back 65 million years according to research ...

Experts at the Birbal Sahni Institute of Palaeobotany (BSIP) here have traced the origin of mango to the hills of Meghalaya, India from a 65 million year-old fossil of a mango leaf. 

The earlier fossil records of mango (Mangifera indica) from the Northeast and elsewhere were 25 to 30 million years old. The 'carbonized leaf fossil' from Damalgiri area of Meghalaya hills, believed to be a mango tree from the peninsular India, was found by Dr R. C. Mehrotra, senior scientist, BSIP and his colleagues. 

After careful analysis of the fossil of the mango leaf and leaves of modern plants, the BISP scientist found many of the fossil leaf characters to be similar to mangifera.

An extensive study of the anatomy and morphology of several modern-day species of the genus mangifera with the fossil samples had reinforced the concept that its centre of origin is Northeast India, from where it spread into neighbouring areas, says Dr. Mehrotra. 

The genus is believed to have disseminated into neighb…

DHL (INDIA) makes gifting mangoes as easy as 1-2-3-....

Gifting mangoes is now easy with DHL
Announcement / Corporate

 May 19, 2011, 14:04 IST

Come this summer pamper your loved ones abroad with a box of delicious mangoes through DHL’s Express Easy Mango service, a unique one-stop-shop and hassle-free service for gifting mangoes all across the world.

This unique service by DHL Express, the world’s leading express company, allows customers to send mangoes from India across the world to the following countries Belgium, Canada, Czech Republic, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Hong Kong, Italy, Luxemburg, Maldives, Netherlands, Norway, Oman, Qatar Singapore, Switzerland and Sweden.

Mangoes can be availed of free of cost by merely paying for the Air Express service. In addition, DHL Express assists customers with the necessary paperwork along with procurement of quality-grade Alphonso mangoes.

Commenting on the new service, Mr. R.S Subramanian, Country Head, DHL Express India said: “With the advent of the mango season, it is no wonder that DHL Express Ea…