Rocío Silva is a young Guatemalan biologist dedicated to exploration, community development, biological monitoring, and environmental education. She has been involved in various national and regional research projects focusing on biodiversity and communities.

She is also the co-founder of Hylos, an initiative aimed at driving and revolutionizing development to generate positive impacts on her country’s social, economic, and environmental indicators. As a member of the first Climate Solutions Lab cohort, she developed the project “Participatory and Resilient Management of Plastic Waste in the Hawaii Multi-Use Area, a Marine and Coastal Protected Area,” which identified community coordination and organization as mechanisms of resilience.

We hope that, in the future, the implementation of sustainable practices in plastic management strengthens the local economy, preparing communities to face environmental and climate challenges with greater resilience and having positive impacts on the marine and coastal ecosystem. Rocio Silva

Rocío serves on the Guatemalan Association of Mammalogists’ Board of Directors, coordinates Team 5: STEAM for Girls and Boys at OWSD Guatemala, and is a member of the Urban Bird Observers Club. In 2023, she was named one of the 100 Most Powerful Women of Central America by Forbes magazine.

For Rocío, climate change stands as a major threat to both biodiversity and communities’ well-being. She believes that climate change should be a cross-cutting theme in all projects, as it touches all aspects of life. A desire to help vulnerable communities become more resilient in a sustainable way that takes into account their livelihoods and the environment is her primary motivation for engaging in climate action.

Within the Climate Solutions Lab, Rocío emphasized the importance of embracing change and feedback throughout the working process. “Continuous feedback and contact with people, project areas, and challenges are what transformed our solutions and made them more relevant,” she noted.

For Rocío, after the development and implementation of her project, issues of gender and participation posed both challenges and learning opportunities. “I thought we would have more male participation in the workshops. However, I was surprised to see that the majority of the attendees were women. Nevertheless, many of the women expressed concerns about not being heard in the community due to their gender,” she explained. This discovery guided her towards the need to strengthen community organizing and consolidate the group to achieve greater representation and empower women.

Workshops during the Solution Lab implementation in 2022.

“The change must begin locally. Participatory processes are crucial for achieving viable solutions.” Rocio Silva

Amplifying the voices of the most vulnerable groups, who often have a closer relationship to the issues, is essential. Recognizing and facilitating this was one of Rocío’s standout achievements. “As part of the process, community organizing by women emerged as a resilience mechanism and a way for women to be heard and have an impact within their communities.”

Rocío’s story highlights the role each of us plays in inspiring meaningful change and working towards a more resilient and sustainable future.

Summary of Rocío’s Climate Solution “Participatory and Resilient Management of Plastic Waste in the Hawaii Multi-Use Area, a Marine and Coastal Protected Area”

In Guatemala, 42.8% of households burn their waste, and women have the greatest exposure to highly toxic fumes. In the two communities where Rocío worked (El Dormido and Las Mañanitas), she identified that 80% of waste management was done by women. She also found that 57% of families burn their waste, whereas 24% bury it. Burning waste generates greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change. It also releases microplastics, which pose risks to human health and biodiversity when inhaled or ingested through food. Waste also affects the communities’ primary sources of income: fishing and tourism.

The project was based on Hylos’ community entrepreneurship laboratory model. It involved various participatory workshops geared towards identifying problems (defined by the community), enhancing environmental awareness (about issues like solid waste, climate change, and integrated water resources management, among others), and formulating solutions. Women’s groups highlighted community organizing as a key mechanism for addressing climate change challenges, including the plastics issue.

Currently, the project provides support and funding (through seed capital from Impulsouth and HIPGive) for women’s groups to legally organize and implement sustainable solutions in plastic waste management. It also promotes alternative income sources for them to enhance their resilience.