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Local Partnerships and Self-determination in Pico Bonito, Honduras: An Interview with Warren Darrell

Last week, EcoLogic sat down with Warren Darrell, an EcoLogic Ambassador. Warren had previously spent time journeying around Honduras to places like Copán, Lempira, and Colón where he observed the prevalence of hillside agriculture and soil degradation, as well as emerging conservation strategies such as soil-conserving agroforestry. Warren told EcoLogic that over the years, through his travels and interests, he learned that the key to successful development and conservation projects is involving local people and their community organizations and helping them enact the change they want to see. In his own words, Warren supports organizations that have an approach to their work that align with his international aid mantra that “supporting the right people and organizations is more important than the amount of support,” and after visiting Honduras, he says EcoLogic’s work confirms that.

EcoLogic: From your perspective, what was the most significant thing that you saw, that happened, or that you experienced during your visit to Honduras?

chilo,-warren,-roberto-at-the-fuent-empresa-Coyoles-resize(1)WD:  Well, I would say the most significant thing is the teamwork between EcoLogic and its partners. At least organizationally, because that I think is the most key point in getting anything done in this kind of sustainable development work. So, I would say organizationally and in terms of people, definitely the partnerships with what appeared to be good local organizations. As far as physically, the two things I’d mention would be that the water councils—and I saw more of the El Pino council than I did of Los Coyoles—they appeared to physically have a pretty good water infrastructure. The small reservoirs in the mountains and then bringing it down to their big storage chlorination tanks. They appeared to be pretty well organized. Physically, the stove program is a great program, period. So what was impressive to me was the strength of the partnerships organizationally, and physically the water systems and the stove programs were particularly significant to me.

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EcoLogic Ambassador in Action: My Trip to Pico Bonito, Honduras

This guest blog is written by Warren Darrell, a retired environmental engineer from northern Virginia, who became involved with EcoLogic in the summer of 2016 as a Steward of Nature (our monthly donation program). Having spent some time Honduras, Guatemala, and other Latin American countries to volunteer with various sustainable development organizations, he was intrigued by EcoLogic’s community-based approach to watershed conservation and sustainable agriculture. But giving monthly by himself wasn’t enough. Ultimately, he wanted to help EcoLogic raise funds as an Ambassador — EcoLogic’s volunteer fundraisers who help us spread the EcoLogic message and garner support from family, friends, and colleagues. And to do that, Warren wanted to visit our work in person so that he could witness and verify its impact.

First, Carlos Duarte Euraque, EcoLogic Program Officer for Honduras, and I visited the Junta empresa-rio-corinto-para-el-pino-y-el-provenir-resize(1)Administradora de Agua El Pino, which is the non-governmental community water cooperative serving the village of El Pino and nearby households. With a few employees and several volunteers, they operate and maintain a system which provides safe potable water. Even though the water source is within Pico Bonito National Park, the Honduran government lacks the resources to protect their forests and wild areas, so Junta technicians and volunteers patrol the steep forested watershed in the Nombre de Dios Mountains to guard against illegal logging. The Junta de agua (“water council,” in English) also operates a tree nursery to help farmers in the watershed practice agroforestry, which combines trees with agriculture to conserve soil and water. They also operate a recycling center, where school children exchange plastic trash for school and household supplies.

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An Association of Rural Villagers Leading by Example at the Landscape Scale in Honduras

In 2016, EcoLogic was invited by Dominique Calaganan, a member of our advisory committee, with whom we are connected to thanks to our relationship with the PARTNER network, to write an article on how our work at EcoLogic contributes to a global conversation about local governance in international development and conservation. We chose Honduras mainly because we wanted to help people see what good governance by-and-for local communities looks like, which is alive and well in the communities we support. But we also had the aim of helping our peers and other organizations learn from and replicate what we’ve done. We wanted to connect with academic audiences to give a humble example of what an international non-profit of our size can do to help facilitate and strengthen real grassroots efforts in practice. Perhaps most importantly, this article intended to continue to raise the profile of our inspiring partners in Honduras—because they deserve it.

The original version of this article first appeared at World Development Perspectives, Volume 3, September 2016, Pages 12–14

3D models of watersheds show community members where water collects and travels to their villages. This is a group constructing the model for San Juan and San Dimas in Honduras. (2)This case examines a promising multi-stakeholder forest governance effort in Northern Honduras, where local communities have exhibited resilience and resolve despite persistent lack of government funding or attention. They have helped conserve and restore over 7500 hectares of tropical forest. This success is due to the combination of four key factors: (1) the focus on bridging disparate stakeholder groups to expand options rather than viewing natural resource management as a zero-sum game; (2) the intentional project team design, where there has been an extraordinary amount of attention and design for equity between paid project staff and community level project participants; (3) the inherent cultural durability of locally created incentive mechanisms; and (4) the pride generated from recognition of extremely remote households by generally more powerful and better resourced institutions such as the municipal government seat, particularly in a society known to be quite hierarchical and biased in favor of urban elites while condescending toward rural inhabitants.

Read more of the published article >>