Communities Organizing for Watersheds

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ZumildaEcoLogic began working with communities in the Pico Bonito region of Honduras following the devastation of Hurricane Mitch in 1998. In 2003, EcoLogic was instrumental in establishing the Association of Water Boards of the Southern Zone of Pico Bonito National Park (AJAASSPIB), an umbrella organization representing 27 community water boards that promotes a comprehensive management approach that addresses ecosystem health and infrastructure needs from the bottom up. The establishment of voluntary payments for water services—a type of modified payment for ecosystem services (PES) program—has been critical to the success of AJAASSPIB and the project. Other activities include building native tree greenhouses, forest management and forest guardian training, reforestation, and fuel-efficient stove construction. 

Inspired by this project’s success in helping communities sustainably manage their water sources and unite to secure local financing for natural resource management and protection, the Municipality of Olanchito reached out to AJAASSPIB and EcoLogic to accomplish a similar feat on a larger scale. Officials from the municipality wanted help forging agreements and establishing environmental funds for conservation of the 6,500-hectare Uchapa and Pimienta watershed, which supplies water to more than 40,000 people. Since 2011, as part of this project, EcoLogic, AJAASSPIB and the Municipality of Olanchito have been working together under the Agreement on Joint Environmental Management, or MACO.

Local Partners: Association of Water Committees of the Southern Sector of Pico Bonito National Park (AJAASSPIB)

The Municipality of Olanchito (MACO)

Year Project Began: 2003

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KenyaRecent project highlights:

  • In March 2011, EcoLogic, AJAASSPIB and the municipality of Olanchito signed the Agreement on Joint Environmental Management, or MACO. Officials from the municipality wanted to work with AJAASSPIB and EcoLogic to forge agreements and establish environmental funds for conservation of the 6,500-hectare Uchapa and Pimienta watershed, which supplies water to more than 40,000 people.
  • In 2011, EcoLogic placed second in the Swiss Re International ReSource Award competition, which recognizes programs that “raise awareness of the ecological, social, and economic significance of water sources and watersheds in developing and emerging countries.” We received a $50,000 award for additional project work.
  • Piloted a community assessment approach to identify who most needed/merited a fuel-efficient stove.
  • Undertook a “plant by plant” monitoring process to assess the success of reforestation efforts from 2011. The results: 13,014 trees were established on 33 hectares.
  • In 2012, the UN Development Program selected AJAASSPIB as one of the winners of the Equator Prize, awarded to “recognize and advance local sustainable development solutions for people, nature, and resilient communities.” Out of over 800 applicants, only 25 organizations were selected for this honor, which included $5,000 to support AJAASSPIB’s activities, as well as an opportunity for a representative from AJAASSPIB to go to the Rio+20 conference.
  • Our work collaborating with MACO and AJAASSSPIB to protect and restore the nearby Uchapa and Pimienta Watershed has been chosen as one of ten finalists in a contest sponsored by Rare and The Nature Conservancy. Solution Search: Adapting to a Changing Climate recognizes innovative solutions related to communities adapting to a changing climate and their local environment. Our project was selected for recognition out of a field of 85 entries because of its “triple win” benefits for water, soil, and energy, all important to forest conservation and community resilience.

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Country: Honduras

Year Project Began: 2003

Partners: Association of Water Committees of the Southern Sector of Pico Bonito National Park (AJAASSPIB), ArtCorps, CARE, Honduran Association of Water System Administrative Councils (AHJASA)

Size of Project Site: 40,469 hectares: 33,500 hectares of Pico Bonito National Park, 6,969 hectares of protected watersheds

Population of Project Site: 11,171 people, 1,943 families

Languages Spoken: Jicaque, Spanish

Peoples: Spanish descent; mestizo

Sources of Income: Cattle ranching; farming; industrial-scale plantation agriculture for bananas, pineapples and oil palm; timber extraction

Unique Environmental and Geographic Features: The Aguan River flows through this region of Pico Bonito National Park. One of the largest protected areas in Honduras, Pico Bonito National Park contains 19 watersheds crucial to the water resources of over half a million people. Pico Bonito is also a critical wintering and stopover habitat for an estimated 200 species of neotropical migratory birds.

Ecosystems: Tropical wet forest, tropical dry forest

Endangered Species: At least 54

Solutions: Agroforestry, environmental education, fuel-efficient stoves, greenhouses and nurseriesreforestationrewards for ecosystem services and stewardship (RESS)watershed management


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Black-handed spider monkey

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ZumildaSelect progress made by EcoLogic and local partners in 2012-2013:

  • Conducted six audits of member water boards to ensure proper management and control of collected funds from water users.
  • Restructured three water boards.
  • Built a tree nursery that supports 15,000 plants.
  • Built 80 fuel-efficient stoves in two communities.
  • Conducted learning exchanges with communities on national and local forestry policies, climate change, rural development, the environment, and other topics.
  • Performed maintenance and monitoring of six chlorination devices for treating drinking water.