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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.

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The water source in the mountainous rain forest, which we reached after a steep and slippery hike.


First, Carlos Duarte Euraque, EcoLogic Program Officer for Honduras, and I visited the
Junta 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.

Marco y Daniel at the storage and chloro tank el pino

Junta technicians Marco and Daniel at the water storage and chlorination tank.

Next, we visited campesino Orlando’s farm near the Reserva de Vida Silvestre Texiguat (the Texiguat Wildlife Reserve), where he practices agroforestry with technical assistance provided by EcoLogic’s partner, Municipalities of the Central Atlantida Department (MAMUCA), a non‑governmental association of communities along the north coast of Honduras west of La Ceiba. Orlando has transformed his farm from reliance on livestock alone, with resulting overgrazing, to a diversity of livestock, cacao, pineapple, yucca, lemon, avocado, rambutan and more. The smaller tree prunings are left on the soil to protect and enrich it, while the larger prunings are used for kitchen firewood. The large trees, such as caoba (mahogany) will be of economic value when they mature.

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Orlando with his sister and a cacao tree.

Near Orlando’s farm, slash and burn agriculture rapidly depletes soil, causing the farmer to move on and burn more forest. Agroforestry enables farmers to escape that destructive cycle.

Then, over the Nombre de Dios range to the drier Aguan River Valley outside Olanchito, Carlos’ hometown, and, according to him the most beautiful place in Honduras, maybe the world. EcoLogic partner The Association of Water Committees of the Southern Sector of Pico Bonito National Park (AJAASSPIB), a non-governmental association of community water juntas, protects the watersheds through reforestation, agroforestry, and controlling forest fires (with hand tools only!).  

AJAASSPIB works in association with the local agricultural high school in Los Coyoles. The school operates a tree nursery which supports watershed protection and restoration.

This mountainous area had been deforested by overgrazing and infestation. AJAASSPIB has conducted reforestation for about ten years; now, the forest and watershed function are largely restored.

During our final day in the field, we helped construct a fuel-efficient wood stove, which will reduce deforestation, require less time for the family to gather firewood, and improve health by conducting the smoke away from the living area. The family contributes some of the expense and most of the labor; EcoLogic and MAMUCA contribute the expertise, training, and remainder of the cost. Neighbors contributed labor as a down payment on obtaining their own stoves. EcoLogic technician Daniel Escobar is supervising the final stage of stove construction.

EcoLogic technician, Daniel Escobar, supervising the final stage of stove construction with a local family

I have some prior experience in Honduras, and know how difficult it can be to promote conservation and human development. What most impressed me was the effectiveness and efficiency of EcoLogic’s partnerships with MAMUCA and AJAASSPIB. EcoLogic enables the local people to achieve, through their own organization and effort, better lives by protecting their environment. I left the area uplifted and confident in EcoLogic’s work.

 

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