This past April in Honduras, EcoLogic staff, along with our local partner AJAASSPIB (Association of Water Committees of the Southern Sector of Pico Bonito National Park), delivered two silvopasture workshops to teach local agronomy students the importance of silvopasture—forest management systems that combine forestry with cattle grazing. Instead of barren lands and exposed soil sacrificed for short-term profit from cattle, multiple benefits can be derived: wood can be harvested for cooking fuel and household needs, cows can graze on more diverse forage crops, and the soil can maintain humidity even in the face of drought or intense sun so common to this region, the south side of Pico Bonito National Park.
Welcome to our archive of our news publications. Below you will find stories from our monthly EcoLogic eNews, as well as our Interviews with EcoLogicians. You can also read archived copies of The EcoLogical Landscape, our print newsletter, by clicking the links in the right sidebar.
For more stories and reflections about our work, check out our blog, EcoBlogic!
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Fernando joined us from Totonicapán, Guatemala, where he works for EcoLogic as a field technician. He coordinates with our local partner 48 Cantones, an indigenous-led, community-based organization, in a joint effort to conserve a 52,000-acre highland forest in Totonicapán.
On Wednesday, April 26, EcoLogic hosted a celebration of the Caribbean Roots and Shoots campaign in Livingston, Izabal, Guatemala. The celebration included rural communities whose livelihoods depend on the careful management of the Amatique Bay, particularly its protected areas and fisheries, which are stewarded for and by local people. This includes the Sarstun River Multiple Use Area and the Punta Manabique Wildlife Refuge in Guatemala.
Project Region: La Chinantla, Oaxaca
This March in La Chinantla EcoLogic constructed 5 composting latrines with local community members from the community El Naranjal. 4 more latrines are due to be completed this month, but the rainy season and increased precipitation in tropical La Chinantla have caused delays. Such latrines help to reduce water pollution, improve community health, and even more importantly for EcoLogic—latrines serve as symbols and demonstrations of how to change habits and have pride in one’s community.
Project Region: Totonicapán
Project Page: Forest of the Water Spirit
This past March in Totonicapán, the site of Guatemala’s best conserved highland oak-pine forest, EcoLogic provided the financial support for an assembly between the Natural Resources Council of the 48 Cantons and community leaders from the local area. This provided space for elected community delegates to speak on behalf of their particular community’s needs, share knowledge on the conservation efforts they’ve undertaken, and revisit previous project activities to ensure continued progress with EcoLogic and 48 Cantons leadership, who serve as community conservation allies. This assembly had 33 participants from local communities in total, 33 men and 3 women.
Project Region: Olanchito (Uchapa-Pimienta watershed area)
Project Page: Communities Organizing for Watersheds
This past March in Honduras, EcoLogic staff along with our local partner the Association of Water Committees of the Southern Sector of Pico Bonito National Park (AJAASSPIB), completed 4 community-led forest monitoring visits to monitor illegal logging activity, gather data on insect outbreaks, and prevent fires in the standing forests critical to the Uchapa-Pimienta watershed. Volunteers and field staff conducted visits in the communities of Agalteca, La Gloria, California, Suyatal. In total, these visits included 10 men and 2 women from local communities and brought these local monitoring groups together with representatives from the Honduran Institute of Forestry Conservation (ICF).
La Chinantla, a region located in the Northern part of the State of Oaxaca—which itself is nestled in the Southwestern corner of Mexico, is a highly biodiverse, mountainous landscape—considered one of the most ecologically complex regions of Oaxaca, and even the entire country. It is one of the few regions in Mexico where so many distinct ecosystems coexist in such proximity—vast, sprawling expanses of oak forest, lowland tropical humid forests, scrub and dry forests, cloud forests, and high evergreen forests cover this lush, humid land. La Chinantla is also the place the Chinantec and Mazatec people (whose total population numbers over 100,000) call home.
In order to get more stories directly from the field to you—our kind readers, supporters, allies, and friends—we have started implementing and experimenting with communications techniques. We aim to give EcoLogic field technicians an easy method to create consistent streams of stories and photos that will allow us to analyze, communicate, monitor, and evaluate the human elements of our conservation work—like empowerment and social change.
While we are still in the pilot stage of this process, these two stories were collected by Oaxaca Field Technician Severiana Domínguez González, whose brilliant work you’ve read about of before. Severiana, as usual, went above and beyond—providing us with short journalistic accounts of local beneficiaries who are involved in our fuel-efficient stove initiative in La Chinantla.
We hope you enjoy this close-up view of Severiana’s work and insights from two local women who partner with EcoLogic.
Inside Imelda Esteban Yescas’ Kitchen
By Severiana Domínguez González
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.
Hear more from Warren.
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.
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.
Read on to see the full published article.
This week, in EcoLogic’s regional office in Quetzaltenango, Guatemala (known locally as Xela, a homage to its indigenous name Xelaju), EcoLogic Communications Officer, Riley Hunter, sat down with Fernando Recancoj, long-time EcoLogic Field Technician for our Totonicapán project to get a better idea of what makes EcoLogic unique, why Fernando has stayed so committed to EcoLogic for 9 years, and why he is confident that EcoLogic the best place for him to create change and help rural and indigenous communities conserve their natural resources in Totonicapán.
read on to hear more from Fernando.
This article is the first installment of a multiple-part story series intended to take a deep-dive into a specific issue — unsustainable timber extraction, or logging — at one of our long-standing project sites: the Communal Forest of Los Altos de San Miguel in Totonicapán, Guatemala. As the story unfolds, you will learn about the complexities of the logging issue, the players involved and their needs/motivations, the impact of logging on forest resources and biodiversity, as well as the unique history and current realities of Totonicapán, Guatemala.
This past November, Guatemalan environmental journalist Lucy Calderón took a trip to our project sites in Totonicapán, Guatemala to write a story on how local environmental groups are confronting issues of climate change. Lucy and Guatemala Country Officer, Mario de León, met at a climate change event (Congreso Nacional de Cambio Climático) in Xela (Quetzaltenango), Guatemala and Mario invited Lucy to visit and experience our community-based conservation work. This December, after Lucy published an article about her experience with EcoLogic to various news outlets focused on conservation, she was awarded the first place prize by LatinClima and the Earth Journalism Network, CATIE (Tropical Agronomic Research and Teaching Center) and the Dutch Embassy in Costa Rica for the best Latin American story on adaptation to climate change.
Below, in Spanish and English, is Lucy’s article, and the videos and photography that accompany her story. We are very proud that she chose to write about our work, and we congratulate her for being awarded first place!
*Note: The original article was written in Spanish. EcoLogic intern Dulce Gutierrez has provided English translation for this article, and each Spanish paragraph has an English translation that immediately follows
Educación y organización comunitaria son claves para convivir con el cambio climático
Dear friends of EcoLogic,
Thank you so much for attending EcoLogic’s third annual Turning the Tables benefit. For those of you who made it, we’re so grateful you could join us to celebrate EcoLogic’s impact and come closer together as a community of allies dedicated to a more sustainable, just world. For those of you who couldn’t make it this year, we hope this event summary inspires you to join us in the future! It was a big success not only for us, but for rural and indigenous people in Central America and Mexico—as well as for our caring community here in Boston.
EcoLogic’s third annual Turning the Tables, which took place on October 20th, was a unique and creative evening full of dialogue between concerned citizens who care about the issues that affect people and planet. EcoLogic hosted both core supporters and new guests at the historic Commander’s Mansion in Watertown. The space was thoughtfully decorated with paintings made by artisans in Guatemala, videos relayed from field staff in Honduras, and auction items donated from Mexico, Belize, and beyond!
At EcoLogic, we love to brag about our amazing interns. With bright minds and unbridled enthusiasm, they bring a wealth of much welcomed, fresh energy to our work. However, we don’t often highlight the brilliant interns that offer the same great ideas and helping hands to our regional staff and our partners in the field.
In Totonicapán, Guatemala, there’s an intern who brings exactly all the qualities and benefits we’ve just described, and has worked with EcoLogic and our local partner, The Natural Resource Council of The Mayors of the 48 Cantones, since early 2016. Her name is Rosario Concepción Morales Tzic.
Rosario was originally linked with 48 Cantones through her program at the University Center of Totonicapán, part of the University of San Carlos in Guatemala. Rosario’s original project was to undertake a socioeconomic baseline study of a community in the area with the help and guidance of 48 Cantones. As Rosario mentions in the video, her involvement and role expanded once she connected with EcoLogic Field Technician Fernando Recancoj and became aware of our work. Shortly after, EcoLogic staff and USAC students began to explore their mutual interests and eventually formalized a partnership with the university, so that students in the area could learn about and participate in projects related to community-based conservation.
Below is a short video of Rosario explaining a bit about her work and why she has enjoyed partnering with EcoLogic. It is in Spanish, but no worries if you don’t speak it—we’ve subtitled it for you. We hope that you enjoy a bit of insight into her fieldwork and maybe get a chance to practice your Spanish listening skills, too!
Last week at EcoLogic we were reflecting on our work in Mexico and our particularly impressive staff in the region, when we realized we were long overdue for a Staff Spotlight on a uniquely passionate and powerful Field Technician. Severiana has been with EcoLogic since 2012 and has amassed many inspiring stories while working with rural and indigenous communities in Oaxaca, and especially enjoys seeing the benefits that EcoLogic’s work provides for women. So, we sat down with Seve (pronounced: say-vay) as she is called for short, to shine the Staff Spotlight on her this month and make sure our supporters and readers know about her dedication and amazing impact.
Here’s what she had to say (in English and Spanish):
You’ve likely heard this before, but at EcoLogic we implement a number of participatory workshops and activities. We do this so that communities recognize themselves as co-owners of project plans and initiatives, and our partner communities themselves can drive the conservation process in a way that aligns with their needs and interests. We believe that communities must be involved throughout the entire project cycle, from initial planning all the way to monitoring and evaluation. Our commitment to participatory processes ensures that our projects respond to locally defined needs and priorities, and are adapted to the unique environmental and social challenges of each community. This approach advances our mission to empower rural and indigenous people—and increases the likelihood that our initiatives are sustainable over the long-term.
Participatory approaches to development include a number of valuable tools that facilitate the inclusion and engagement necessary to give an equal voice to all involved. One particularly useful method used for this is called PhotoVoice—which is a process that allows people to identify, represent, and enhance their projects, plans, and goals through a specific photographic technique.
Just as we believe all community members must have an equal voice and a seat at the table, we think the same principles must be applied to all of our staff. So, this past September, EcoLogic engaged all US-based and regional staff in an organization-wide activity meant to gather information and insight on how EcoLogic is understood, identified, and represented in the many diverse communities in which we work across Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, and Honduras. The activity was meant to enable people to reflect about EcoLogic’s strengths and voice their opinions, while also promoting dialogue and knowledge-sharing. Participants were asked to each select a photo that they believe exemplifies EcoLogic’s role and process of working, and were later prompted to reflect upon the pictures through both written narratives and group discussions—a methodology called PhotoVoice.
Our recent PhotoVoice workshop had over 20 participants that engaged remotely from the regions in which we work. Together, participants shared over 20 photos and accompanying narratives that shared important information about EcoLogic. We plan to incorporate this information into a wide variety of project planning, fundraising, and communications materials. But most importantly, the activity gave everyone an opportunity to voice their expertise from the field in their own words, with their own representation. The meaningful dialogue and reflection about EcoLogic’s work that the activity generated will be integrated into our organizational vision, allow us to grow, and shape our future plans and project designs around rich, quality, information gathered from the knowledgeable minds of our expert staff.
Oh, and as a bonus, everyone got to share amazing photos that others had yet to see! Here are some of our favorite photos and reflections:
Name and role: Marco Acevedo, Program Officer for Mexico
Project and location of the photo: Chinantla, San Lucas Ojitlán
Approximate date: 2013
Title: Perseverance and Transcendence
From your point of view, why is this photo significant and how does it represent EcoLogic’s role?
This photo represents two aspects of EcoLogic. The first is the perseverance that EcoLogic has to continue our work even when the road isn’t easy or when we encounter many obstacles. But, we have been able to build processes that allow us to advance and grow. The second aspect has to do with with how we propel conservation and bring it to the people and the lessons that we learn along the path of doing things together.
By Andrew Shifren, EcoLogic summer intern and student at Emory University studying history and environmental management. Andrew interned with EcoLogic during the summer of 2016 after being selected for a Forest Foundation grant, which is a competitive application process and places students with non-profits who have aligning interests and skills. The program aims to foster the next generation of public service leaders. Thank you, Forest Foundation, and gracias, Andrew!
Before the Forest Foundation placed me in a summer internship at EcoLogic, if you were to ask me what communications consists of, I would probably have said “e-mail.” Needless to say, I had a lot of catching up to do during my first week on board. I was lucky enough to join EcoLogic at a time when they were crafting a new communications strategy, so I stepped into an environment with few rules set in stone and plenty of opportunities to innovate and pose new ideas. It was also an office environment with dogs—I loved the dogs.
EcoLogic works diligently with our local partner organizations to build resilience in rural communities through our solutions that protect both people and the planet. Yet, in addition to our ongoing work, there are situations that emerge that demand urgent and immediate action. A current example of this is happening right now in Honduras, in what experts are rightfully calling this an ecological catastrophe. An abnormally severe outbreak of the southern pine beetle—Dendroctonus frontalis—is ravaging pine forests across the country. While this beetle has long been present in Honduran forests, climate change and its effects are causing more frequent and severe outbreaks.
The pine beetle attacks pine forests, particularly those that have been weakened by lightning or fires, or where there is high stand density. Once 20-30 pines are attacked, southern pine beetle infestations can spread rapidly if no control is applied. Under conditions of outbreak, the bark beetles can then kill healthy pines, too. The bark beetle develops within the bark of infested pines and new adults then fly in search of a new host.
In order to control the spread of the pine beetle plague, EcoLogic and its partners will continue implementing the strategy promoted by the Honduran Forest Conservation Institute (Instituto de Conservación Forestal, ICF), which advises to cut down infected trees as well as healthy trees within a 50 meter radius of infected areas (a distance which prevents adults from reaching new healthy pines). Given this necessary clearing of trees, reforestation of healthy trees and ongoing management are key components of the response. Firebreaks will continue to be built, along with controlled burning and removal of combustible matter, and the forests will be monitored by rangers.