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Barra Sarstún Fisherfolk Recover after Fire

The fire in Barra Sarstún destroyed a new restaurant and damaged a fish processing facility

A fire in Barra Sarstún, Guatemala, has destroyed a new restaurant that local fisherfolk had been building in order to attract ecotourism to the area. As part of its Cross-Border Alliance for Healthy Fisheries project, EcoLogic has been working with a community organization of fisherfolk to construct the restaurant. This work was sponsored by Cell Signaling Technology, which has supported EcoLogic since 2009. In response to the fire, Cell Signaling Technology doubled a recent grant award to Ecologic which will be used to support recovery efforts.

The community of Barra Sarstún is located on the south bank of the Sarstún river in Guatemala, bordering Belize. Most people here rely on fish for sustenance and income, and a recent decline in local fish populations has brought the sustainability of their livelihoods into question. The committee of local fisherfolk was formed in 2008 to protect fish resources and serve the community’s interests. Since its founding, the committee has grown to include more than 500 members. The committee is currently headed by a fisherman from Barra Sarstún named Mario Francisco Til. EcoLogic’s coordinator for the binational project, Cleopatra Mendez, has worked with this group for many years to organize workshops in sustainable fisheries management and facilitate learning exchanges between Barra Sarstún and other small fishing communities.

To support its members financially, the committee coordinates cooperative trade. As a cooperative, they are able to market their harvests of róbalo (bass) and camarón (shrimp) to buyers in Livingston, the nearest coastal Guatemalan city, where they are able to sell their catch for more money. The committee also designates and patrols fish refuge areas, in which fishing is prohibited during certain seasons while populations replenish. They have observed a positive difference in fish populations since these refuges were organized.

Given new restrictions on fishing and the income it provides, many are looking for alternative ways to generate revenue. The committee of fisherfolk has been working to bring money to the community by encouraging “turismo comunitario”: community-based tourism as a means to secure a sustainable source of local revenue. Their first initiative to this end was to build a restaurant. EcoLogic has worked with local fisherfolk throughout the construction process. The fire represents a significant setback for this project. However, the community-based assets that enabled the restaurant’s construction in the first place—namely, the fisherfolk committee and its numerous members—remain intact. Moving forward, the committee will determine how it can move forward from this disaster. Technical support from EcoLogic and funding from Cell Signaling Technology will help the committee as they continue to pursue their goal of creating a sustainable eco-tourism infrastructure that attracts visitors and can cater to their needs.

After the restaurant, the committee had hoped to construct cabins for tourist lodgings so that people can stay in the community for an extended period of time. These plans may have to be delayed while the committee contends with the damage caused by the fire, and weighs different options for recovery. Eco-tourism remains a top priority for the committee, and local fisherfolk will continue to pursue their goal of diversifying Barra Sarstún’s sources of income, particularity as income from fishing become less reliable. 

Members of the Barra Sarstun community watch the fire from boats

Members of the Barra Sarstun community watch the fire from boats

AgroAmerica Supports EcoLogic Agroforestry in Guatemala

AgroAmerica is supporting EcoLogic's sustainable agroforestry work. In an agroforestry plot such as this, tree and crop species can be grown side-by side. Here, Inga trees help and cardamom plants to grow by fertilizing the soil and providing necessary shade.

AgroAmerica is supporting EcoLogic’s sustainable agroforestry work. In an agroforestry plot, tree and crop species can be grown side-by side. Here, Inga trees help cardamom plants to grow by fertilizing the soil and providing necessary shade.

AgroAmerica, a sustainable agriculture business with operations in Central and South America, has committed funds to support EcoLogic Development Fund’s agroforestry project Protecting Livelihoods for Rural Communities in Guatemala through the Sustainable Management of Forest and Water Resources. EcoLogic is a non-governmental organization that empowers rural and indigenous peoples to restore and protect tropical ecosystems in Central America and Mexico. The August 2017 donation of $10,000 is part of a larger commitment of $130,000 spread over a period of six years.

“We’re deeply committed to the preservation of the environment and assisting local people to learn better ways of using the land, so we’re pleased to be able to support EcoLogic’s work in this area,” said Fernando Bolaños, CEO of AgroAmerica.

The aim of EcoLogic’s project is to teach Guatemalan farmers about agroforestry—an agricultural production method that, stated simply, involves growing crops alongside trees. Agroforestry systems reconcile the dual necessities of environmental conservation and food production.  Agroforestry comes in many forms, and this flexibility enables rural communities to adopt approaches that are best suited for local conditions and cultural preferences.

“There are many ways this idea can be implemented: many different crop species can be planted and flourish together with leguminous trees, because trees such as Inga or Guama grow naturally from Mexico to South America,” explains agronomist engineer Mario Ardany de León, EcoLogic’s Program Officer for Guatemala.

These trees provide the nitrogen needed for the growth of crop plants and help avoid the need for chemical fertilizers. They also provide firewood for local communities and help to prevent soil erosion.

The Inga edulis tree is used in EcoLogic’s agroforestry projects in the Guatemalan municipalities of San Mateo Ixtatán, Santa Cruz, Ixcán, El Quiché, and Sarstún, Izabal. Agroforestry systems in these sites produce crops including coffee, cacao, and spices, such as cardamom.

Another benefit of agroforestry is that in Guatemala, property owners who engage in reforestation activities may qualify for government incentives through the National Institute of Forests (INAB). The program provides financial incentives to Guatemalans with less than 15 hectares of land who plant trees or manage forests through sustainable methods such as agroforestry. Over the last four years, EcoLogic and its local partners have helped 500 farmers and their families access a total of over $300,000 from these programs. So far in 2017, EcoLogic field technicians have helped 11 additional farmers to establish land management plans and complete the required paperwork to qualify for incentives payments under the national program.

In an effort to grow the impact of this initiative, and help additional farmers throughout Guatemala access these incentives, EcoLogic is planning a regional learning exchange in the department of Huehuetenango with our local partner Mancomunidad Frontera del Norte (MFN). Project staff experienced in the process will train EcoLogic field technicians in Guatemala as well as local municipal forest officials in ways that they can facilitate access to national incentives programs.

“We are extremely grateful to AgroAmerica for their generous support, which has been essential in making this work possible,” said Barbara Vallarino, EcoLogic Development Fund’s Executive Director.

Beekeeping Photos from Ixcán, Guatemala

In Ixcán, Guatemala, people have few livelihood options beyond growing maize. In order to create new economic opportunities, EcoLogic provides technical training in beekeeping to local community residents. See our work for yourself:

At EcoLogic's beekeeping trainings, community members learn how construct and monitor hives hives

At EcoLogic’s beekeeping trainings, community members learn how construct and monitor hives hives

Local farmers help to transport necessary materials to the hive construction sites

Local farmers help to transport necessary materials to the hive construction sites

Finished hives - many farmers host multiple hives to aid pollination and increase honey output

Finished hives – many farmers host multiple hives to aid pollination and increase honey output

Farmers use smoke to calm the bees before opening the hives

Farmers use smoke to calm the bees before opening the hives

Each hive contains several removable frames

Each hive contains several removable frames

A close-up of a frame taken out of a hive. The bees in this hive are using this frame as a nursery - the honey is stored elsewhere.

A close-up of a frame taken out of a hive. The bees in this hive are using this frame as a nursery – the honey is stored elsewhere.

This frame hold honey, which has been securely capped with wax for storage by the bees.

This frame holds honey, which the the bees have securely capped with wax for storage.

To access the honey in the frame, the wax caps must be removed by carefully slicing along both sides of the honeycomb structure.

To access the honey in the frame, the wax caps must be removed by carefully slicing along both sides of the honeycomb structure.

Once the honey and wax have been separated, the honey into containers for storage and transportation.

Once the honey and wax have been separated, the honey into containers for storage and transportation.

The finished product!

The finished product!

Beekeeping is a forest-friendly alternative to other kinds of food production. Unlike other products, honey can be harvested year-round, creating income stability for families. Beekeeping training also gives farmers the opportunity to diversify their harvest so they can be less reliant on a single source of income for financial and food security. This is especially important as climate conditions change and some crops are less reliable than they have been historically.

There are now more than 800 hives across communities in the Ixcán region. So far this year, the beekeepers have collected over 21,000 pounds of honey, and generated over $125,000 in income. EcoLogic is also working on connecting beekeepers to honey retailers so they can sell their product within a broader market.

Planting the Seeds of Change with Young Leaders in Honduras

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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.

Read more about the importance of this EcoLogic activity that connected these young leaders to their environment.

Bridging Local and Global Leadership: EcoLogic Field Technician Visits the US!

PSA UNIVERSIDAD DE DUKE (29) (1)This past April, we had the pleasure of hosting a special guest, conservationist and indigenous rights activist Fernando Recancoj, in the US!

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.

Read more about the importance of connecting academics and supporters to Fernando and our work on the ground.

Roots & Shoots Fosters Youth Leadership on the Border of Belize and Guatemala

Celebración de la campaña de Roots Shoots (5)

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.

Read more about the importance of connecting local groups to a global initiative.

5 Composting Latrines for La Chinantla

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Country: Mexico

Project Region: La Chinantla, Oaxaca

Project Page: Conservation of the Papaloapan River Watershed in 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.

Read more about our impact this past month.

33 Participants from Local Communities in Totonicapán

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Country: Guatemala

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.

Read more about our impact this past month.

4 Forest Monitoring Visits in the Foothills of Olanchito

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Country: Honduras

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).

Read more about our impact this past month.

A Deep dive into the Cerro de Oro Dam that Changed the Landscape of La Chinantla

Background

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In this map produced by EcoLogic intern Christine Gregory, you can see the state of Oaxaca highlighted in the inset map and the small green area showing the precise location of La Chinantla in Oaxaca’s northeast corner.

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.

Read more about La Chinantla.

Field Interviews from Mexico with Imelda Esteban Yescas & Jasmin Guadalupe

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.

imelda

Imelda Esteban Yescas

Inside Imelda Esteban Yescas’  Kitchen

By Severiana Domínguez González

Hear more from Imelda & Jasmin.

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

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Basilio Martinez and Warren Darrell of Ecologic with AJAASSPIB technician Roberto at the water source on the Coyoles river.


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.

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.

See more photos from the field.

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

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)

3D models of watersheds show community members where water collects and how it travels to their villages. This is a youth group constructing the model for the villages of San Juan and San Dimas 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.
Read on to see the full published article.

Fernando Recancoj’s Most Significant Change: Empowerment & Adaptation

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Fernando Recancoj stopping for a snapshot mid conversation with me next to the “viveros,” or tree nurseries, in Totonicapán

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.

Illegal Logging in Totonicapán: A persistent problem requires a unique approach

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The long, windy highway from the town of Totonicapán to the edge of the communal forest– EcoLogic’s tree nurseries are located

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.

read on for more about Totonicapán.

Guatemalan Environmental Journalist, Lucy Calderón, Wins First Place for Article on Climate Change in Totonicapán

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 


See the rest of Lucy’s article.

Bravo! A Great Success for EcoLogic’s Not-So-Typical Benefit

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The excellent table facilitators and EcoLogic Executive Director Barbara Vallarino

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!

See more photos of the event.

From Socioeconomic Studies to Educational Talks: A USAC intern’s Experience in Totonicapán

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!

See more on Rosario’s study.

Staff Spotlight: Severiana Dominguez Gonzalez

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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):

See what Severiana has to say.

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