eNews

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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PhotoVoice: An All-Staff Activity to Share Knowledge and Engage our Experts in the Field

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:

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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.

See more PhotoVoice reflections.

Connecting Local Partners & Communication Networks—A blog by EcoLogic intern Andrew Shifren

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!

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Andrew enjoying the natural wonders of the world

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.

Learn more about communication maps with Andrew.

The Southern Pine Beetle Plague: A Threat to Resilience and Livelihoods

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Local partners and community members constructing firebreaks in Northern Honduras

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.

Learn more about the Southern Pine Beetle plague.

From a Gentlemans’ Agreement to Effective Governance: A Retrospective on a Cross-Border Alliance leading to Healthy Fisheries in Belize and Guatemala

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Traditional transportation—a family navigates the area

After six years of hard work and perseverance of Guatemalan and Belizean fishing communities, and support from the Oak Foundation, EcoLogic’s project, Cross-Border Alliance for Healthy Fisheries, has reached a series of major milestones. As we plan with our local partners, and write proposals to potential funders, we wanted to paint a picture of the important progress to date and share the successes of the project and all of the people involved.

This project is located in the lower Sarstoon (Sarstún) River Basin and adjacent coastal-marine area on the border between Belize and Guatemala—the Amatique Bay. There is a combined total of over 50,000 hectares of terrestrial wetland conservation areas. This incredibly unique ecosystem is imperative to biodiversity as well as to the livelihoods and cultures shared by fishing communities (Garífuna, Maya Q’eqchi’, and Mestizo) on both sides of the border. However, a decades-old international boundary dispute has created barriers to cooperation, integration, and trust among border communities.  Furthermore, both Belize’s Toledo District and Guatemala’s Izabal Department suffer from some of the highest levels of poverty and malnutrition in their respective countries.

Learn more about this cross-border initiative.

En Respuesta/In Response: On Photography and Coexistence/Sobre la Fotografía y Convivencia

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In San Francisco de la Paz, Honduras; with Don Jose (or Don Tiva), the father of the owner of the school I worked at—a man who, though he has since passed, told me many stories and taught me very much about the history of his people and his country. / / En San Francisco de La Paz, Honduras; Don José (o Don Tiva), el padre del dueño de la escuela para la cual trabajaba. Este señor falleció hace unos años, pero me contó muchas historias y me enseñó mucho sobre la historia de su gente y su país.

Last month, we published an eNews article titled On Photography and Coexistence with Nature, written by EcoLogic Field Technician Antonio Reyes Montejo all the way from his project site in Ixcán, Guatemala. Like we mentioned in the last article, EcoLogic is always aiming to improve how we communicate, as an organization and to our external audience, so this article is meant to be both a reply to the field staff in our region‐with whom I work closely but may not have the opportunity to speak with or see on a daily basis—as well as a visual-based introduction to me, Riley Hunter, EcoLogic’s new communications officer.

*Writers note from Riley: This article is written in English and—to the best of my ability—in Spanish. So please follow along in either language and excuse any errors.

El mes pasado, publicamos un artículo en nuestro noticiero electrónico mensual titulado Sobre La fotografía y convivencia con la naturaleza, escrito por Antonio Reyes Montejo, nuestro técnico del campo, desde el proyecto en Ixcán, Guatemala. Como se mencionó en el  ultima artículo, EcoLogic siempre está intentando a mejorar nuestras comunicaciones como organización y a nuestro público externo. Este artículo es una respuesta a nuestro personal regional—la gente con quien trabajamos y conversamos muy cercanamente—y también como un introducción a las fotos y personalidad de nuestro Oficial de Comunicaciones, Riley Hunter.

 *Nota del escritor (Riley): EcoLogic siempre está intentando mejorar nuestro comunicamos como organización y a nuestro público externo, este artículo está escrito en Inglés y—a lo mejor de mi capacidad—en Español. Favor de leerla en cualquier lengua y disculpen los errores.

Tell me how you first became involved with EcoLogic and what is your role now?

Cuénteme cómo usted se incorporó a EcoLogic y cuál es su papel?

Read the rest of Riley’s story.

Featured Project: EcoLogic’s Indigenous Community Engagement in Mexico’s National MRV system gets GCFF and International Spotlight

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Participants in training for forest carbon monitoring that EcoLogic has helped coordinate in Chiapas, Campeche, Jalisco, and Quintana Roo, since 2014

EcoLogic was one of a handful of institutions awarded Governors’ Climate & Forests Fund’s (GCFF) financial support, to continue to make crucial headway in ensuring that rural and indigenous communities in Mexico are involved in and can benefit from emerging REDD+ strategies.

REDD+ strategies have a complicated history where the need for a rights-based approach has been identified and echoed across the international community. We have written a few articles on the past to explain how we approach REDD+ with indigenous communities. We’ve explained how we define and use it, and blogged about the confusion and push for clarity involved in the process. Also, we’ve recently been featured in a beautifully photographed Featured Project section on Governors’ Climate & Forests Fund’s website, which marks a proud milestone in our project due to the recognition of our success. And the publicity gives us another opportunity to direct attention to the important community-based work that we do!

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EcoLogic and its Campeche-base partner, SURverde (surverde.org), were invited to Jalisco by Gabriela Lopez Damian, from the Secretary of the Environment in Jalisco (http://fiprodefo.jalisco.gob.mx/) to lead a community workshop on carbon monitoring and share lessons learned in Campeche and Chiapas

The GFC article—which is republished below—is an interview with REDD+ Senior Program Manager, Andrea Savage, and does an excellent and eloquent job of communicating to the community of international experts on the subject. But we highly recommend heading over to the GCFF website to see the amazing photos that accompany the article.

After the interview, we’ve included a couple of excerpts that did not make the final published version, which focus on the community-based components of our work that we know our readership loves.

Read the interview.

Recycling Exchange Stores Prospering in Honduras: An Update from Victor Daniel—EcoLogic Field Technician in Honduras

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Students collecting recyclables around a town in Atlántida, Honduras

In 2013, EcoLogic held a competition among its partner organizations, with the goal of recognizing community-led innovation with a $10,000 prize. Our Honduran partner, the Alliance of Municipalities of Central Atlántida (MAMUCA), was selected as the winner of the EcoLogic Innovation Award and they invested the funds to pilot their recycling exchange shop concept.

Now, two years later, we are elated that the shops continue to grow, all on their own. This is a case that truly demonstrates the potential of locally-sourced, locally-led innovation: MAMUCA had the idea, EcoLogic added enough financial support to get the wheels turning, and community members take it from there!

Our Project Technician with MAMUCA, Víctor Daniel Escobar, provides us with the most current update below…

This was an original idea from  MAMUCA—EcoLogic’s local partner in our Towns for Environmental Corridors and Communities. MAMUCA has established exchange stores, where you can receive school supplies or even food in exchange for dropping off recyclable materials. Members of local water councils – community groups with which EcoLogic partners  to protect natural water sources – run the stores. So, for example, in each area where there is a water council and an exchange store, a community member can bring in plastic bottles (PET), aluminum, iron, or any other recyclable and receive a pound of beans, a pound of rice, butter, or soap, for example. Or, what we have experienced here with the water council of El Pino and with the schools we work with in the community of Arizona, kids basically collect bottles and aluminum cans from the streets, forests, and rivers and they receive school supplies in exchange—like pencils, pens, notebooks, erasers, markers, colored pencils, crayons, and things like that. So it’s always an exchange.

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Sorting the recyclables brought into the store

After piloting the exchange store concept in the community of La Unión, it was replicated in Santa Ana. Now, five communities have exchange stores! At this time, we’re really focusing on schools and children for this project because students can easily receive school supplies and because it teaches, reaffirms, and incentivizes the necessity to clean up our natural environment. The concept gives concrete, immediate benefits to the children when they take action to clean up their communities and environment. Also, it’s an opportunity to put into practice what they learn in the classroom related to environmental protection.

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Weighing recyclables to determine its exchange value

 

In sum, this is a very unique, exciting, and successful initiative. Many community leaders from other parts of Honduras have come to see the stores and learn from MAMUCA’s experience. In addition, the recycling stores have brought attention not to themselves, but also to other initiatives that EcoLogic and MAMUCA implement together, such as fuel-efficient stoves, wastewater drainage systems, agroforestry parcels, etc. So we’re strategically using the interest around the stores as an entry point to educate people on the variety of sustainability efforts underway in the region and how they can get involved!

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Students receiving the school supplies!

Aligning Economic Incentives with Cultural Values: The Evolving Role of PES

Annie on her way to visit Grande Que’hue’che–a community in Livingston, Guatemala.

By Annie Spaulding, EcoLogic intern and student in Duke University’s Nicholas School of the Environment Master’s in Environmental Management program. Annie has interned with EcoLogic since moving to Guatemala in January 2016. She has extensive experience in community-based development and is an expert in composting, having previously served as Chief Administrative Officer/Development Officer for the Composting Council Research and Education Foundation (CCREF).

Traditional payment for ecosystem services (PES) models are built around the concept of a monetary value assigned to a specific service, good, or product provided by the natural environment to the benefit of people—for example, water resources, carbon stored in biomass, and forest products. Through a PES scheme, communities or individuals receive monetary payment in exchange for conserving the ecosystems providing the services. It is a win-win with benefits for both the people who benefit from the service (e.g. the people downstream who are supplied with drinking water) and those who ensure provision of the service (e.g. the rural people who conserve the natural water source).  PES is centered around a monetary value agreed upon by both sides. As such, it is a popular model receiving global attention among world leaders, policy makers, conservation organizations, and communities.

While the literature points to several successful examples of these traditional PES models, there is emerging research documenting cases of communities contesting or radically altering conventional PES or PES-like schemes. Community leaders in countries such as Mexico and Japan have expressed a range of concerns with PES, from exclusion of traditional knowledge to the commodification of a core source of spiritual and cultural identity: nature. Currently, greater discussions are emerging among community leaders, practitioners, and academics regarding “alternative conceptualizations” of PES. Additional documentation of communities who have contested or altered PES to meet their needs can help provide tools and insights required to ensure conservation programs reflect values, beliefs, and dignity of rural communities considering such programs.

During my time as an EcoLogic intern, I have had the dual role of working with EcoLogic staff Dave Kramer and Andrea Savage to adapt my research to make it an important contribution to EcoLogic’s projects in the area, while producing my own research in coordination with Duke University’s Nicholas School of the Environment for my Masters of Environmental Management degree. With the guidance of EcoLogic and my thesis adviser Liz Shapiro, I will be researching and assessing specific case studies of how communities have adapted PES-like programs to reflect their culture and needs. One of the principal variations is on how the value for the ecosystem service is represented, where cultural norms and beliefs permit value to be expressed in terms other than as monetary.

My research goal is to determine what cultural norms and beliefs are associated to nature and how they are valued by local people. This will help EcoLogic and other conservation practitioners to further understand how communities can participate in conservation of ecosystem services and resource exchange in ways that are aligned with and support their traditions and belief systems. 

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Annie Spaulding (left background) learning about sustainable farming in Guatemala

I will be sure to circle back to EcoLogic eNews readers with the results!

On Photography and Coexisting with Nature

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Frontera entre los municipios de Ixcán, Chajul y Uspantán / The border between the municipalities of Ixcán, Chajul y Uspantán

 

As EcoLogic is always aiming to improve how we do what we do and how we communicate it with you, we have been exploring ways we can better harness photography and the tales behind them to document stories of success that truly capture the essence of our work. So naturally, we thought to talk to Antonio Reyes Montejo first. Antonio is Field Technician for our projects in Ixcán, Guatemala, an Agronomist who also happens to have a knack for photography. At EcoLogic we greatly value the perspectives of our staff in the region and are delighted to be able to share with you Antonio’s point of view on the incredible work he carries out each day.

Below, we have included an interview with Antonio as well as some of his truly impressive Instagram photos from Ixcán, Guatemala—so you get a feel for the scenery around the Ixcán region and recent happenings in our projects. Each photo also includes a descriptive caption explaining why these photos are important to him—both in general, and in terms of development and conservation.

Tell me how you first became involved with EcoLogic and what is your role now?

Bueno en EcoLogic comencé a trabajar hace un año y debo de decir que me apasiona la convivencia con las comunidades. porque ellas mejor que nadie saben conservar sus tierras y sus recursos naturales,porque ellos se sienten parte de la tierra y lo ven como algo sagrado.ues mi papel es facilitar la conservación, protección y que las familias se empoderen más sobre el sentido de ser parte de la naturaleza.Soy técnico de proyectos esto conlleva a que desarrollemos proyectos integrales en los que lo importante es la conservación de nuestro medio ambiente.

Translation: I began working at EcoLogic a year ago and I must say that my passion is coexisting with communities because they know better than anyone how to conserve their land and natural resources because they feel part of the land and see it as something sacred. My role is to facilitate conservation and work with families so they continue to be empowered  in the sense of being part of nature. Really, I’m a project technician which means I lead integrated projects where the ultimate goal is conservation of our environment.

When did you first become interested in photography? What do you think sparked your interest?

Desde que tengo memoria siempre me gustó la fotografía. Pienso que es la forma de plasmar memorias a través del tiempo y que muchas imágenes pueden crear sentimientos con tan solo verlas y pienso que es aún mejor cuando las fotografías transmiten ganas de amar la vida y ver lo grandioso que tiene este mundo que es nuestro y que tenemos que cuidar para que otras generaciones puedan disfrutar de lo que nosotros somos tan afortunados de tener. Y, pues, también pienso que las fotografías dan un sentido y ayudan coincidir con personas que perseguimos lo mismo para decir que también hay alguien que aprecia eso que a nosotros nos parece genial.

Translation: Ever since I can remember, I have always liked to take photos. I think it is a way to capture memories over time and many images can create feelings just by seeing them. I think it is even better when photography conveys excitement for loving life and seeing what greatness this world of ours has and that we must take care of it so that other generations can enjoy what we are fortunate enough to have. I also think photography gives you a feeling that there are other people out there doing similar things as you and helps connect those who pursue the same. It’s nice to know that there is also someone out that shares our appreciation for the things we think are great.

Do you think photography presents good opportunities to reflect or explore themes related to diversity, nature, and development? Why or why not?

Las fotografías siempre son un medio en cual podemos comparar aspectos diferentes aunque las situaciones sean distintas. También es cierto que a través de las fotografías podemos formar perspectivas distintas porque no todos vemos lo mismo. Cada persona tiene un concepto distinto de la vida pero el transmitir sentimiento por amar la naturaleza pienso que es un sentimiento que todos tenemos.Con el hecho de una fotografía podemos transmitir sentimientos como paz con nuestro entorno y sentir lo afortunados que somos de formar parte de esa diversidad de magia que poseemos como seres vivos al convivir unos con los otros. Y, por supuesto, que podemos reflexionar que a través de ello para crear un vínculo para lograr desarrollarnos en armonía con nuestro entorno sin destruir la naturaleza para pretender ser más felices.

Translation: Photos are always a means in which we can compare different aspects although the situations may be distinct. It’s also true that through photos we can form different perspectives because not everyone looks at things the same way. Everyone has a different concept of life, but I think we all have a feeling of love for nature. On the point of photography, we can transmit these feelings, for example like peace with our environment, and feeling fortunate to be part of this magical diversity that we possess as living beings coexisting together. And of course, we can reflect that it is through this coexistence that we can achieve development in harmony with our environment in order to be happier.

Do you think photography is a good method to show the impact of EcoLogic’s projects? Why or why not?

Definitivamente sí, pienso que hay mucho por hacer dentro del proyecto para darnos a conocer, porque incluso dentro de los lugares que trabajamos no todos saben cuál es el sentido de EcoLogic y, pues, dándoles a conocer lo que realizamos en las distintas actividades que se desarrollan en las comunidades pueden informarse y encontrar más aliados en la conservación de nuestra naturaleza y compleja diversidad.

Translation: Definitely yes, I think that there is much we can do to make our work better known. Even in the places we work, some people do not know the true essence of EcoLogic. Making them aware of what we do and the various activities that we carry out in the communities through photography can help inform people and help us find more allies in the conservation of nature and complex diversity.

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Colores de Ixcán / Colors of Ixcán

Bueno, esta imagen la tomé porque hay especies de insectos que no son tan comunes de ver,son únicos de una región y que representan un color característico o muy propio del lugar.

Translation: I took this image because there are species of insects that are not very common to see and they’re unique to their region,  and they represent a characteristic or color  very much tied to the habitat where they live.

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Personas haciendo semillero de Caoba para reforestar / People making seedbeds of Mahogany to reforest

Esta fotografía muestra a personas de la comunidad de Chinajá haciendo semilleros de Caoba con la intención de producir las plantas que luego serán llevadas a sembrar. Me pareció interesante compartirla para que otros también hagan conciencia de lo que otras personas están haciendo con la finalidad de conservar nuestro medio ambiente.

Translation: This photo shows community members of Chinajá making seedbeds for Mahogany with the intent to produce saplings, which will later be taken to be planted. I wanted to share it so that people can realize what others are doing in order to conserve our environment.

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Señores sembrado maíz en Cimientos de la Esperanza, Ixcán / Men sowing corn in Cimientos de la Esperanza, Ixcán

Esta foto en particular muestra la forma en la que se siembra el maíz en las comunidades (Cimientos de la Esperanza) y que también se hace en lugares que no son tan comunes, como lo son los cerros. Y pues al fondo también se puede ver los bosques que se están conservando al trabajar con métodos de agricultura sostenible, como la agroforestería..

Translation: This photo shows a particular technique of sowing corn in the communities of Cimientos de la Esperanza and how it is done in unusual places like steep hills. In the background, you can see that the forests are being conserved by working with farmers to incorporate sustainable production practices, like agroforestry.  

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Producción de plantas de Cacao, conquistaremos el mundo con sabor a chocolate / Production of Cacao plants, we will take over the world with the flavor of chocolate

Bueno esta fotografía fue tomada en un vivero de la comunidad Chinajá, en el que actualmente estamos produciendo plantas de Cacao que es la materia prima para la elaboración de chocolate. Y,pues, sabiendo que a la mayoría de las personas les gusta comerlo “conquistaremos el mundo con sabor a chocolate” es sólo una expresión para que se aproxime  a algo rico que conquistará paladares de quienes puedan llegar a probarlo.

Translation: This photo was taken in a nursery in Chinajá. There, we are actually producing Cacao plants, which is the raw material used for the production of chocolate. Knowing that most people like to eat chocolate, “conquering the world with the flavor of chocolate” is just an expression to say that such a flavor so rich will attempt to conquer the palates of those who are fortunate enough to try it.

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Cosechando miel / Harvesting honey

En esta imagen podemos ver la cosecha de miel en la comunidad de San Antonio Tzejá la cual es el resultado de muchos esfuerzos en capacitaciones y formación a apicultores para que mejoren la técnica de producción de miel, que ha tenido mucho éxito.

Translation: In this image, we can see the harvest of honey in the community of San Antonio Tzejá, which is the result of much effort and training and meeting with beekeepers to improve their techniques of honey production, which has had much success.

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Naturaleza desde San Antonio Tzejá Ixcán / Nature from San Antonio Tzejá Ixcán

Esta es una flor muy propia de la región y en la cual podemos ver dos colores interesantes y que contrastan muy bien entre sí, es muy característica de aquí por eso es que hago énfasis en que es de Ixcán.

Translation: This is a flower very specific to the region. In it we can see two interesting colors that contrast very well with each other. It’s very characteristic of the region, which is why I noted in the title that it’s from Ixcán.

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Esta es la flor que vale oro en Ixcán, es la flor de Cardamomo / This is a flower that is worth gold in Ixcán, it’s the Cardamom flower

Uno de los cultivos de los que la gente de estas comunidades depende es el Cardamomo y por ello esta flor es tan valiosa para ellos, e allí lo importante que es la conservación y el desarrollo de la misma.

Translation: One of the crops that the people of these communities depend on most is Cardamom, and for this reason it’s so valuable for them. [We are starting to introduce Cardamom within our agroforestry systems to promote a more sustainable production model].

Antonio, we are so grateful to you for sharing your unique, personal perspective with us through these photographs! ¡Impresionante! To learn more about EcoLogic’s work in Ixcán, click here.

 

WWF Training Course Leads to New Knowledge and Networks for EcoLogic Staff

EcoLogic empowers rural and indigenous communities to restore and protect tropical ecosystems in Central America and Mexico. We do this by providing and facilitating knowledge, networks, incentives, and tools that promote the responsible use of the natural resources that surround communities in order to alleviate the major challenges they face. Through our work, we aim to nurture community awareness, expand local assets, and strengthen individual capabilities so that communities can manage their ecosystem by themselves to create a more sustainable landscape now and into the future.

An example of this ethos in action is found in the story of José Domingo and Samuel’s recent journey to Panama to attend a training hosted by the World Wildlife Fund’s Russel E. Train Education for Nature Program (EFN). The WWF-EFN’s mission is to “provide financial support to proven and potential conservation leaders in Africa, Asia, and Latin America to gain the skills and knowledge they need to address the conservation challenges in their home countries. EFN supports conservationists to pursue graduate studies, attend short-term training courses, and train local communities in WWF priority places.”

Read more about the WWF training and hear Jose Domingo talk about his experience.

Fuel-efficient Stoves Bring Unexpected but Welcomed Outcomes: A New Home for Lety

Mario Ardany de Leon is a straightforward, no-nonsense kind of man—a particularly good quality for EcoLogic’s Guatemala Program Officer to have, as every day he is overseeing projects that aim to solve some of the region’s most pressing issues. Unsurprisingly, he is a great source of information for project updates, stories, and explanations about what EcoLogic does and why.

As Mario leaned forward with his head bowed toward his computer in order to hear our voices more clearly through the often-wavering Skype connection, which serves as the easiest method of communication between the field and EcoLogic’s Cambridge office, we took advantage of the clear line and cut to the chase. We asked if Mario had any significant stories from the field related to the recent visit of our friends from Global Giving in Totonicapán—the site of the EcoLogic Forest of the Water Spirit project. Global Giving is an online giving platform that has promoted EcoLogic’s work for years, so it was an excellent opportunity for them to see the impacts that they’ve helped EcoLogic attain on the ground!

Perhaps Mario’s candid and venerable demeanor comes from his 15 years of experience working with small scale farmers in Guatemala, or it could be due to his direct knowledge of the issues that rural communities in the area face, as Mr. Mario Ardany de León himself is native to Totonicapán—a place where The Association of Communal Mayors of the 48 Cantones, our local partner, practice a unique relationship with nature and those who enter their forest. These villages view their communal forest as the provider of water, and therefore life, which is an ancestral belief that has been in place for over 800 years. So perhaps more appropriately, Mr. Mario Ardany’s clarity and directness when discussing such issues, is a reflection of this time-honored perspective.

As we sat in the Cambridge office, we found ourselves gazing through the computer screen at the sunwashed bitter-orange and salty-teal hues of the crackled paint on the rafters and support beams inside of Buga Mama Restaurant—a favorite meeting place of EcoLogic staff in Livingston, Guatemala, due to its internet capabilities. It is also in close proximity to the boat launches in Amatique Bay, which lead upriver to project sites. Mario, who had just traveled cross-country from the highland, western department of Totonicapán to the humid, eastern coastal town of Livingston, to check in on EcoLogic’s projects, dabbed his forehead with a handkerchief and began to tell us a significant story of success.

This is the story of Lety.
(Scroll around the interactive map to explore the areas we mention in the story!)

As any good storyteller would, Mario began Lety’s tale with a phrase meant to draw us into what he was about to tell us, and with soft tropical music in the background along with faint, melodic clinks and scrapes of kitchen activity in the waterfront restaurant, we felt like we were just across the table from Mario.

Chris interviewing Mario

Technology like Skype is quite a marvel for our staff. Even though we use it daily, we are continually grateful that we are able to immediately connect with field staff while countries apart—we often feel like we are right there

“Now, pay close attention,” Mario declared. Once our attention was properly focused, he began his story:

We took our friend from Global Giving, Daillen Culver, along with representatives from the Natural Resources Committee of the 48 Cantones, to visit some of the communities we are working with to build fuel-efficient stoves—and there we encountered a family that told us of an experience they recently had. They said that a single mother in the community wanted a stove, but had no house in which to construct it. She had been living with various family members and would cook for her children on an open pit fire outside. The same community organized and helped to construct walls of adobe and mud. They brought wood planks, corrugated steel sheets, and between all of them they were able to construct a small living place for her. She didn’t have her own place so she wasn’t able to have a clean stove, but the community pulled together so she could have the benefits of the stove. Afterward, they checked on her to see how she was doing—how she felt with her new stove and her own place to live; to see if her new conditions had transformed her family environment. Seeing and wanting a clean stove led her to receiving her own place to live. It’s nothing too big, but this is a story of success for us.

As we exclaimed our amazement from the office, we were so happy that Daillen was able to learn about this marvelous story firsthand. Daillen was warmly welcomed by the community, as Mario and a community representative guided her on a trek through the countryside to see the work that EcoLogic is doing in Totonicapán—and during this trek is where she first heard the story of Lety.

Daillen global Giving

Photo courtesy of Global Giving

Lety’s desire for a fuel-efficient stove was likely inspired by seeing the benefits of fuel-efficient stoves in the community where she lives. In Totonicapán and other project areas, EcoLogic promotes and facilitates the use of fuel-efficient stoves in communities that are inspired to lessen the impact that their reliance on wood has on the forests surrounding them.

As wood is a primary fuel source for cooking and heating in these areas, the depletion of trees is an obvious cause for concern. The fuel-efficient wood stoves that EcoLogic helps introduce and install significantly reduce the impact that the use of fuelwood has on the community’s standing forests, as they improve combustion efficiency. This reduces the need for community members like Lety to cut and collect fuelwood. Additionally, these stoves are significantly safer for families and children in particular, as the venting of smoke alleviates the concern of stagnant smoke in the home—which has been known to cause respiratory illnesses.

These benefits are what Lety wanted for her family, and—having experienced these benefits themselves—the community was inspired to join together, pool the resources they could spare, and build Lety a new home with a fuel-efficient stove.

Though the story of Lety is only the story of one family and one community coming together and embracing change. This is an incredible testament of success for Mario and the for rest of us at EcoLogic. It reaffirms that what we are doing in Totonicapán is truly working for communities and shows that the relationships we strengthen can engender unexpected ripple effects that positively impact people’s lives and the environment.

If this story isn’t a strong indicator of empowerment, we’re not sure what is.

Lety with her two niños next to her neighbor's house in Totonicapán

Lety with her two niños next to her neighbor’s house in Totonicapán

For more information about our project in Totonicapán—check out our Forest of the Water Spirit project page. You can also learn more about Mario Ardany HERE

Big Words & Micro-nutrients: Elmer’s Sustainable Strategy to Improve Nutrition in Ixcán

Elmer at a meeting with Semilla Nueva Staff

Elmer at a meeting with Semilla Nueva Staff

EcoLogic is very proud of the success and innovation that has taken place over the years in western highland departments of Huehuetenango and Quiche, Guatemala. Through EcoLogic’s Indigenous Peoples for Thriving Ecosystems in Northern Guatemala project, community adoption of agroforestry has been particularly successful. Agroforestry, specifically alley-cropping, or planting food crops with trees, is a farming approach that intends to address the challenges of deforestation, but also the lack of food security in the area.

In this region, around 2013 communities in Ixcán, Guatemala began to take particular strides to measure the results of established agroforestry parcels through data collection, which was done jointly by EcoLogic field staff and the farmers themselves. This data has shown that EcoLogic’s alley-cropping systems—which typically integrate the tree species, Inga edulis with corn—result in improved soils, sustainable sources of firewood, and enhanced food security for communities involved. As a result, a wave of interest and demand for agroforestry continues to grow in the area.

Building off of farmers’ interest to maximize the benefits of agroforestry systems, Ixcán has become a sort of testing ground—a place that offers EcoLogic and field staff the opportunity for observation, practice, and experimentation with ideas and innovations that could potentially solve some of the most pressing challenges that communities in the areas face. Elmer Urízar—an EcoLogic Field Technician based in Ixcánhas been at the helm of some promising pilot projects that advance sustainable agriculture and livelihoods, including the introduction of beekeeping.

Most recently, Elmer has been hard at work innovating to find a sustainable solution to micronutrient deficiencies through the agricultural production of micronutrient-rich foods—in particular, a variety of biofortified corn called Maíz Fortaleza.

Maiz Fortaleza

A photo of Maíz Fortaleza Elmer took during his training

This opportunity was introduced to EcoLogic by Curt Bowen, the Executive Director and Co-Founder of Semilla Nueva, and explained in detail during an EcoLogic regional staff retreat. Semilla Nueva (or “New Seed”) is an organization that has been introducing this corn variety and working with farmers in Guatemala since 2010. Elmer, understanding the realities of malnutrition in Guatemala and the potential ease of integration of this corn variety into the fertile agroforestry testing grounds of Ixcán, went to visit some of Semilla Nueva’s projects to learn everything he needed in order to implement a pilot project in the region. After two trainings with Semilla Nueva staff and much correspondence—feasibility studies, reports, community meetings, etc.Elmer and EcoLogic were ready to begin two pilot plots in Ixcán.

It is important to note that these big words; micronutrients, biofortification, and the like, were certain to raise some eyebrows when Elmer presented this information to farmers, and even to EcoLogic staff! Introducing food labeled with sciencey jargon is always a cause for caution for those that will potentially consume it. However, these are conventionally bred seeds to contain higher levels of essential nutrients. After learning more about the benefits, 20 farmers were eager to test Maíz Fortaleza on their plots.

Our Maíz Fortaleza pilot project consists of seven small parcels in Ixcán, which incorporate Maíz Fortaleza corn with Inga edulis. Elmer, local farmers, EcoLogic, and Semilla Nueva will all be monitoring the results of the project with great interest. An agricultural system that combine the food security benefits of highly nutrient-rich corn with the environmental benefits of Inga edulis could be a win-win for Ixcán farmers and beyond. We will make sure to keep you updated on the project’s results!

At EcoLogic, we feel very fortunate for the ability to experiment, innovate, and collaborate with thought-leaders and impactful organizations that work the same region we do. Thank you for your continued support!

*An article published by the FAO was used as a reference when writing this story. This note is intended to give credit to authors for their knowledge and terminology. You can find the article here.

Harvesting Honey; Harvesting Change

Santon Chen

Santos Chen in Cimientos de la Esperanza, Ixcán, Guatemala

Santos Chen lives in the community of Cimientos de la Esperanza (in English: Foundations of Hope; one of our favorite village names of all time!). Cimientos de la Esperanza is located in remote, northwest Guatemala in a municipality called Ixcán where EcoLogic supports community-led conservation via strategies including watershed management, sustainable agriculture, fuel-efficient woodstoves, and sustainable livelihood development (e.g. honey production).

Five years ago, Santos began producing honey in hopes of finding a sustainable income source for his family (sustainable both in environmental and economic terms). He started out with two hives and received start-up materials and training from EcoLogic. Now, after further investment and growth of his colony, he has 30 hives, and he expects this year’s harvest to yield 25 gallons of honey! Later this summer, Santos will sell his honey for the first time to COPIASURO, a Guatemalan cooperative that specializes in exporting honey to European markets. EcoLogic brought COPIASURO on board in 2014 in order to ensure that the 180 beekeepers involved in the project in Ixcán would have a reliable market and receive a fair price for their honey. So, 2016 will be crucial year for Santos and his beekeeping compañeros (and for us at EcoLogic!) in order to determine just how viable honey production and sale can be as a sustainable income source that promotes both biodiversity and fair trade.

As some of the honey is starting to get harvested, EcoLogic’s Project Técnico, Elmer Urízar, was able to snap a few photos of Santos in action:

scraping honey

Scraping honey collected in the hive. Santos harvests his honey once in March, twice in May, and once in June. By that time, he should have 25 gallons of honey. Each harvest is about a day’s worth of work.

beekeeper opening vat

Santos running the honey through an extractor, following protocols to meet COPIASURO’s standards.

Pure honey flowing from the extractor, getting ready for storage and sale. Santos projects to receive about US $350 for his total harvest. When asked what he plans to spend this extra income on, Santos’ answer was humble, yet still profound: “Grains, corn, beans, and other things for the kitchen. It will help me so much.”

Photos: Elmer Urízar 

Honing Participatory Methods for Grassroots Conservation

by Amanda Foster, EcoLogic Intern and Master’s student at Brandeis in Sustainable International Development. Amanda has been working with EcoLogic for about three months, and is focused primarily on considering how to systematize participatory methods throughout EcoLogic’s work in the field in order to maximize active community involvement. 

Mic in hand, with about 30 sets of smiling Guatemalan eyes staring back at me, I asked forgiveness for my far-from-perfect Spanish skills; a cheap ploy to break the ice before the day’s activities. Chuckles and reassuring nods from the sympathetic crowd eased my nerves. Equipped with markers and a pile of post-it notes covering the complete color spectrum, I was thrilled to be facilitating a participatory workshop in Totonicapán as part of my internship with EcoLogic. Thankfully, my public speaking fear wouldn’t be an issue, as this kind of workshop was all about the voices of the participants, who were there to collaborate in a local analysis of environmental concerns facing the region.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Amanda (second from right) facilitating a workshop in Totonicapán, Guatemala

As a graduate student in sustainable international development, I’ve been exploring participatory approaches, which aim to not only increase local involvement and decision-making in project planning, but also build local capacity and empower groups to initiate effective, lasting change. With this work in mind, I was drawn to EcoLogic for its commitment to community-based conservation and support for locally-led solutions to urgent environmental issues. During my graduate studies and previous professional experiences, I’ve found that despite stated goals of empowerment and grassroots participation in the development process, few organizations are actually following through with this commitment. At EcoLogic, though, these values are an integral part of the day-to-day work, which became clear for me during my internship at the regional office in Quetzaltenango, Guatemala.

Much of my internship focused on this idea of participatory development, including revising a guidebook to participatory methods which was drafted by a previous intern, and considering how EcoLogic can operationalize these efforts that are already a key strategy to their work. To evaluate the ease of implementing tools prescribed in the guidebook, I worked with regional staff to field test a few activities with one of EcoLogic’s local partners, the Association of Communal Mayors of the 48 Cantons of Totonicapán. We selected a few activities that would enable a process of local problem analysis and prioritization, as well as assess local actors and potential partners. Participants, who included indigenous community representatives and members of the 48 Cantons leadership council, all contributed to hands-on activities, in which they drew, wrote and discussed local threats and potential solutions for conserving the rich natural resources of the region.

A visual workshop

Local people participating in a workshop that visualizes threats in their community (Photo: Amanda Foster)

Being a part of this truly local, collaborative process confirmed my belief that rural and indigenous communities have tremendous knowledge and skills that are vital to solving critical environmental issues. My field experience with EcoLogic also reinforced that enabling meaningful grassroots participation in the development process is far from easy. There are countless obstacles to effective participation and institutional challenges to honoring local decision-making. In a field where organizations often pay lip service to participation but fail to genuinely respond to local priorities, EcoLogic’s steadfast promise of community engagement and commitment to overcoming these challenges is refreshing.

In the end, based off my research and practical experience, I was able to offer recommendations to EcoLogic to enhance the organization’s incorporation of participatory methods. As just an intern, this opportunity to advise and contribute to such an important organizational strategy was an honor, and I look forward to seeing how EcoLogic’s locally-driven model continues to evolve and support rural communities in conserving their environment.

Jurisdictional REDD+ Needs Clarity – Not Confusion – In Chiapas

By Felicia Line

Felicia is a Field Coordinator for EcoLogic’s CarbonPlus program. She coordinates and supervises field and desk activities related to the REDD+ initiative with the Governors’ Climate and Forest Fund in the states of Chiapas, Campeche, Jalisco, Tabasco and Quintana Roo in southern Mexico. This article was adapted from an article originally published by Ecosystem Marketplace at http://www.ecosystemmarketplace.com.

While participating in a recent workshop on climate change and the role of forests in the Lacandon Forest in Chiapas, Mexico, I asked a participating member of the indigenous Lacandon community if he knew what REDD+ stood for. He correctly answered, “Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation”.

“And the ‘plus’?” I asked.

“Redd more… money!”

A friend of mine told a similar tale: while he was explaining REDD+ to people from the Tseltal community, an elderly man stood to speak.

“I don’t know about this REDD+ you’re talking about,” he said. “I only know about Red Cross!”

Another colleague of mine recalls his confusion when members of a different community in the Lacandón Jungle asked him when the “big net” was going to descend over the forest – but his confusion dissipated when he realized they had literally translated the Spanish word red into “net”.

Even government officials have got their terminology muddled, and one of them expressed relief after coming to a workshop and discovering that it was about forests and not computer networks.

Such confusion is understandable here, because the previous governor of Chiapas used the term “REDD+” to describe a program that funneled money from the state’s car tenure tax to indigenous landowners in the Lacandón Jungle. They received 2000 pesos (around $150 dollars) per month as an emblematic “thank-you” for being “guardians of the forest” without anyone monitoring to see if they were effectively conserving the forest or not.

The program lacked in scientific or social justification and was not linked to any national or state REDD+ strategies being collectively built in Mexico. After a few years, the program was rightfully scrapped – but not before the disinformation brigade misleadingly equated it with the REDD+ initiative currently being debated in the state of California.

An introduction to the Lacandón indigenous group and their history as strong forest stewards in Mexico’s Lacandón Jungle. 

Please click the image above to view the video on our youtube channel.

Please click the image above to view the video on our YouTube channel. (Video: Carlos Herrera)

The California (Dis)Connection

Like all disinformation campaigns, this one had a germ of truth to it. In 2010, Chiapas Governor Sabines Guerrero signed a memorandum of understanding with California Governor Arnold Swarzenneger and Jorge Viana, the governor of Acre, Brazil to explore options of REDD+ offsets for California’s ARB32 climate change law. The MOU explicitly referred to a jurisdictional REDD+ approach developed in conjunction with all stakeholders, and it led to a set of stringent standards endorsed by indigenous people, policymakers, and the scientific community, cumulatively known as the REDD+ Offset Working Group.

It may have also inspired Sabines Guerrero to launch his pseudo-REDD initiative, in the mistaken hope that it will eventually be recognized by the state of California and financed by the offset program. That, however, is a far cry from being “linked to California’s cap-and-trade program through a complex ‘carbon offset’ scheme,” as one skeptical organization put it – especially since the current Chiapas administration seems intent on avoiding a repeat of this mistake, and it’s taking a more rigorous and participative approach to building its state REDD+ jurisdictional Strategy.

The State of Play

California has been exploring options for REDD+ offsets outside the state, partly due to rising prices of their carbon credits, and partly due to the success of some of their domestic forest offset programs.

Potentially, in the next few years or so, a market for carbon offsets from California’s cap-and-trade system could provide carbon finance for forest communities, but the demand is not as high as expected. Only 8% of the total emission-reductions will be allowed to be offset from other sectors such as agriculture or forestry projects in California, and of this, only 2% will be allowed to come from international offsets.  From these international offsets, only a small percentage will be REDD+ credits, which in itself is a fairly unattractive and risky investment.

California last year signed a memorandum of understanding with Mexico, providing a potential basis for linkages with any of Mexico’s forest emissions reductions initiatives, not just Chiapas, depending on accountability within Mexico’s climate change law framework.

REDD in Mexico

The face of “REDD+” has changed radically in recent years, and is now focused not just in the Lacandón but in Mexico’s five Early REDD+ Action Areas, moving up from the project scale to the jurisdictional scale that requires many more components than just payment-for-environmental programs.

Multi-disciplinary and multi-sectoral groups such as the Consultative Technical Committee on REDD+ (CTC-REDD+) have been working at both the state and national level on building a more inclusive, stringent REDD+ strategy that includes monitoring, reporting and verification of emission-reduction results to ensure environmental integrity and safeguards to ensure there is no harm to communities in implementing REDD+.  This state REDD+ Vision and Strategy bears no resemblance at all to the “REDD+” Program that Chiapas implemented, but many challenges remain, such as politics, corruption and dissonance between environmental and agricultural sectors.

The National REDD+ Strategy was written by multiple stakeholders from a wide variety of sectors, and it has taken many years to reach consensus. The focus has shifted from Payments in Cash for “protecting” the forest to a more integrated focus on land-use management, which aims to identify and align policies and programs while helping to conserve and increase the remaining forest carbon stocks. This should hopefully move away from the traditional “payments for environmental services” model to more innovative policies that address deforestation at its cause, combining better agricultural practices and sustainable supply chains.

The indigenous people who live in the forest are clear on what the causes and solutions to deforestation are – it’s just a question of listening to them and supporting them, and ensuring that the activities implemented are effective and sustainable. This is what jurisdictional REDD+ is really about, and what is being communicated and consulted in Mexico.

Echuni, Inebesei, Pantaü (Tradition, Respect, Pride in Garifuna)

EcoLogic’s Work with Garifuna fisherfolk in Belize

As perhaps all EcoLogic supporters and fans know, we work hand-in-hand with rural and indigenous communities in Mesoamerica to conserve nature in ways that empower local people. For most who have traveled to the region, particularly in Guatemala, the word “indigenous” is likely associated with Mayan ethnicities—rightfully so, given Mayan groups make up about 40% of the population of Guatemala. However, if you’ve been fortunate enough to visit the Caribbean coast of Central America, you might have been introduced to the Garifuna, a minority indigenous group with a distinct language, music, food, and way of life.

Much of EcoLogic’s work throughout Guatemala and southern Mexico takes place in partnership with various Mayan groups (though we also work with the non-Mayan Chinantec in Oaxaca). But it is likely a lesser known fact that we also work closely with Garifuna communities in southern Belize and Caribbean Guatemala, particularly around coastal conservation and sustainable fishing. With this article, we hope to shine a light on the inspiring history and cultural heritage of the Garifuna and of EcoLogic’s work with them.

Gabriela González, EcoLogic Director of Programs, chats with Leslie Colón, President of the Barranco Sustainable Fishing Cooperative, on a boat ride through the Amatique Bay. (Photo Credit: Chris Patterson).

Gabriela González, EcoLogic Director of Programs, chats with Leslie Colón, President of the Barranco Sustainable Fishing Cooperative, on a boat ride through the Amatique Bay. (Photo Credit: Chris Patterson).

The Garifuna people (sometimes called “Garinagu”—plural of Garifuna) are an ethnic group which originated on the Caribbean island of St. Vincent as cultural mix between people of native Caribbean origin (mostly Arawak and Carib) and people of African origin who were brought to the Caribbean as slaves. The Garifuna resisted British efforts to deprive them of their lands for many years. When they eventually lost their lands, those who survived a six-month imprisonment on the island of Baliceaux were loaded onto ships in 1797 and exiled to Central America. From there they spread to the mainland and along the Central American coast to Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua. Since it was on the island of St. Vincent that the Garifuna came into existence as an identifiable group, they are considered to be indigenous to the Caribbean and Central America. Today there are approximately 500,000 Garifuna in Central America, with around 15,000 residing in Belize, 4,000 in Guatemala, and over 300,000 in Honduras (source: the National Garifuna Council of Belize, ngcbelize.org).

In Belize, EcoLogic works with the fisherfolk of Barranco, a Garifuna village located at the edge of Sarstoon-Temash National Park in southernmost region of Belize near the border with Guatemala. The village of Barranco was settled around 1860 and, in addition to fishing, became an agricultural production center, producing rice and pineapple for local and national markets. Currently the village has approximately 150 residents and is recognized as one of the last traditional Garifuna communities in Belize (ngcbelize.org). The economy in Barranco is largely based on subsistence agriculture and fishing, so conserving natural resources is vital to this community. Though the Garifuna deeply value the conservation of their natural environment, overfishing has been a significant problem, causing the younger generation in particular to leave the village in order to find work elsewhere.

Read more about EcoLogic’s work on sustainable fisheries in the Amatique Bay.

Art & Earth with ArtCorps: How Creativity can Shape the Environment

EcoLogic is always looking for ways to expand our toolbox of practices and techniques that inspire the active participation of rural communities is conservation. And we’re also always looking for ways to connect our partners to the skills and expertise of other groups that can add value to our collective work. EcoLogic’s relationship with ArtCorps is a perfect example of both of these efforts. This past month, EcoLogic and ArtCorps combined forces once again to conduct a hands-on workshop with teachers in Totonicapán, Guatemala. A key component of our initiative in Totonicapán is working with our local partner, the Association of Communal Mayors of the 48 Cantones, to preserve indigenous Maya K’iche’ knowledge and beliefs around forest protection—beliefs which have enabled the K’iche’ communities of Totonicapán to effectively protect over 50,000 acres of forest for the past 800 years—and making sure that that knowledge passes down to younger generations. To achieve this, we use several techniques, including leveraging the expertise of ArtCorps!

Optimized-ArtCorps circle (2)

ArtCorps workshop participants showing off their colorful designs and talking about conservation in Totonicapán, Guatemala (Photo Credit: Mario Ardany de León Benitéz).

ArtsCorps is a non-profit arts education organization dedicated to developing creative habits of mind in young people. EcoLogic and ArtCorps are old friends, having worked together in both Honduras and Guatemala. In 2012, we jointly released a children’s book of stories and pictures related to environmental stewardship created by indigenous children of Totonicapán. This time around, ArtCorps held a three-day workshop to train teachers in arts-based methods for building leadership, transferring knowledge, and inspiring creative action for positive behavior change related to environmental protection. ArtCorps, in collaboration with EcoLogic and our local partner, agreed to train teachers from 18 different primary and middle schools in the region. Teachers are a critical population to equip: they have a captive, eager audience in the classroom; they can influence a large number of students; and they can utilize the techniques for years to come.

Read more about EcoLogic’s renewed partnership with ArtCorps.

Staff Spotlight: Our Brilliant Interns and Volunteers!

From high school students up here in Cambridge, to graduate students down in Quetzaltenango, Guatemala, EcoLogic has the most incredible interns right now—none of whom get us coffee or run errands! Internships at EcoLogic can lead to many places. Past interns now hold jobs at the Gates Foundation, the World Bank, and the UN Development Program, among others—in fact, four of our current staff members started as interns, including our Executive Director!

intern

EcoLogic Intern? Nope! (Photo Credit: Ben Sanders, MarketWatch)

Annie Spaulding

EcoLogic Intern? Ding ding ding! (Intern: Annie Spaulding, Photo Credit: Amanda Foster)

Read more about EcoLogic’s current team of interns.

En solidaridad: Reflections on Berta Cáceres.

On March 3rd, Berta Cáceres, the co-founder of the Consejo Cívico de Organizaciones Populares e Indígenas de Honduras, COPINH (Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras), was murdered in her home. Berta, an indigenous Lenca woman and recipient of the 2015 Goldman Environmental Prize, was a tireless advocate for indigenous land, water, and resource rights. But beyond being an advocate, she took that crucial next step: to be a leader. She co-founded a rights-based organization; she inspired, organized, listened to and raised the voices of others; she took the risk of being out in front. That step is what made Berta special and what made the impact of her work and legacy immeasurable.

EcoLogic did not work directly with Berta or her organization. But her death shook us. It still shakes us. It puts front and center the risks that our partners in Mexico and Central America take on a daily basis in their efforts to protect nature and its life-giving resources. The local organizations, leaders, and communities we work with (not to mention our field staff) truly take a stand: they raise awareness about the negative impacts of illegal logging in critical watersheds; they advocate for more sustainable fishing practices and  community managed “no take zones” ; they make sure communities are afforded their right to Free, Prior, and Informed Consent in the emerging carbon market. All too often we can lose sight of just how bold these actions truly are. Bolder than we realize.

The murder of Berta reminds us—forces us—to not take these efforts and their inherent risks for granted. And to honor the true heroes of conservation: the local leaders who embody the hopes and dreams of their communities and put their own reputations, relationships, and even lives at risk for others and for nature. It is our duty in the international NGO, donor, and environmentalist community to recognize, broadcast, support, and protect these leaders.

For this reason, EcoLogic joined the over 220 organizations calling for U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry to support an independent investigation into Berta’s murder. We denounce the use of violence and fear to silence the voices of indigenous peoples and leaders. They are  best positioned to protect the invaluable biodiversity and resources of tropical ecosystems. If nature is to be protected, so must be our indigenous brothers and sisters.

En solidaridad.

Staff Spotlight: Antonio Reyes Montejo

EcoLogic’s newest field technician is Antonio Reyes Montejo, who has been working in the northern municipality of Ixcán, Guatemala for about six months. In this interview, Antonio explains why he loves his new role and why he is so passionate about agroforestry, reforestation, biodiversity, beekeeping committees, and all of the many conservation-based objectives of EcoLogic’s work in Ixcán.

Antonio, Gaby, Jose Luis, Fernando

Antonio (left) visiting an agroforestry plot in Plan Grande Quehueche, Guatemala during EcoLogic’s all-staff retreat. From left: Antonio Reyes Montejo, Gabriela González, José Luis Delgado Camposeco, and Fernando José Recancoj E. (Photo credit: Amanda Foster)

What is your role with EcoLogic?

It’s to facilitate, share, and accompany. To be a connector for communities so they can access resources that will help them. I also ensure that our partners know how to best use and manage the resources and strategies that EcoLogic brings to them. Achieving results and being consistent are two of the most important considerations of my work.

What are your greatest achievements during your time with EcoLogic?

I think that one of the greatest achievements that I’ve been a part of is the establishment of beekeeping committees for the commercialization of honey in the region. I see this as an achievement because the committees that we have helped establish are functioning with the purpose they were created for, and the members of these committees work in an effective and organized manner. They are seeing that more often than not they get a better result when they work as a group. (Read more about beekeeping in Ixcán here!)

Read more of our interview with Antonio.

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