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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.

First Impressions: Pride, Gratitude, and Harmony

by Alexa Piacenza, Program Officer for Individual Giving

During my year and a half working at EcoLogic, I have been consistently inspired by stories of our work. Seeing updates on our progress never gets old, and I’ve always been excited to hear more. That being said, I was curious… I had never traveled anywhere in Mesoamerica and though I could imagine it, it was hard to fully grasp the day-to-day impact of our work. As much as I’ve always cared for the well-being of the communities we work with, I didn’t truly know who they were. Looking at pictures and videos of fuel-efficient stove models and maps of reforestation helped, but couldn’t fully satisfy my curiosity. It would be an understatement to say that I was eager to experience the real thing.

EcoLogic’s 2016 all-staff retreat was my first chance to see our work in real life, not to mention to meet so many of our colleagues who work in the field! The feeling of unity that developed with our field staff that had come from all around Mesoamerica for this retreat was overwhelming. People that had been corresponding with each other via Skype and email for months (or for a few of us, even years) had the chance to meet in person for the first time. We created strong bonds over the volcanic eruption-induced detour we experienced (yes, a volcanic eruption really did shut down the Guatemala City airport while we were mid-flight), a surprisingly competitive staff fútbol tournament, the beauty of Amatique Bay, and, of course, our collective passion for conservation.

quehueche welcome

A ceremony during which EcoLogic was welcomed to Plan Grande Quehueche. Two of the candles represent the entrance and exit of the sun; the other two represent the entrance and exit of air (Photo Credit: Chris Patterson).

I was struck by the warm welcome we received in the communities we visited, and how excited some of the community members were to meet us and share their ideas and stories. We were lucky enough to be invited into the home of Josefina and Carlos Tení, who have had their fuel-efficient stove for three years, and absolutely love it. I’ve heard and retold the stories of so many of EcoLogic stove beneficiaries—so I was thrilled to see one of these stoves in real life! They explained how it not only reduces their use of firewood, but its design keeps their family safe from burns and from smoke filling up their home.

“We don’t have to take our kids to the clinic as often because of burns or because they are sick from the smoke.”

Upon hearing this, I immediately understood the importance of these benefits. I had just experienced the journey from the city of Livingston to this remote village; it was a long, bumpy ride—not easy for a sick or wounded child.

boat grey water

Grey sky meets grey waters as a boat full of EcoLogic staff glides along the Amatique Bay to visit no-fishing zones (Photo credit: Amanda Foster)

On the third day of the retreat we took a refreshing boat ride to Belize, guided by fishermen we support. The people of Barranco, Belize gave us a special welcome to their community center, and took us out on motorboats to see the two of the eight no-fishing zones they have established with the other fishermen in the area. Prohibiting fishing in these zones allows for shrimp and other seafood to reproduce effectively so that the surrounding communities do not become depleted of the resources they need to survive, and can foster a conservation ethic. I was so touched to meet Alvin Loredo, former board member of EcoLogic’s partner SATIIM, and to hear his gratitude for EcoLogic’s work. Alvin has tried to communicate the severity of overfishing in this area to many organizations that were not able to help:

“We have tried to talk to people about our struggle. We’ve sat in offices and explained it to people. And I am so happy that EcoLogic came on board. You deserve a round of applause.”

As I heard the history of these struggles and floated past the beautiful mangrove trees in the bay, I fully understood EcoLogic’s effort to support the leaders and communities who are committed to conserving this coast, and the importance of conserving natural resources with the fisher associations of this region. When the people of Plan Grande Quehueche and Barranco expressed their thanks, I felt rejuvenated in my role on EcoLogic’s development team, and couldn’t wait to pass this feeling of gratitude to our donors and allies. When Alvin says “You deserve a round of applause,” we know that it’s not just EcoLogic Staff who are deserving, but all of you who support and root us on.

After such a remarkable trip full of moments that opened my eyes to the real-life impact of our work, I am more grateful than ever to work for EcoLogic. As we returned to Boston a few weeks ago, I dreaded readjusting to the frigid weather, but I knew that these experiences would give me the energy and motivation to relay the stories of these communities to our supporters. I learned that while many of the results of our work can be laid out in a graph or map, another important result that is less quantifiable is the relationship built on trust and harmony that EcoLogic staff has with our partners in Mesoamerica. It also opened my eyes to the fact that we all have an opportunity to protect and regenerate the natural resources that we all rely on: local actions matter, whether it be in Amatique Bay or our own back yard.

Connecting the Dots: Local to national forest carbon monitoring in Mexico

Local level carbon monitoring is truly foundational for the forest carbon sector. And EcoLogic believes that this monitoring can and should be conducted by the people living in and around high-carbon forests if the sector is to be successful in the long-run. Here’s why local people are critical: Mexico currently uses satellite images and some field-based data to quantify forest cover and thus estimate how much carbon is stored in its forests.  This data is called the national forest and soil inventory.  However, the satellite images themselves cannot determine the species, height or exact number of trees in a given area, nor can they measure the carbon stored in soil or dead wood.  Furthermore, the collection of field based data is challenging because of the difficult terrain, remote areas, and mistrust of outsiders within indigenous territories.  This is where local people fit in.

A small gathering of EcoLogic staff and partners in the Lacandón Jungle, Chiapas, Mexico

A small gathering of EcoLogic staff and partners in the Lacandón Jungle, Chiapas, Mexico (Photographed by Carlos Miguel Herrera Tapia)

EcoLogic has helped organize groups of community members, calling them “brigades,” in Chiapas and Campeche, and trained them on a carbon measurement methodology developed by EcoLogic in partnership with the Mexican universities, Univerdad de Ciencias y Artes de Chiapas (UNICACH) and El Colegio de la Frontera Sur (ECOSUR). The methodology first involves identifying and delimiting forest “conglomerates” (areas of about a quarter of an acre) where there is limited satellite data. Then, you conduct a survey which includes: counting all of the trees within the conglomerate, measuring the height and diameter of each tree in the area, identifying the species of each tree, evaluating the dead wood, and taking soil samples to calculate the amount of carbon stored in the soil. Sounds like a major undertaking (it is!). So how do local people learn how to do all of this?

Read more about local peoples’ involvement in forest monitoring.

GIS: Isn’t that Spatial?

Christine Gregory recently finished a GIS internship with EcoLogic, where she helped us represent environmental data in maps of our project sites.  She is a recent graduate from Tufts University with a Major in Spanish and Community Health and is very enthusiastic about exploring the application of GIS in environmental projects in Latin America.  She has been working with Jessie Norriss, an Urban and Environmental Policy and Planning graduate student at Tufts, to better understand the natural habitat of the project sites through the analysis of spatial data. The following blog post was written by Christine in December, 2015 at the end of her internship.

From left, Anne Elise Stratton (Program Officer for Institutional Development), Christine Gregory, and Gabriela González (Regional Program Director) in Cambridge

From left, Anne Elise Stratton (Program Officer for Institutional Development), Christine Gregory, and Gabriela González (Regional Program Director) in Cambridge

Some may think Geographic Information Systems (GIS) are just software used to make maps (think about Google Maps), but that’s just the start of its vast and varied powers!

My interest in GIS started last year in the introductory course at Tufts. I walked into class with little idea of what GIS was, just knowing I was about to fulfill a tech requirement for graduation.  Shortly after, I realized just how useful and versatile GIS was as a tool for solving spatial problems and how I, as a Geography enthusiast, could convert my excitement over atlases into a technical skill.

Read more about Christine’s work with GIS for EcoLogic.

EcoLogic in France: Our take on the Paris COP

Dave Kramer, Senior Manager for Impact, Learning and Innovation, participated in the events surrounding the 21st meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) held in Paris in December 2015. Dave has been with EcoLogic for over 10 years and serves as a key representative of our model and approach with peers and allies.

Dave Kramer, Senior Manager for Impact, Learning and Innovation, with Sarah Lupberger, recipient of a Fulbright-Clinton Placement in the Peruvian Ministry of Environment

Dave Kramer, Senior Manager for Impact, Learning and Innovation, with Sarah Lupberger, recipient of a Fulbright-Clinton Placement in the Peruvian Ministry of Environment

You might be wondering: Was EcoLogic at the Paris COP events at the end of last year? And does it have an opinion on the Paris Agreement I’ve been hearing about? Well, yes we were; and yes we do (Note: EcoLogic wasn’t a part of the official Paris COP negotiations, but participated in side events and conferences). Coming back, we are bursting at the seams with new reflections and insights, and we made a lot of new friends and potential collaborators with whom we’re excited to engage in 2016. Our aim in this post is to provide a bit of background and overview of EcoLogic’s experience in Paris and dish up a curated list of what we see as some of the best articles, blog posts, and op-eds that have been published in the weeks since the agreement was reached. Undoubtedly we have missed many, and we would love your suggestions and comments on this post. No matter what, we ended the year on a hopeful note, and we hope you will join us in committing to taking on the critical thinking and tangible action needed for us to solve the climate challenges facing us in the years to come.

Read more of EcoLogic’s takeaways from the COP.

Linking Community Forest Monitoring Up With REDD+

Mexico’s forest peoples have a unique connection to the land and are proving to be effective forest monitors. For them to play a central role in the country’s new National forest monitoring system, however, their role needs to be better defined. Here’s how this could happen, by a network of community brigades working together with local research institutions and state government agencies.

By Felicia Line, CarbonPlus Field Coordinator

This article was originally published on Ecosystem Marketplace, and is re-posted here with permission. View the original here.

Forest monitoring in Mexico

Manuel Arana explains forest monitoring technology to students. Photo: Carlos Herrera

We were in the Mexican state of Campeche, doing a field practice with members of a community brigade as they used different instruments to measure forest biomass, when Manuel Arana, the lead technician, pointed out an innocuous-looking tree.

“Careful of that tree,” he warned. “That’s the Bad Prince—or Chechen in Maya—and it has a spore that will give you an itchy rash if you touch it.”

Read more to learn about involving local people in REDD+ projects.

A Heartfelt Thanks to All of You!

Eight of ten expert facilitators

Eight of our ten expert facilitators at our annual benefit on October 1. Top row from left: Craig Altemose, Nish Acharya, Ray Brown, Daniel Moss, Peter Shelley. Bottom row from left: Heather Goldstone, Julie Wormser, Rebecca Adamson, EcoLogic Executive Director Barbara Vallarino, Frances Moore Lappé. (Photo: Raj Das)

On October 1, EcoLogic hosted 80 guests at the historic Commander’s Mansion in Watertown for our annual fall benefit, titled Turning the Tables: Nurturing Resilience. The goals of the event were to spark interesting discussions about environmental topics between our friends and supporters, and to raise $25,000 for our work in Mesoamerica. We are proud to have met and exceeded both of these goals—thanks to your help!

Read more about the event.

Second Act

Forest ecologist Robin Chazdon is helping show that secondary tropical forests aren’t wastelands

By Elizabeth Pennisi

EcoLogic Board member Robin Chazdon

EcoLogic Board member Dr. Robin Chazdon’s research on secondary forests—in other words, what grows back after trees are logged or burned down—was recently profiled in Science magazine.(Photo: Joanna B. Pinneo)

When it came to studying forests, ecologist Robin Chazdon took the road less traveled. In the 1990s, when many tropical researchers were scrambling to study tropical forests before they disappeared, she focused on what grew back once the trees were burned or logged. Many colleagues worked in the forest’s shaded understory, an ecosystem celebrated in Hollywood films. She labored in less charismatic deforested plots in the broiling sun, covered head to toe to keep prickly bushes and biting chiggers at bay. For decades, Chazdon worked in relative obscurity on long-term studies of these so-called secondary forests. She took issue with some prevailing views: that tropical forests wouldn’t regenerate, and that second growth was a biological wasteland. Chazdon and like-minded colleagues argued that, while protecting intact forest was essential, second growth couldn’t be ignored in efforts to protect the environment and human livelihoods. Now the rest of the world is beginning to see her point.

Read more about how Dr. Chazdon’s pioneering research is changing the way we look at secondary forests

Homegrown Expertise Could Be the Missing Link to Saving Mexico’s Largest Intact Rainforest

Mexico aims to slow climate change by saving its forests—an approach that’s traditionally meant good work for external companies who know how to measure the carbon content of trees. But Felicia Line of EcoLogic says locals can handle the job even better.

By Felicia Line, CarbonPlus Field Coordinator

This article was originally published on Ecosystem Marketplace, and is re-posted here with permission. View the original here.

Sara Camacho and her two-man team had been leading their brigades, made up of local community members, into the forest for weeks, leaving at dawn and returning at dusk, mosquito-bitten, snake-bitten and—in the case of team member Yoni Sima—feverish on the night I met them, but full of bonhomie.

“I’m starting to feel like I’m married to you guys,” joked Camacho, a fireplug of a woman in her mid-20s who Sima and their third colleague, the burly Manuel Arana, address with affection as la jefa—“the boss lady”.

Community brigades measure forest carbon in Mexico

A local community brigade is trained to measure carbon stored n trees in Chiapas, Mexico. (Photo: Carlos Herrera)

The three young mestizos had come to the old Mayan district of Calakmul to help marginalized communities learn how to measure the carbon stored in their forest—a task that requires identifying the forest’s trees by species, measuring their circumference, estimating their height, and then applying formulas to determine their biomass, half of which is carbon. If they get the species wrong, the carbon inventory will be off even if the measurements are right. And the same thing will happen if they get the species right but are sloppy about their measurements. Such errors could accumulate to add more uncertainty to the already difficult science of measuring carbon in forests, which is critical in efforts to slow climate change and earn international funding for REDD+, which stands for Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation.

Read more about how local people are key to saving Mexico’s rainforests.

Enoughness: Restoring Balance to the Economy

A conversation with Rebecca Adamson of First Peoples Worldwide

Rebecca Adamson, an indigenous economist, is Founder and President of First Peoples Worldwide in New York. A leader, activist, and ground-breaking Indigenous woman, Rebecca has a distinct perspective on how Indigenous Peoples’ value and economic systems can transform today’s business models. She holds a MS in Economic Development from Southern New Hampshire University, where she has also taught a graduate course on Indigenous Economics within the Community Economic Development Program. Rebecca has worked directly with grassroots tribal communities, and nationally as an advocate of local tribal issues, since 1970. She started First Nations Development Institute in 1980 and First Peoples Worldwide in 1997. Rebecca co-authored The Color of Wealth, published in 2006.

Rebecca will facilitate a table conversation at EcoLogic’s 2015 fall benefit, “Turning the Tables: Nurturing Resilience” on October 1. At her table, she will be leading a discussion focused on exploring the concept of Enoughness: Restoring Balance to the Economy. Get a sneak preview of what she will be talking about at dinner here!

Rebecca Adamson, First Peoples Worldwide

Rebecca Adamson, Founder and President of First Peoples Worldwide

What will you be talking about with the guests at your table?

I want to talk about why if we don’t reform the economic system, we will never save the planet. Most of my work has been using indigenous principles from a subsistence economy and taking indigenous wisdom to reform our Western economy. But we need to get a handle on what true sustainability is. You can’t have these exponentially growing economies and sustainability; we have to emphasize sustainability over growth. I want to put the economics stuff I’ve done more into the framework of climate change and talk about what it’s going to take for us to get where we need to be.

Read more about Rebecca Adamson’s perspectives on “Enoughness,” indigenous rights, and a sustainable economy.

Pope Francis’ Encyclical Reminds Us Who Climate Change Hurts the Most

By Tessa Peoples, Communications Intern

Laudato Si, the Pope’s landmark encyclical, has ignited an international conversation about climate change. But no conversation about climate action can ignore the fact that the world’s poor—including the rural and indigenous communities that EcoLogic works with every day—are already being hit the hardest by the impacts of climate disruption.

“We are not faced with two separate crises, one environmental and the other social, but rather one complex crisis which is both social and environmental.”

So wrote Pope Francis in Laudato Si, his landmark encyclical on climate change and the environment, released June 18. An encyclical is a letter generally used to address a significant issue and is addressed to all bishops—or in this case, as Francis put it: all of mankind. Through the letter, the Pope wishes to “enter into a dialogue with all people about our common home.” He emphasizes the undeserved effect of climate change on the world’s poorest populations and wealthy countries’ obligation to push forward and find solutions to the issue that he asserts was caused by excessive industrialization.

Pope Francis, who wrote about climate change

Pope Francis, who released an encyclical about climate change, will visit the US in September

The encyclical was published just a few months before the Pope’s September trip to the United States, when he will address a joint session of Congress and, separately, the United Nations General Assembly. President Obama responded to the encyclical, saying, “We must also protect the world’s poor, who have done the least to contribute to this looming crisis and stand to lose the most if we fail to avert it.”

Read more about the Pope, climate change, and the world’s poor.

Nish Acharya, Global Entrepreneur

On October 1, EcoLogic will be bringing 10 experts on topics from indigenous rights to climate change together for Turning the Tables: Nurturing Resilience, a dinner party with a twist. Here, Nish Acharya, one of the experts we have invited to dinner, reflects on his career journey, sustainability, and a preview of what guests at his dinner table can plan to discuss.

Learn more about our October 1 event here!

Nish Acharya

Nish Acharya

Nish Acharya is CEO of Citizence, a firm that consults with some of the world’s leading universities, governments, foundations and companies to assist them with innovation, entrepreneurship and globalization strategies. Mr. Acharya is currently leading a social enterprise investment fund for the Calvert Foundation, and is as a Senior Fellow with the Center for American Progress, a Visiting Fellow with Gateway House: The Indian Council on Global Relations, and a contributor to Forbes.

His topic at Turning the Tables is “Global Innovation and Entrepreneurship Ecosystems.”

Read more about Nish’s perspectives on entrepreneurship and sustainability!

Stoves Are Not One Size Fits All

Don’t underestimate the impact a stove can have on a woman’s life. In rural communities in Guatemala, Belize, Honduras, and Mexico, women do most, if not all, of the cooking for their families. In many homes, this means spending hours bent over an open fire, breathing in damaging smoke and carbon monoxide. Cooking over an open fire is detrimental both to women’s health and to forests. Harvesting firewood for cooking is a driver of deforestation in many rural areas in Central America and Mexico. By building fuel-efficient, clean-burning stoves in our project communities, EcoLogic helps improve the health of both families and forests. All of the stoves that we use reduce families’ fuel wood consumption about 60 to 70%, compared to traditional open-fire cooking methods. This saves women and children time and energy harvesting wood, and also reduces pressure on forests.

Building a new Justa stove in Honduras

Volunteers in Honduras build the base of a new Justa stove

Stoves, however, are not one size fits all.

Read more about how EcoLogic builds different stoves to fit the needs of each community we work in!

Fighting Climate Change and Saving Forests Doesn’t Mean Ignoring Indigenous Rights

With the COP21 international climate talks in Paris rapidly approaching, Mexico merits attention. In March, Mexico made news by becoming the first developing country to commit to reducing its carbon footprint at a national level ahead of the upcoming talks—including an ambitious goal to bring deforestation rates to zero by 2030.

These latest commitments aren’t the first time Mexico has been a step ahead of much of the world on climate. In 2010, Mexico released a vision document laying groundwork for a national strategy for REDD+—a United Nations program that stands for “Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation.”

Carbon Brigade in Chiapas measures trees

Community members in Chiapas learn how to measure carbon stored in trees (Photo: Felicia Line)

Read more about how EcoLogic is using people-powered conservation to help Mexico meet its climate goals!

Stove By Stove, Tree By Tree in Chinantla, Mexico

The quiet, tiny community of San Bernabé in the Chinantla region of Oaxaca, Mexico, feels like a world away from the city of Tuxtepec. Yet the bustling municipality is barely an hour away. On the winding drive from the city to San Bernabé, urban development and industry give way to a forested landscape dotted with small, rural homes and subsistence farm plots so rapidly that the transition feels jarring—blink, and you’re in a profoundly different place. “There’s such an isolation to these communities,” Sam Schofield, EcoLogic’s Program Officer for Institutional Development, reflected after a visit to the area.

Women in Oaxaca cooking tortillas on an EcoLogic stove

Women in San Bernabé cook handmade tortillas on an EcoLogic fuel-efficient stove (Photo: Alstom Foundation)

Read more updates from the ground at EcoLogic’s project in Oaxaca!

In Rural Guatemala, Samuel Coc Yat is Rewriting the Future

Meet Samuel. He’s a K’ekchi’ Maya from rural eastern Guatemala, cares deeply about solving climate change, and just turned 29 years old. He’s also an EcoLogic field technician with our Youth Restoring the Nature of Sarstún project in the department of Izabal, which shares a border with Belize on Guatemala’s Caribbean coast.

Samuel Coc Yat in Livingston

Samuel Coc Yat in Livingston (Photo: Lee Shane)

Samuel lives and works in the town of Livingston, a small, sleepy fishing village situated on the shores of the Sarstún River and the Amatique Bay. Working to protect natural resources and improve local people’s livelihoods in such a remote place comes with a unique set of obstacles. But as someone born and raised in the area, Samuel explains how he works to address the mismatch that exists between short-term survival needs and long-term sustainability—and why he’s optimistic about the Sarstún region’s future.

Hi, Samuel. Can you introduce yourself and where you’re from?

My name is Samuel Coc Yat, and I am from the rural community of Rosario, which is part of the town of Livingston, Izabal. Livingston is small and isolated, and it is located within the Sarstún River Multiple Use Zone, which is a protected area—although the government doesn’t often do much to enforce its protected status.

Read more about how Samuel works with communities in the rural Sarstún River region of Guatemala!

Stunning Birds of the Sacred Forest

The Sacred Forest of Totonicapán Guatemala

The Sacred Forest of Totonicapán, Guatemala

The Forest of Los Altos in Totonicapán, Guatemala, also known as “The Sacred Forest,” is a breathtakingly beautiful and expansive tropical area that provides critical resources like clean water and wood to approximately 150,000 people. However, the forest isn’t only important to local people—it’s also a critical habitat for at least twelve species of migratory birds whose populations are in decline. Birds help to maintain the equilibrium of ecosystems in the landscape, by preying on insect pests such as beetles, wasps, stinkbugs, and weevils. These birds also provide priceless services to the ecosystem by pollinating flowers and distributing seeds across the forest floor. The largest threat to the migratory birds who make Totonicapán their home for part of the year is habitat loss, caused mostly by humans clearing the forest to expand agriculture and industry.

Meet some of the beautiful migratory birds that make Totonicapán’s Sacred Forest their winter home!

Language of Change: A Climate of Optimism from Harvard Sustainability Experts

We need to tell the story differently. The combined message from scientists, nonprofits, and politicians seems to be that there are too many systems in place contributing to climate change, and too many problems that are growing because of it. A few weeks ago, a group of prominent Harvard alumni took a step in challenging that notion. This panel of four included former Mexican President Felipe Calderón, other government leaders, and our own David Kramer. They spoke to fellow alumni about making sustainability compatible with economic growth in a session titled “Moving Sustainability from Problem to Opportunity and Innovation.” We sat down with David to hear what the panel had to say, and how he presented EcoLogic’s conservation work as one successful approach to protecting communities in the face of climate change.

Dave Kramer and Felipe Calderon at Harvard

EcoLogic’s David Kramer (right) speaks at Harvard with former Mexican President Felipe Calderón (center) and panel facilitator Marilyn Averill (left) (Photo: Rebecca Chacko)

Read more!

Facing Future Storms: Poor Honduran Communities Unite to Protect Watersheds and Nature

by Dr. David Barton Bray

David Barton Bray is Professor in the Department of Earth and Environment at Florida International University and a Member of EcoLogic’s Board of Directors. This story was originally published on Mongabay.com, and is re-posted here with permission. Click here to see the original post on Mongabay.

El Eden, Honduras

Residents of El Eden, one of the 28 Pico Bonito communities that banded together to protect their water supply. (Photo: Pat Goudvis)

There hasn’t been much good news out of Honduras recently. One of the poorest Latin American nations, it has been afflicted by a series of natural and political calamities. In 1998, Hurricane Mitch killed over 14,000 people, impacted a third of the population and did $3.8 billion in damage—three-quarters of the nation’s total GDP. Droughts followed, reducing corn and bean production by 50 to 70 percent in some years. In 2009, an elected President was overthrown by the military. And in 2014, hard times in Honduras made the U.S. news, as a stream of unaccompanied children fled to the United States.

There is, however, another Honduras, a place where—despite adversity—small, rural communities are getting on with the business of living sustainably and dealing effectively with the vagaries of extreme weather, all on a shoestring budget.

Read more about the good news from Honduras!

Protecting the “Land of Many Trees”

EcoLogic works with local communities in a range of beautiful landscapes across Central America and Mexico. We want to take you on a virtual journey to our largest project site, nestled in the stunning Cuchumatanes Mountains of western Guatemala.

The name “Guatemala” comes from the indigenous Náhuatl word “Quauhtlemallan,” meaning “land of many trees.” It is an apt name for the lushly forested country, which ranks among the world’s top five hotspots for biodiversity. But the “land of many trees” is in danger of losing its namesake. Forest loss in Guatemala has been accelerating rapidly since the 1980s. In 2006, the United Nations Center for Biological Diversity estimated that 73 thousand hectares of forest are lost annually—equivalent to 200 football stadiums every day.

Cuchumatanes Mountains landscape

Rural villages are nestled between the jagged peaks of the Cuchumatanes Mountains in the western highlands of Guatemala. (Photo: Dave Kramer)

Learn more about the stunning landscape of the Cuchumatanes Mountains!

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