This Earth Day, EcoLogic’s local partner in Belize, the Sarstoon Temash Institute for Indigenous Management (SATIIM), won a landmark legal victory for Maya land rights in the regional Caribbean Court of Justice.
Antonio Chun, a K’ekchi’ Maya resident of the Toledo region of southern Belize, wears a shirt with a message of protest against US Capital Energy (Photo: Maura Fitzgerald)
SATIIM works in the Toledo district of southern Belize—the Belizean side of our bi-national Cross-Border Alliance for Healthy Fisheries project site—to conserve the region’s natural resources in an environmentally sound manner for the economic, social, cultural, and spiritual well-being of its indigenous people.
Read more about SATIIM’s legal victory for indigenous rights and conservation!
by Abigail Southwell, Brian Lowry, Evgeny Lobanchenko, Tomislav Marcinko Narvaez, and the Boston University Venture Consulting Club
In March 2015, a group of five MBA graduate students at Boston University traveled to Guatemala as part of a joint project between EcoLogic and BU’s Global Venture Consulting Club. The collaboration was born out of BU Link Day, a program that connects MBA students with small nonprofits. Read the students’ reflections on their trip below!
The Boston University MBA students, including Tomislav Marcinko, Abigail Southwell, and Evgeny Lobanchenko, take a break from building a stove in Totonicapán, along with EcoLogic field technician Fernando Recancoj (far right) and members of the community
When starting our MBA at Boston University in September of 2014, most of our incoming class was expecting a year filled with numbers, graphs, charts, and case analyses. Exploring the forests of Totonicapán in Guatemala this past spring break was not only an unexpected experience, but one of the highlights of this year. Through BU’s Global Venture Consulting Club, five students from our first year MBA class were able to travel to Guatemala and work with EcoLogic to better understand the importance of its mission as part of a project we were working on with them about data collection and information flow.
Read more about the BU Venture Consulting Club’s experience visiting Totonicapán!
Elmer Urizar Reyes
Elmer Urizar Reyes is one of our field technicians with our Indigenous Peoples for Thriving Ecosystems in Northern Guatemala project site, where we implement community-powered conservation work with our local partner, the Northern Border Municipalities Alliance (MFN is their Spanish acronym). The project site is our largest, spanning more than 200,000 acres of land in the departments of Huehuetenango and Quiché, in northern Guatemala. Elmer lives in the community of Santa María Tzejá, part of the municipality of Ixcán, in Quiché, and works in that area of the project site. In between planting trees and harvesting fair-trade honey, he was able to take a moment to tell us more about his life as an EcoLogic field technician in northern Guatemala.
What is your role with EcoLogic?
I work as a field technician with EcoLogic and our local partner, the Northern Border Municipalities Alliance. I am based in the area around Ixcán, a town in the department of Quiché, Guatemala. I currently work with seven communities, and am overseeing a lot of different projects, including training farmers to practice agroforestry with inga edulis, protecting micro-watersheds, building fuel-efficient stoves, and supporting our new pilot initiative in fair trade honey production.
Read more about Elmer’s life as a field technician in northern Guatemala!
Doña Zumilda Duarte holds a seedling while helping with a reforestation project in Honduras (Photo: Nick Shufro)
In January, we announced that our local partner in Honduras had been honored with the Innovation Award from the Yale chapter of the International Society of Tropical Foresters. The prize recognizes the collaborative effort between our partner AJAASSPIB, EcoLogic, and an urban municipality to scale up AJAASSPIB’s successful model of rural community-led conservation to a larger watershed. In honor of World Water Day and the International Day of Women—which we celebrated earlier this month—we want you to meet the amazing woman without whom none of this award-winning conservation work would have happened.
NILIA ZUMILDA DUARTE SANDOVAL—or Doña Zumilda, as she’s called by neighbors and colleagues as a sign of respect—knows what it’s like to see a community go thirsty. In 1998, Hurricane Mitch hit Honduras, leaving behind an unprecedented trail of destruction. The President at the time, Carlos Flores, pronounced that the hurricane had cost Honduras fifty years of development. Doña Zumilda’s small community of La Chorrera, home to just over 200 families, was devastated. “When Hurricane Mitch came, all of our water systems were destroyed,” she remembers. The hurricane reduced water storage and filtration infrastructure throughout the region to rubble, and communities were left without access to clean water. “We had to rebuild everything.”
Read more about Zumilda’s amazing history of commmunity leadership!
The Horned Guan in the wild. (Photo: Josh More)
The horned guan is a unique, large bird that resembles a turkey. It is named for the distinctive red horn on the top of its head. The horned guan, also identified by its shiny black plumage and red feet, lives in mountain forests in southern Mexico and in Guatemala. The bird is an endangered species, and has been threatened by the loss and fragmentation of its forest habitat, as well as by excessive hunting.
One part of Guatemala where the horned guan can be found is the Communal Forest of Los Altos de San Miguel, Totonicapán—the site of EcoLogic’s Forest of the Water Spirit project. The Communal Forest is part of the Atitlán Important Bird Area, a mountainous part of southern Guatemala that is home to several threatened and endangered bird species, including the endangered horned guan and the near threatened resplendent quetzal—Guatemala’s national bird.
Read more about this unique, endangered bird!
Vilas Dhar, investor, attorney, and friend of EcoLogic
Vilas Dhar is an investor, attorney, and social entrepreneur with a passion for deploying innovative models and disruptive technologies that deliver rich social returns. As a co-founder at Dhar Law, LLP in Boston, Vilas has built a platform for socially conscious legal engagement, while also leveraging nontraditional strategy and private capital and philanthropy to empower non-profits, businesses, and governments.
Vilas is a new, but very active and passionate supporter of EcoLogic. He led a roundtable discussion on “Development Based on Human Rights” at EcoLogic’s 2014 fall benefit dinner. With the Next Mile Project, an experiment in nonprofit collaboration, he co-hosted another event with EcoLogic about the role of community development and conservation in Chiapas, Mexico.
How did you first find out about EcoLogic?
In the way of all such good things, we were introduced by way of a common connection. Prof. Christine Letts at the Hauser Center at Harvard Kennedy School served as an expert lecturer at the Next Mile Project, and Dave Kramer of EcoLogic was previously in her class. Connections were made, and I was very excited to learn about EcoLogic’s excellent work.
By giving local indigenous people a seat at the table, we’re helping make an international climate change mitigation program more effective in Mexico.
By Felicia Line, CarbonPlus Field Coordinator
Community brigades were trained to monitor carbon stored in forests in the Lacandón Jungle, in Chiapas.
If you ask about what REDD+ is in the Lacandón Jungle in Chiapas, Mexico, you might get a range of answers. Some people will think you’re talking about the Red Cross, while others say that it refers to a giant net (“red” means “net” in Spanish) that will descend over the jungle to protect it. In other words, there is a lot of confusion and misinformation about what REDD+ entails and how it could work—not just in the Lacandón Jungle, but in other areas of Mexico and the world.
Read more about how we are helping communities fight climate change in the forests of southern Mexico!
From left to right: one of COPIASURO’s technician; Alvaro Almengor, the General Manager of COPIASURO; Mario Ardany de León, EcoLogic’s Program Officer for Guatemala; and Gabriela González, EcoLogic’s Regional Program Director, visit beehives in Ixcán, Guatemala
It was a quiet afternoon in Ixcán, Guatemala, and you could hear the buzzing of hundreds of bees. In late January, Gabriela González, EcoLogic’s Regional Program Director, and Mario Ardany de León, our Program Officer for Guatemala, were at our Indigenous Peoples for Thriving Ecosystems in Northern Guatemala project site to meet with representatives of an internationally-recognized honey cooperative. The group gathered to discuss the next steps for a new and successful beekeeping initiative. But first, they donned beekeeping suits and hats to visit the hives.
In 2013, EcoLogic partnered with Heifer International to bring beekeeping to the communities we serve in Ixcán. The success of that pilot initiative connected us with the Integral Production Beekeepers’ Cooperative of the Southwest in Guatemala (COPIASURO is its Spanish acronym), who produce and distribute certified fair trade Guatemalan honey to international markets. In the spring of 2014, EcoLogic staff met with COPIASURO to discuss the possibility of forming an official partnership to support the beekeeping families in Ixcán. In January 2015, inspired by the dedication and enthusiasm of the Ixcán beekeepers, they agreed to make the partnership official.
Read more about what’s buzzing right now in Guatemala!
In rural Honduras, there’s no easy way to get around, as our field technician Daniel Escobar explains in this interview.
Victor Daniel Escobar Peña (who goes by Daniel) is EcoLogic’s field technician on our Towns for Environmental Corridors and Communities project in northern Honduras. He works on the ground with our local partner, the Municipalities of the Central Atlántida Department (MAMUCA), and oversees and helps implement our community-centered conservation work.
Daniel grew up and lives in the community of La Masica in Atlántida, and has worked with EcoLogic for six years. In this interview, Daniel reflects on the threat of climate change, the importance of involving local people in protecting the places they live in, and his hopes and dreams for the future.
Daniel Escobar with a fuel-efficient stove he helped build as part of his work with EcoLogic and our local partner MAMUCA in northern Honduras
Read more about what it’s like to be an EcoLogic field technician in rural Honduras!
Happy New Year!
As we begin a new year we are excited and deeply grateful to count on the continued support of friends like you!
Executive Director Barbara Vallarino at work planting native tree seedlings in Honduras (Photo: Nicholas Shufro)
Before 2015 sweeps us away, we want to thank you one last time for helping make 2014 a memorable, impactful year for EcoLogic and the communities we work with in Central America and Mexico. We put together a slideshow of the amazing things you helped us accomplish last year, and you can view it here!
Working with local communities to achieve our shared vision of a world where rural and indigenous communities lead in the creation of a sustainable world for both people and nature remains our true north.
Learn more about what we’re planning in 2015!
By Dave Kramer, EcoLogic’s Senior Manager for Impact, Learning, and Innovation
Dave Kramer in beautiful Pico Bonito National Park in Honduras, near where EcoLogic is building our first large-scale regional landscape conservation project (Photo: Kathrin Winkler)
With this week’s Winter Storm Juno packing a wallop and reports of crippling drought across Central America, climate change is once again top of mind here at EcoLogic and across much of the world. I was fortunate enough to travel to Lima, Peru, last December, during COP20—but I was actually there to attend a fantastic side event, the Global Landscapes Forum (GLF), organized by the Center for International Forestry (CIFOR) and two UN agencies (FAO and UNEP).
Read more reflections on climate change and landscapes!
Doña Zumilda Duarte Sandoval, a leader of EcoLogic’s local partner AJAASSPIB, will accept the ISTF Innovation Award on AJAASSPIB’s behalf at Yale University on January 30
EcoLogic is proud to announce that the Yale University chapter of the International Society of Tropical Foresters (ISTF) has selected our local partner in northern Honduras, the Association of Water Councils of Pico Bonito National Park’s Southern Sector (AJAASSPIB in Spanish), as the winner of the 2015 ISTF Innovation Prize. For “outstanding initiatives in biodiversity conservation at the landscape level,” the prize honors the collaborative effort between AJAASSPIB, EcoLogic, and the Municipality of Olanchito to scale up AJAASSPIB’s successful model of rural community-led conservation to a larger watershed that feeds an urban area.
Read more about this award-winning Honduran partnership
Thanks to your support, 2014 was a landmark year for EcoLogic and the communities we work with. Since celebrating our 20th anniversary in 2013, we have pushed ourselves to innovate and scale up our impact, working hard every day to achieve our vision of rural communities leading in the creation of a sustainable world for both people and nature. Now that 2015 is picking up momenteum, we wanted to take one more look at some of the great achievements you helped us accomplish, and at some of the stories that your support helped us to tell.
Click to see our slideshow highlighting some of the progress and accomplishments you helped EcoLogic make possible in 2014!
Bestalina Martínez, Executive Director of EcoLogic’s Honduran local partner MAMUCA
“A community’s richest resource is its people,” says Bestalina Martínez, Executive Director of the Municipalities of the Central Atlántida Department (MAMUCA), a community organization in northern Honduras that EcoLogic has worked with since 2007.
MAMUCA is an association that brings together towns and communities from across Atlántida, Honduras, to work toward reducing poverty and improving local livelihoods while conserving the environment. “If we don’t protect our natural resources, then we destroy our quality of life,” she says emphatically. Bestalina understands that people cannot thrive without helping the Earth to thrive as well—and under her leadership, MAMUCA and EcoLogic have brought that value of interconnectedness to all of our collaborative projects.
Read more about how Bestalina’s innovative leadership is keeping rivers clean and putting food on families’ tables in Honduras!
Isabela’s story was originally featured in our 2013-2014 annual report. Read the full report online here!
“People told us we couldn’t participate, that we couldn’t work, because we were women.” But Isabela Alonzo Martín set out to prove them wrong.
Isabela Alonzo Martín
A young Maya Chuj just 21 years old, Isabela has already made a name for herself as a passionate and articulate advocate for women’s rights and environmental conservation in and around the town of San Mateo Ixtatán in Huehuetenango, Guatemala. Since 2012, she has been the Coordinator of the Municipal Office of Women—a local initiative organized to bring greater rights and opportunities to the indigenous women of San Mateo Ixtatán and the surrounding communities.
Women, and especially indigenous women, are now pioneers of environmental conservation in the area, which Isabela is proud to note. EcoLogic has helped its local partner in the area, the Northern Border Municipalities Alliance (Mancomunidad de Municipios Frontera del Norte, or MFN) train and educate community members in sustainable forest management and reforestation. Many women now work as “forest guardians” who plant seedlings, take care of standing forests, and educate other members of their communities about the importance of conservation. “The trainings that EcoLogic has organized have been incredibly important for us. Most women in this area cannot read, and before EcoLogic started working with us, they knew hardly anything about the environment. Thanks to EcoLogic’s help, women are educated and empowered to work, and to take care of our precious natural resources for the greater good of their whole community.”
Read more about how Isabela is connecting conservation with women’s rights in Guatemala!
Nolverto’s story was originally featured in our 2013-2014 annual report. Read the full report online here!
Nolverto Troches Cárcamo is a grandfather, a minister, a community leader, and a staunch environmentalist in San Juan, Izabal, Guatemala
Nolverto Troches Cárcamo is a vocal community leader and minister within the small village of San Juan in the rural department of Izabal in eastern Guatemala. But Nolverto thinks of himself first and foremost as a father and a grandfather, and it is his love for children that has inspired him to become a staunch advocate for environmental conservation. “I’m an old man,” he says with a laugh, “and there’s only so much that’s within my power.”
“But if old men like me choose to set a bad example by cutting down trees, what kind of future are we creating for our children?!”
“I want my children and grandchildren to enjoy the forests. I want them to know the joy of being in a forested place. It’s our duty to take care of tomorrow today. I want there to be water left for my grandchildren!”
Nolverto’s concerns about water are well founded. In San Juan and other nearby communities in the lower Sarstún River basin, clean water can be scarce due to pollution, deforestation, and the pressures of a growing population. Nolverto sees wells and streams get drier with each passing year.
Read more about how Nolverto is working to preserve nature for future generations!
Paulina Caal shows off her new stove in her home in San Juan, Izabal, Guatemala
“I always cooked over an open fire,” mused Paulina Caal, a mother of five who lives in the rural village of San Juan, a village in the Sarstún River Basin in eastern Guatemala. “Every time I finished preparing a meal, my arms were burning, and I was coughing up smoke. And it took so much wood! 10 years ago, there were plenty of trees for firewood right next to our home.”
“But today, you have to walk at least 30 minutes to collect enough wood, because we are slowly killing the trees.”
Throughout Central America and much of Mexico, many rural families cook their meals over open fires—which burn day and night, filling homes—and people’s lungs—with harmful smoke. Cooking with firewood also requires people—usually women, like Paulina, and their children—to spend several hours per week collecting wood for cooking. Relying on firewood as a primary source of fuel is causing an alarming rate of deforestation and high incidences of health issues, like pneumonia and lung diseases, from breathing in smoke from the open fires.
Read more about how a new stove changed Paulina Caal’s life for the better!
Turning the Tables: Living Within Natural Limits
At our annual benefit on October 23, Executive Director Barbara Vallarino (right) presented the EcoLogic Innovation Award to Bestalina Martínez, the Executive Director of MAMUCA, our partner in northern Honduras
For our 2014 annual benefit, EcoLogic hosted 80 guests at the historic Commander’s Mansion in Watertown last Thursday evening, October 23rd. The twin goals of the event, Turning the Tables: Living within Natural Limits, were to spark interesting discussions about environmental topics between our friends and supporters, and to raise $22,000 for our work in Mesoamerica. We are proud to have met and exceeded both of these goals—thanks to your help!
See more pictures from Turning the Tables—and learn about what’s coming up next!
Mario Ardany De León Benitéz is EcoLogic’s new Program Officer for Guatemala!
Mario Ardany de León Benitéz, EcoLogic’s new Program Officer for Guatemala, is passionate about helping the communities and organizations EcoLogic works with in Guatemala turn their goals and ambitions into reality.
What is your role with EcoLogic?
I am the new Program Officer for Guatemala, which means that I oversee all of EcoLogic’s projects in Guatemala, and coordinate our relationships with our local partner organizations. EcoLogic’s activities include reforestation, water conservation, agroforestry, and—most importantly, from my perspective—education and trainings to help community members and local organizations be able to do this conservation work as independently as possible. I think it’s incredibly important that EcoLogic helps give our partners on the ground the tools to conserve and manage the natural resources that they depend on.
Read more about what empowering rural communities means to Mario—and EcoLogic!
An Interview with Cleopatra Méndez, EcoLogic’s new Bi-National Program Coordinator
This story was also published in the Fall 2014 edition of our print newsletter, The EcoLogical Landscape. Check out the full newsletter here!
Cleopatra Méndez is EcoLogic’s Bi-National Project Coordinator. She is from Livingston, Guatemala, and joined EcoLogic in the spring of 2014. Cleopatra has a bachelor’s degree in natural resources management from Mount Hood Community College in Oregon, and previously served as Coordinator of the Tri-National Alliance for the Gulf of Honduras (TRIGOH), a network of local NGOs that work to conserve the Gulf.
What is your role with EcoLogic?
I coordinate EcoLogic’s bi-national project in the Sarstún region. My role is to provide support and oversight on the ground for EcoLogic’s work in these important coastal and marine ecosystems. This area is vital to conserve—it’s home to many endangered species, and places on both sides of the border have been recognized under the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands as wetlands of international importance.
Read more about Cleopatra’s cross-border conservation work!