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!

Zumilda Duarte’s Clean Water Crusade

Doña Zumilda Duarte holds a seedling while helping with a reforestation project in Honduras (Photo: Nick Shufro)

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!