When it comes to conservation, uplifting local efforts is crucial. Our Forest Guardians play a critical role in the tall task of monitoring and protecting forests in Honduras. Here, forest guardian Germán Alfonso Martínez, a guardian for the Uchapa-Pimienta watershed region in Olanchito, tells us more about his experience.
We recently interviewed Germán Alfonso Martínez, a forest guardian at EcoLogic’s Honduran site in the Municipality of Olanchito. Germán serves the Uchapa-Pimienta watershed – a vast and vital region that sources water for over 50,000 people. The conservation of the Uchapa-Pimienta region has advanced through a long collaboration between EcoLogic, AJAASSPIB, and the Municipality of Olanchito.
Our interview with Germán Alfonso Martínez, Forest Guardian of the Uchapa-Pimienta Watershed.
Watershed protection is vital, as the streams and rivers that flow through the region are affected by all of the activities on the land. Deforestation and unsustainable agricultural practices are some of many detrimental practices that then contaminate the water supply. As a forest guardian in the Uchapa-Pimienta watershed, Germán patrols the forest for illegal activity such as logging or fishing. “I provide protection for our water sources, and the wild animals,” Germán explains.
Germán’s work as a Guardian has inspired a new perspective and passion for the role of nature in his life. “I have to tell you, my life is really different from how it was before,” Germán explains. In the past, Germán had worked as a hunter and had been a fan of the sport. Now, he notes the irony in how “before I was a fan of hunters and I was a hunter myself. Now instead of hunting [the animals], I try to protect them.”
We have to conserve and protect, because by protecting the animals and the forest, we will create a better Honduras.
This shift in perspective illustrates a clear objective in EcoLogic’s mission while working with communities like Olanchito. Germán was able to reshape his relationship with his natural surroundings, creating a more sustainable relationship with the space he shares with the life of the forest. He sees a new value in his natural surroundings and has devoted his life to trying to protect them. Germán concludes, “we have to conserve and protect because by protecting the animals and the forest, we will create a better Honduras.”
The Uchapa-Pimienta Watershed spans 6,111 hectares and provides water for more than 50,000 people.
A crucial aspect of his work, and that of any forest guardian, is dialogue. Germán notes the most challenging, but rewarding aspects of his job are tied to encounters with illegal loggers or hunters. “There was the time when I found a young man [illegally] chopping wood,” Germán notes. He engaged in a dialogue with the young man, explaining to him what his role as forest guardian entailed, and why what the young man was doing – and where he was doing it – was not permitted.
Importantly, Germán notes that “I was able to speak with him and we solved it together, because then he never came back.” As a Forest Guardian, he acts as a liaison between the forest and its visitors or inhabitants. He can explain why the area is protected and must remain untouched, and in the most successful cases, trespassers leave peacefully and do not return.
Guardians like Germán help maintain all conservation and reforestation efforts put forth in the watershed.
With this, Germán emphasizes that forest guardianship is far from easy. Patrolling an area so vast – 6,111 hectares – is immensely challenging. While he’s not the only one at work, it is undeniably daunting. However, “it’s worth it, of course, it’s worth it” Germán emphasizes, gesturing to his surroundings. “Look at how well the streams and the water are doing. Everything is good and well.”
Guardians like Germán are the voice of the forest. Their work not only actively protects the forest from unwelcome threats and detrimental behaviors, but it sparks a wider awareness of the forest’s importance.
Beaujena Stoyanchev is a rising junior at Boston University with a passion for social and environmental justice that places Indigenous and rural communities at the forefront of proposed solutions. She is studying International Relations with a focus on Environment/Development and a regional concentration in Latin America, with additional minors in Spanish and Environmental Policy. As a Content Intern with EcoLogic, she helps establish and grow EcoLogic’s online and social media presence, while also getting a chance to learn more about the technical aspects of the organization’s work.