In Honduras, Communities Focus on Sustainability

Home to white-lipped peccaries, Baird's tapirs, white-faced capuchin monkeys and hundreds of bird species, Honduras' Río Plátano Biosphere Reserve is an area rich in globally significant biodiversity. To the east lies the Moskitia rainforest, which covers the northeastern tip of the country.

Honduras' Río Plátano Biosphere Reserve and the Moskitia suffer high rates of deforestation and forest conversion, driven primarily by agriculture and cattle ranching.

Thanks to the support of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the Rainforest Alliance is collaborating with communities in this region, giving them the tools they need to protect their forests and earn a sustainable livelihood from the sale of timber and other forest products.

In the areas surrounding the reserve, we are working with forestry cooperatives to develop locally owned forest enterprises. Several of these businesses have achieved Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification, which helps them market their products to the increasing number of buyers demanding responsibly produced goods.

Several communities already have steady buyers for their raw materials -- companies such as Gibson Guitars, which sources certified mahogany for use in its musical instruments.

In a region where illegal logging is rampant, these communities are demonstrating that the sustainable harvesting and processing of mahogany not only brings economic benefits but is also a viable strategy for conserving biodiversity.

The Rainforest Alliance has partnered with MOPAWI, a local nonprofit organization, to assist women in rural communities with the production and marketing of handicrafts made from mahogany scrap wood -- materials that would not be suitable for the manufacture of guitars or other products.

The 50-member Jerárquico Committee uses colored dyes and creativity to transform what was previously considered waste into works of art. The handicrafts are sold locally, helping to raise awareness about the Moskitia's forests.

The Rainforest Alliance is encouraging the sustainable harvest of non-timber forest products such as batana and swa oils. Collected for centuries by the indigenous Tawira, these oils are used in beauty products that help restore dry and damaged hair and skin.

By improving the sustainability of swa- and batana-oil production, the Tawira and other groups are more fully realizing the potential economic benefits of their forest resources, which helps protect their lands and support the rights of indigenous groups.

The money earned from the sale of the Moskitia's timber and non-timber products allows communities, local organizations and families to invest in education and other social development projects.

Tropical forests can mitigate climate change by absorbing greenhouse gas emissions, and the Rainforest Alliance is exploring the potential for community forest enterprises in Honduras to receive payments under the framework of Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD), a global system aimed at compensating forest managers for conserving their natural resources.

Thanks to the United States Agency for International Development for making our work with communities in Honduras possible.

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