Community Forestry in Honduras

At the heart of the Mesoamerican Biological Corridor -- a complex of forest that stretches from Mexico to Panama and contains 7 percent of the planet's biodiversity -- lies the country of Honduras, which boasts incredible species diversity and key ecosystems including rainforests, mangroves, pine forests, savanna and swampland. Honduras' forests are concentrated in 107 protected areas -- including the Río Plátano Biosphere Reserve, Tawakha Indigenous Reserve and Patuca National Park -- that cover 10,424 square miles (27,000 square kilometers). The extraordinary biodiversity found here is coming under increasing threat of deforestation, caused by illegal logging, forest fires and the expansion of cattle ranches and farms. Honduras' deforestation rate is one of the highest in Latin America and has led to a 37 percent reduction of forest cover between 1990 and 2005.

A key underlying activity that drives deforestation in Honduras is illegal logging, which accounts for up to half of the timber harvested in the country (and up to 85% of tropical hardwood production). Although 40 percent of Hondurans live in forest regions, only a small percentage of the population currently benefits from the country's forest resources due to a lack of clear land tenure and technical and financial capacity as well as barriers to legal compliance. Under current forestry law, communities have very limited opportunities to access and manage their forest resources. Even when permission is granted and tenure is recognized, most communities lack the skills to develop and run successful forestry enterprises. As a result, people are often forced to subsist through small-scale illegal logging activities, selling high-value wood (mainly mahogany) to intermediaries at low prices.

The Rainforest Alliance's Training, Extension, Enterprises and Sourcing (TREES) program, which has been active in Honduras since 2005, is working to combat these problems. Our current efforts focus on communities that are situated in and around Río Plátano Biosphere Reserve, in the as well as in the buffer zone of Pico Bonito National Park. With the support of the Avery Dennison Foundation and the Inter-American Development Bank, we are implementing activities designed to help communities better manage their forests, achieve FSC certification for their efforts and market their wood and non-timber forest products. Our efforts support local communities to defend their land rights in the face of mounting pressure for conversion by building sustainable, locally-owned forest enterprise.

For more information, please contact your regional TREES representative.

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