Thursday, June 2, 2011

Honduras: Then and Now

Glen Juergens, Certified Forester and member of the International Society of Tropical Foresters, recently returned from a successful Farmer to Farmer “flex” trip to Honduras where he worked in collaboration with the Sustainable Harvest Foundation of Honduras (FUCOHSO) to survey 14 water sources for 12 communities in the Departments of Yoro and Santa Barbara.

FUCOHSO is an organization which aims to improve the nutrition of rural families in remote communities, aid in the attainment of economic stability, and teach better farming methods using organic technologies in a sustainable manner. FOCUHSO also focuses on imparting to families the importance of protecting the environment, forest and water resources in order to improve their lives over the long term. As a former Peace Corp volunteer stationed in Honduras, Juergens personally confirms that FOCUHSO is making significant and beneficial improvements to the lives of these people. Below are a few excerpts and reflections from his trip report.

“Honduras has certainly changed over the last 30+ years since I was there as a Peace Corps Volunteer from 1977-1979! Few small communities had water and/or electricity in their homes in the 1970s. The first village I worked in as a Peace Corps Volunteer in 1977, I had to walk about ¼ mile to get my drinking water from a spring next to the stream that went through the village and over ½ mile to the spot where I could bathe in the river. The drinking water from the spring would become contaminated with every large rain storm that caused the stream to rise above the level of the spring or when domestic animals would walk through the spring. [During my trip] only 1 community of the 12 I visited still did not have either water or electricity… Another change I noticed is that all of the children that I met on this trip seemed very healthy. As a Peace Corps Volunteer in Honduras in the 1970s, the majority of children in small, rural communities were suffering from malnutrition. Part of the malnutrition was due to the fact that their diets were lacking the variety of vegetables and protein needed for children to grow and maintain their health. FUCOHSO is teaching families how to grow a variety of vegetables, using organic fertilizers and pesticides, and how to add the vegetables to their diets. They also help families to build structures to protect the chickens from predators and to provide a place for the chickens to lay eggs.   

The other part causing the malnutrition, as I mentioned above, was the lack of clean drinking water. Over the past 30 years many countries and non-government organizations have come to Honduras to help provide community water systems that reduce or eliminate the contamination that was causing many of the illnesses children were suffering from. Most of the water systems I visited were in areas where there was no immediate adjacent source of human or domestic animal contamination. However, due to deforestation and the lack of protection (fencing) around the water source, along with adjacent landowners above the water source cultivating crops, grazing animals or rainfall run-off from nearby roads, contamination potential of the water source is high. Some of the communities had chlorinating systems attached to the water tank to provide potable water but at least one community did not have the knowledge of how to use the system.

The good news is there are opportunities to continue to improve the water sources through education, reforestation efforts, and fencing to protect the water sources from potential contamination from domestic animals and poor agricultural and land use practices. FUCOHSO has the technology and ability available to provide this assistance. However, in some communities the land adjacent to the water source is owned by person(s) living outside of the community. In these cases there are opportunities for FUCOHSO to work with these landowners to improve their agricultural practices or to work with other organizations to buy the land, reforest, fence, and protect the watershed for the long-term benefit of the families living in these communities. FUCOHSO is having a substantial impact with the families that work with them to improve the nutrition and socio-economic well-being of the families while educating them on the importance of protecting the environment and water quality.”-Glen Juergens

Glen Juergens has also volunteered with Partners of the Americas’ Farmer to Farmer Program in the Dominican Republic. Partners is pleased to collaborate with organizations like FUCOHSO who share similar goals of improving agricultural and environmental systems together with rural communities.

2 comments:

  1. We are thrilled that Glen had such a positive experience with our Sustainable Harvest International (SHI) affiliate in Honduras, FUCOHSO.

    While serving as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Panama in the early 1990's, SHI Founder Florence Reed learned that tropical deforestation has a tragic human component. Desperate farmers longed for practical training to protect local forests and restore degraded lands. Not only concerned with increased agricultural yields, these farmers also wanted to leave a healthy ecosystem for future generations. Fourteen years later, we now work in four Central American countries, have planted nearly 3 million trees and have worked with over 2,000 rural farming families.

    Your readers can learn more about SHI, FUCOHSO, and make tax-deductible donations on our website: http://www.sustainableharvest.org

    Thank you!

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