Clean Water for Rural Honduras

 
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Thanks to your support, thousands of people in northern Honduras now have access to safe drinking water managed by the local community. Collecting a small monthly fee, our local partner, the Association of Water Councils of Pico Bonito National Park’s Southern Sector  (AJAASSPIB in Spanish), provides comprehensive watershed management and environmental education services to a population of about 11,000. AJAASSPIB is made up of 28 water councils and their inclusive payment-for-ecosystem services model has been an inspiration. The municipality of Olanchito has launched a program to duplicate and expand upon this model, with the goal of providing clean water for 40,000 of the city’s inhabitants.  

 

Collective ownership has been a key part of conservation and development, as our goal is for local communities to provide as much direction as possible. Before devastating Hurricane Mitch struck in 1998, water boards did very little, and after the hurricane, water infrastructure had to be reconstructed from scratch. More than 14,000 people were killed, and the landscape was torn apart.  Yet in a striking reversal of the “tragedy of the commons,” people came together, turning the area’s heavily deforested slopes into a collectively owned property that they could restore. The approach we are helping Olanchito develop is working to achieve the same feat on a much larger scale.

 

Access to clean water will make a big difference for the residents of Olanchito, and we are excited to see our work in Honduras expanding with rural communities at the helm.  The change we’re seeing is both environmental and social. AJAASSPIB’s model has become an inspiration for a larger municipality, and this unique rural-to-urban “idea innovation flow” has been extremely empowering for our rural partners.

 

AJAASSPIB and EcoLogic’s partnership also has been honored with several international awards, including the2015 Yale International Society of Tropical Foresters Innovation Prize for “outstanding initiatives in biodiversity conservation at the landscape level,” the 2014 Energy Globe National Award Honduras, the 2012 United Nations Equator Prize, and second place for the 2011 Swiss Re International ReSource Award. At EcoLogic, we are grateful that this award offers recognition for our local Honduran partners, and allows them to share their experiences to inspire others, not only in their home communities, but around the world.

 

Please consider donating to protect and revitalize the water sources thousands of Hondurans depend on. We greatly appreciate your support!

Dona Zumilda, a founding leader of AJAASSPIB
Dona Zumilda, a founding leader of AJAASSPIB

EcoLogic Development Fund is proud to announce that the Yale University Chapter of the International Society of Tropical Foresters (ISTF) has selected our local partner in northern Honduras, the Association of Water Councils of Pico Bonito National Park’s Southern Sector (AJAASSPIB in Spanish), as the winner of the 2015 ISTF Innovation Prize! The prize is for “outstanding initiatives in biodiversity conservation at the landscape level” and honors the collaborative effort between AJAASSPIB, EcoLogic, and the Municipality of Olanchito to use AJAASSPIB’s successful model of rural community-led conservation to an urban area.  

EcoLogic helped establish AJAASSPIB in 2006 as an association of water councils from rural villages near Honduras’s Pico Bonito National Park. AJAASSPIB’s work primarily focuses on ensuring local access to clean drinking water in a drought-prone area. Their main source of funding is an environmental fund of voluntary payments for water services made by community members who have learned about the connection between declining freshwater supply, deforestation and unsustainable agriculture. This has allowed AJAASSPIB to initiate a project to purify water by chlorination, and as a result, families can now drink clean water directly from their faucets—something that was unthinkable only a few years ago.

The joint project between AJASSPIB, EcoLogic, and the Municipality of Olanchito—a city of 40,000 people—is called the Agreement on Joint Environmental Management of the Municipality of Olanchito (MACO), and focuses on establishing an environmental fund similar to AJAASSPIB’s for the city. The agreement was signed in March 2011 after the Mayor of Olanchito’s office approached AJAASSPIB, seeking to leverage its experience on a larger scale—transferring rural innovation and know-how to an urban area.

EcoLogic’s Executive Director, Barbara Vallarino, says, “The fact that an urban municipality took the initiative in establishing a partnership with AJAASSPIB, a rural organization, testifies to the Association’s unique reputation in the region for honesty, technical rigor, and capacity to resolve conflict and build connections between disparate interests.”

Working closely with AJAASSPIB and EcoLogic under the MACO agreement, Olanchito is now establishing an environmental fund collected from residents to support locally-driven conservation of the 16,000-acre watershed that supplies water to the city’s inhabitants. As the MACO agreement demonstrates, AJAASSPIB’s community-powered, grassroots approach to conservation is a model for communities across Honduras and beyond!

Youth of Olanchito promoting water conservation
Youth of Olanchito promoting water conservation

EcoLogic’s Provide Safe Drinking Water in Rural Honduras project in northern Honduras has been selected as the Energy Globe winner for Honduras in the National award category! With than 160 nations participating and 1,000 project entries annually, the Energy Globe Award is among the world’s most prestigious environmental prizes. It distinguishes projects with a focus on energy efficiency, renewable energy, conservation of our natural resources, or counteracting climate change.

EcoLogic and our local partner, the Water Committees of Pico Bonito National Park’s Southern Sector (AJAASSPIB), have been collaborating on reforestation and water conservation efforts in the Pico Bonito region of Honduras for more than 10 years. EcoLogic and AJAASSPIB work to improve and protect water and other natural resources in an area that has long suffered from inadequate water supply and environmental degradation from unsustainable agricultural practices.

“I felt like we were working alone, but now we have global organizations behind us,” Carlos Duarte Euraque, EcoLogic’s Program Officer for Honduras, said about the award. “This support will help us stop the degradation of our natural resources and ensure that our community has water in the future.”

With the help of supporters like you, AJAASSPIB has also reforested more than 120 hectares of land with native tree species. It has grown from four (numbers under 10 spelled out) to 27 water committees and serves as a learning model for more than 80 communities across the northern coast of the country. To improve household water quality, AJAASSPIB has initiated a project to purify water by chlorination. As a result, households in five of AJAASSPIB’s communities can now drink water directly from their faucets, something that was unthinkable a few years ago.

Thank you for your support in helping to provide safe drinking water to rural Honduras. We hope you will consider continuing to support these efforts!



River in Honduras near project sight
River in Honduras near project sight

Imagine not knowing if your faucet will produce water. Imagine if the only way to guarantee that your family has water is to hike six miles each day.

This is not imaginary for rural communities in Honduras; it is reality. The problem in rural Honduras is contamination of vital water sources and deforestation of watersheds that lead to inadequate water supplies.

The solution is you. Through your support, EcoLogic is assisting rural Honduran communities organize around the management of their water sources at the community level. Together, we have helped establish a network of 28 locally elected community water boards that sustain access to safe drinking water for over 11,000 people.

Your gift has allowed EcoLogic to play a role in maintaining delivery systems, organizing conservation efforts, and administering an award-winning water-user payment system. However, there is still much more to be done, and we need your help to expand this work.

Last year, EcoLogic scaled-up efforts in Honduras from 28 locally led water boards to an entire coalition that spans the municipality of Olanchito. We provided technical assistance to determine water-use fees for coalition members, assisted landowners in changing to environmentally responsible land use practices, and provided the training and tools needed to reforest degraded land and help farmers convert to sustainable agriculture practices.

You helping EcoLogic continue to succeed in fighting against the threats of water contamination and scarcity with activities like:

Constructing 3-D microwatershed models and maps. Models and maps visually display a microwatershed and show community participants how water travels from mountainside sources to communities so that they can successfully implement conservation activities.

Educating youth on the importance of conserving water resources. This aids in the development of a generation of environmentally conscious leaders.

Buying native seeds for the reforestation of watersheds and land adjacent to streams and rivers.

Paying for the water testing and analysis of an entire community’s water supply.

Thank you for helping us achieve all of this and more!

Students planting trees to receive their diploma
Students planting trees to receive their diploma

Carlos Euraque, EcoLogic's technical coordinator at our project site in Olanchito, Honduras, was recently invited to the United States to present at a conference organized by Our Water Commons in New York state. Carlos gave a presentation on "MACO"—an alliance between EcoLogic, our nearby local partner, the Association of Water Committees of the Southern Sector of Pico Bonito National Park (AJAASSPIB), and the Municipality of Olanchito—to restore and protect a 6,500 hectare watershed that provides fresh water to more than 40,000 people. After the conference, Carlos visited EcoLogic's headquarters in Cambridge, Massachusetts to meet with funders and staff.

Carlos is a trained agricultural engineer, a passionate conservation advocate and an innovator who finds ingenious ways to get people involved and engaged. During his visit to our offices, Carlos told us about how Olanchito started a program to encourage high school students to actively participate in reforesting of the watershed.

We have established a green house, and I and a few others started seedlings for hundreds of native trees for reforestation. But the question was: how to get the trees planted at the Uchapa and Pimienta watershed when we don't have enough people, or the money to pay day laborers. I take student groups up to the forest all the time to raise awareness and teach them about ecology, so getting the young people involved seemed an obvious answer. In Honduras, we have a tradition of having students do "social service" as part of earning their diploma, so I approached Olanchito's vice-mayor with the idea that we require high school students to plant a certain number of trees before they can graduate. She agreed, and she and I drafted an agreement for Olanchito's secretary of education to sign which requires every graduating senior plant ten trees at the watershed in order to receive their diploma.

The agreement came into effect in 2012. Graduation happened just a week or so before the Christmas holidays, so for the first couple of weeks of December I was regularly taking students up to the watershed, up until the day before graduation. Then on graduation day I had a break. The very next day a group of students showed up at my office with their parents; their principal refused to give them their diplomas, so they had finally gotten the message we were serious! Altogether the program's a great success—in 2012 almost 400 students participated in the reforestation effort, and several of those young people told me that they were interested in pursuing environmental science degrees. A couple of them have even come back to volunteer, and learn more about the watershed.

It's people like Carlos who make EcoLogic's projects such a success at the local level, by tailoring solutions to the needs and the possibilities of a given place and its people. This is one of the ways we expect to realize our vision of a future where rural communities lead in the creation of a sustainable world for both people and nature.

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Organization

Project Leader

Alexa Piacenza

Program Associate
Cambridge, MA United States

Where is this project located?

Map of Clean Water for Rural Honduras