Honduras is one of the most ecologically diverse countries in the hemisphere. While missed by the Pacific Ring-of-Fire, depriving it of the volcanic grandeur of its neighbors, it is endowed with the second biggest contiguous rainforest in the hemisphere bordering Nicaragua, a long and easily accessible Caribbean coastline, and idyllic coffee highlands bordering Guatemala.
As enchanting as this country can be, the challenges it has faced in the past 50 years have only grown more acute, and its institutions are increasingly threatened by pervasive corruption, drug trafficking, and organized crime. Despite these persistent challenges, Honduras has been a proving ground for pioneering advances in sustainable development, climate smart agriculture, fuel efficient clean cookstoves, and renewable energy.
Honduras is facing some of the toughest environmental challenges in its history, but they can’t be viewed in isolation from its economic and social challenges. As the original banana republic, Honduras has seen the consolidation of agriculture for the mass production of bananas, sugar, beef, and African palm oil, displacing tens of thousands of rural families in the process. This has pushed migration to already over-crowded urban areas, and has driven industry deeper and deeper into protected rainforests.
Another trend has been the increasing push for massive hydropower projects to displace Honduras’ dependence on bunker fuel for energy production. Displacement of rural communities by foreign investment has led to large popular resistance movements that have been systematically persecuted by those who seek to gain from these projects. Our approach is to improve economic and social stability in rural areas, to strengthen natural resource management rights for rural communities who depend on these ecosystems.
Trees, Water & People began its work in Honduras after Hurricane Mitch devastated the country in late 1998. We began our work with partners AHDESA and the Aprovecho Research Center of Cottage Grove, OR, developing an efficient griddle cookstove appropriate to Honduran cooking preferences. In the neighborhood of Suyapa in which we finalized the design, the engineers received continuous support and feedback from Doña Justa Nuñez – leader of a woman’s group that led development projects in the community. To honor her involvement, the resulting cookstove was named the Justa Stove, and over the years it became the predominant clean cookstove design in Central America.
From its humble beginnings, TWP and AHDESA were able to scale their impact throughout the country, and formalize a manufacturing facility and deployment methodology that has been recognized as one of the most cost-effective and impactful in the region. Several academic partners, including Colorado State University, have studied the impact of our clean cookstove program, and have shown irrefutable improvements in household health and self-esteem, reductions in fuel consumption and CO2 emissions, and savings on fuel expenditures.
Recently we've also resumed work with the Center for Education in Sustainable Agriculture (CEASO), which has been training rural Central American communities in agroecology and sustainable technologies for over two decades. With them we are working to protect a rich but threatened biological reserve in central Honduras from agricultural impacts. Apart from training communities in sustainable agriculture, we are also installing our fuel efficient Justa stoves and 500 gallon rainwater catchment cisterns to reduce pressure on natural water springs in the area.