In a nutshell
Northern Olancho municipalities have been producing lumber for decades. Forest products were exploited mostly by large companies, which generated civil society discontent who considered that the extraction of said product did not leave sustainable benefits in the communities it came from.
In 2008, the situation culminated following the third annual “March for Life”, where the government allocated national forest areas to organized communities for them to manage following a community forestry model, through the Forestry, Protected Areas and Wildlife Law. However, the communities did not fully trust the institution in charge of forest policy (the National Forestry Institute – ICF), making the engagement and implementation process for the allocated areas difficult.
The Noroeste de Olancho Model Forest relies on the participation of representatives from various sectors. It is led by the Salamá Olancho Catholic Church and is supported by grassroots organizations, in particular the municipalities and the water management boards. The Model Forest also received key support from the CARITAS Social Pastoral and the ICF. With the creation of the Model Forest, local communities and governments accepted the allocation of the national forest areas, specifically the municipalities of Guata, Manto, Jano and El Rosario.
This Model Forest presents a unique structure— it has a Regional and Municipal Board of Directors, the ICF is a member but it does not make decisions; rather, it is one of its main strategic allies, acting as guarantor and main counterpart for the achievement of the proposed objectives.
The Noroeste de Olancho Model Forest’s territory is steered under a sustainable forest management approach, using land-use plans administered by the ICF. The plans state that the forest stands are diverse, comprised of trees of all ages and sizes (in greater or lesser proportion), as a result of natural forest succession and impacts of forest fires, pests, diseases, and uncontrolled cattle grazing practices.
The Model Forest management goal is to guarantee the permanence of forested areas in terms of both size and composition. This will be achieved by managing and utilizing the forest cover without significantly reducing the economic potential of a permanent production of forest goods and services and natural resources in general. This is intended to ensure the conservation and stability of the ecosystem, biodiversity and forest heritage, with active participation from the people who live on the lands in northern Olancho.
Regarding agricultural production, people in the area practice shifting agriculture, also known as slash and burn agriculture, to produce staple grains (corn and beans) and, on a smaller scale, coffee and livestock. The upper parts of the Aguán and Telica rivers basins are located here, and the Aguán river flows into the Atlantic Ocean. The main sources of income in the area are, in order of importance, staple grains, coffee, cattle and agroforestry, mainly for wood and pine resin production.
The Noroeste de Olancho Model Forest is made up of a General Assembly composed of representatives from community-based organizations. Below it is the Regional board of directors, headquartered in the municipality of Salamá. The Regional board of directors is made up of members of the Municipal Directories (the Municipal Forestry Protection Committees or COMUPROFOR of Salamá, Jano, Guata, Manto, Silca, La Unión and El Rosario), elected by the General Assembly. Municipal support committees are organized in each municipality according to need or to address a specific problem.
Our main partners are the ICF, Salamá Parish, Caritas Social Ministry, the PROLANCHO Foundation, and the Tropical Agricultural Research and Higher Education Center (CATIE), a primary facilitator of this Model Forest.
Decisions are made in a democratic manner and by common consensus by the General Assembly and some cases, by the Regional or Municipal board of directors.
Responsibility for elaborating and executing the work plan rests with the Regional board of directors, with support from various partners. Coordination with local governments is encouraged, as they support Model Forest activities, because they are relevant to municipal development.
- Strengthen organizations associated with the Model Forest.
- Promote the allocation of community areas through community-based forest management contracts.
- Strengthen and empower communities to manage their natural resources through training and production processes.
- Encourage the participation of private owners in responsible forest management, including community participation.
- Promote the participation of municipalities in managing their forests.
Key actions in place to reach these goals:
- Accompanying the process of establishing micro-watersheds, as well as the development and execution of action plans.
- Pursuing and monitoring the allocation of a national community area called La Estancia in the municipality of Guata, department of Olancho.
- Carrying out informative assemblies on issues such as mining and community-based forestry, and assisting community forest management processes.
- Training in forest fires, restoration, and conflict management issues.
- Coordinating the reactivation and operation of the Municipal Forestry Protection Committees (COMUPROFOR), and providing support on the design and implementation of work plans.
- Coordinating activities related to municipal environmental issues among municipal directories and fostering the allocation of ejidos.
- Declaration of the Quebrada El Zapote micro-watershed.
- Helping to define territorial governance in the seven municipalities comprising the Model Forest.
- Social forest audit.