by Betsy Agle
The Trinidad Conservation Project has enabled rural communities around the town of Trinidad, Honduras to address the intermingled problems of poverty, deforestation, and malnutrition. These communities are located in the department of Santa Barbara where nearly half of the population is considered to be malnourished. Many families must make intensive use of very small land holdings. Without help, even the farming families are often hungry or malnourished. Families who are landless suffer even more.
In 2006 TCP started a reforestation project with the Episcopal Church of Honduras to protect water resources. In 2008 TCP teamed with Sustainable Harvest International (SHI) to broaden its impact to include sustainable agriculture as well. No longer tied to destructive slash-and-burn farming techniques, families now care for their fields and crops with compost and other local materials so they can use the same plot year after year. No longer eating only beans and rice, the children are now eating more varied and much healthier diet. After seven years of participation in the SHI program, these families will complete the SHI program in the first half of 2015 and SHI will start its program in new communities in other parts of Honduras.
The story of Noé is an example of the transformative power of TCP’s partnership with SHI and the six villages. Despairing of the living conditions and dangers in San Pedro Sula, Noé returned to his village even though he had no land. Participants in the 2009 adult trip were impressed with Noé. When TCP raised the funds to buy land for a half dozen families. Noé jumped at the opportunity to become an owner of about acre of land. The price was sweat equity — it took months to clear the land of weeds and the first harvest, months later, was meager. Three years later Noé has crops to feed his family and small coffee seedlings to sell for cash. His family now lives in small house on the property that he built with help from neighbors and recycled roof material from a church in Trinidad.
We know there is still work to be done in these communities. Families are eager to share their knowledge about sustainable farming with others. In some communities the local schools go only to the 6th or 9th grades. The families want more education for their children. The global problems of climate change, unequal access to financial and educational resources, and the current level of violence pose other problems for these farming communities.
The Trinidad Conservation Project is a partnership of churches and individuals, in Washington DC formed in 2006 with a common goal to stand by the people of rural communities Honduras. Between 2009 and 2014 we sponsored more than 9 youth and adult trips to Honduras. From these trips we formed bonds. We saw the program made a difference in their lives.
The person who made this connection possible is Roy Lara, a dedicated Honduran-trained agronomist and passionate environmental educator. Before TCP met Roy, he was already working with local public schools in his hometown of Trinidad to build community nurseries. Forests were replanted and students were given seedlings to take home. With support from TCP and SHI, Roy developed the leaders in a half dozen rural communities dedicated and trained to restore and protect forests and farmlands. Roy is an effective field trainer — teaching, motivating, inspiring. As lead trainer and later as lead field trainer in Honduras, Roy also helped arrange meaningful service trips for volunteers from Washington DC. In addition he proved himself an effective spokesperson for the SHI, coming to DC on an annual basis to report on the program. During these visits to Washington D.C., funds were raised and friendships were made and renewed.