FOREST FILES: Global ReLeaf
The rural communities of Honduras have experienced severe deforestation and habitat loss due to extreme poverty and a lack of environmental awareness. Many people in these communities have been forced to survive by means of subsistence farming, illegal logging and poaching, and other actions that have negatively affected the environment. Families often resort to slash-and-burn tactics to plant corn and bean fields, and use synthetic fertilizers to provide nutrients. These processes, however, produce soils that are prone to erosion, nutrient loss, and further degradation. As a result, rural farmers and their families experience a perpetual cycle of poverty and environmental degradation.
Since 2008, American Forests’ Global ReLeaf program has worked with Sustainable Harvest International (SHI), a nonprofit organization that provides families in Central America with the training and tools to preserve their environment while overcoming poverty. The partnership is working to plant nearly 140,000 trees that will repair and improve the land, and serve as a much-needed food resource for more than 1,100 families.
Roughly 85 percent of trees planted are native hardwood species that perform multiple functions, including watershed protection, shade for crops, fodder for domesticated animals, and habitat for the area’s native wildlife. The remaining 15 percent are fruit trees, which are intended to provide food for the communities’ families. Excess fruit can be sold to generate income for the families that maintain the trees.
But planting trees alone is not enough. Active participation from the communities is essential for success. Field trainers will educate the community by providing workshops and training courses on the environment and agro-ecological production, improving grain production and storage, business planning, and establishing micro-businesses.