Honduras project explained

When thirsty, most of us can go to our faucet and pour a cool drink of water, or go to our refrigerator and grab a bottle; all without the fear that the water will make us ill. As Elkins Rotary Club members learned on Monday, that is not the case for folks in Honduras.

Certified forester and independent forest management consultant Glen Juergens said he has been working with farmers in Honduras since he was in the Peace Corps in 1977. Today, he works in collaboration with Sustainable Harvest Foundation of Honduras, helping farmers rebuild the forest areas and stop “slash-and-burn agriculture.”

“Farmers use the slash-and-burn technique to clear land for planting because they have done this for years,” Juergens said. “This is very destructive to the forest. Currently, 50 percent of Honduras is forested, but it is very sporadic. We are helping farmers use terracing techniques for farming.”

Juergens said when the forest is destroyed, the lack of protection – or fencing – around the water source, along with adjacent landowners above the water source, cultivating crops, grazing animals and rainfall run-off from nearby roads, means the contamination potential of the water source is high.

“You can tell the water has contamination by looking at the children,” Juergens said. “The children with clean water are healthier and more active.”

Juergens said Honduras is a poor country with 65 percent of the population living in poverty.

“We help families learn which new methods work for them,” Juergens said. “The families do the work for themselves with our assistance.”

Juergens said some other improvements include high efficiency ovens that use less wood to cook and bake bread, square meter gardening in raised beds for crops to use and sell and setting up apiaries – or bee yards – for honey production.

“We are going into schools and talking to the children so they understand the importance of rebuilding the forest,” Juergens said. “We have the children get the soil and help plant seeds and seedlings.”

Juergens said the assistance seems to be working.

“I can tell a difference with the villages we began working with 30 years ago,” Juergens said. “These villages are doing better.”

Information about Sustainable Harvest International is available at www.sustainableharvest.org.