Honduran Armed Forces Work with Civilians to Protect and Restore Forests

Honduran Armed Forces Work with Civilians to Protect and Restore Forests

By Dialogo
March 13, 2015





More than 2,000 Troops and 100 Officers of the Honduran Armed Forces are working with civilians throughout the country to prevent and control forest fires through a government program called “Chamba Comunitaria” (Community Work in Spanish).

The initiative, which will create about 45,000 jobs over the next three years, coordinates the work of civilians and Army personnel, and includes reforestation efforts. Chamba Comunitaria follows the efforts of at least 100 Soldiers in February, working with small businesses, to contain fires in the Department of El Paraíso and ensure the safety of main exits in affected cities.

Working with communities


The tasks conducted by Soldiers are physically challenging.

“It is arduous work with machetes and hoes,” said Colonel Fredy Pineda, Commander of the Support Command to the Ecosystem and Environmental Management of the Armed Forces. “We are working on the north axis and in Danlí. Then, we will move to Olancho and the exit to the south. We have trained seven municipalities in the northern sector, including water boards, trusts, and cooperatives, among others.”

“In the south, we have worked with the communities with the highest rate of forest fires, such as the five largest municipalities in the south of El Paraíso, including Yauyupe and Texiguat. The next training points are Siguatepeque, Guaimaca, and San Marcos de Colón.”

Under the program, civilian residents are hired to protect forests from fires, while Military personnel fight blazes and maintain watersheds. The staffs of the Departments of Comayagua and El Paraíso have been fully trained, with a focus on educating the civilian population on how to prevent fires and maximize public safety.

Chamba Comunitaria will particularly benefit the municipalities most vulnerable to forest fires during the summer months, as determined by Honduras' National Institute of Protected Forest Areas and Wildlife Conservation and Development (ICF), which has determined risk zones and prioritized prevention activities.

The municipal contribution is essential in this joint challenge, according to Col. Pineda. The Forest Protection Plan categorizes risk levels by taking into account such variables as local weather, the amount of fire-prone vegetation in the region, the accessibility of the site, and its proximity to civilian populations.

Foot patrols and technology


As part of the prevention work, the Military forces are increasing reforestation in deforested and degraded areas through the production of 700,000 plants in nurseries. They also perform regular patrols of the areas and conduct fixed and mobile checkpoints aimed at curbing illegal logging and the timber trade, which could harm the environment and increase the chances of fires.

Meanwhile, the Secretary of National Defense, through the Armed Forces' Support Command to the Ecosystem and Environmental Management, will assign staff to different municipalities to protect and conserve the forests, air quality, and water as well as to reduce the impact of climate change. For example, Military personnel in the Support Command to the Ecosystem and Environmental Management will focus their efforts on patrolling forest regions to check for discarded, lit cigarette butts, which are the primary cause of forest fires.

Additionally, the government has also formed alliances and agreements with the nation's cellular mobile carriers, facilitating forest monitoring towers where Military personnel are posted to sound the alarm and organize a prompt response to fires.

Education is also an important component of the prevention effort.

On January 13, personnel from the Support Command to the Ecosystem and Environmental Management held a workshop on the prevention and control of forest fires in the municipality of Guaimaca, Francisco Morazán Department. Guaimaca is renowned for its natural resources and immense biodiversity, surrounded by two important natural reserves; but its forest areas are used by organized crime groups for illegal and indiscriminate logging, which harms the environment and increases the chances of forest fires.

In another educational effort on February 24, the ICF conducted a forest fire prevention workshop on the Chamba Comunitaria program. At least 40 mayors presented plans for forest protection and control of plagues with ICF Executive Director Misael León Carvajal. Attendees learned about the forest projects and the administrative procedures of the program.

The Ministries of Human Rights, Governance and Decentralization, and Employment as well as the Office of the Presidency also took part in the workshop.

Deforestation has increased as organized crime has risen


The forest protection initiative is designed to protect Honduras' 5.4 million hectares of forest regions, which are home to an impressive amalgam of ecosystems, biodiversity, and scenic beauty.

About 40 percent of forest cover, or 2.2 million hectares, are threatened every year by wildfires. The municipalities with the most forest fires are Central District, Puerto Lempira, Gualaco, Danli, Juticalpa, and Siguatepeque. As of June 2014, about 68 forest fires affected 81,506 hectares.

Meanwhile deforestation rates in eastern Honduras had been on a slight decline until 2007. That year, organized crime groups in Mexico such as Los Zetas and the Sinaloa Cartel significantly increased their operations in eastern Honduras, cutting down trees to build illegal landing strips for planes transporting drugs.

After that, the rate of forest loss in Honduras increased dramatically. Between 2007 and 2011, forest loss in environmentally sensitive areas in eastern Honduras increased nine-fold, from approximately 20 square kilometers in 2007 to approximately 180 square kilometers in 2011, according to the magazine Science.


The problem became so severe that in 2011 the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) designated Honduras’ Río Plátano Biosphere Reserve – home to threatened and rare animal species such as giant anteaters, jaguars, ocelots, and macaws – as a “World Heritage in Danger” zone.






More than 2,000 Troops and 100 Officers of the Honduran Armed Forces are working with civilians throughout the country to prevent and control forest fires through a government program called “Chamba Comunitaria” (Community Work in Spanish).

The initiative, which will create about 45,000 jobs over the next three years, coordinates the work of civilians and Army personnel, and includes reforestation efforts. Chamba Comunitaria follows the efforts of at least 100 Soldiers in February, working with small businesses, to contain fires in the Department of El Paraíso and ensure the safety of main exits in affected cities.

Working with communities


The tasks conducted by Soldiers are physically challenging.

“It is arduous work with machetes and hoes,” said Colonel Fredy Pineda, Commander of the Support Command to the Ecosystem and Environmental Management of the Armed Forces. “We are working on the north axis and in Danlí. Then, we will move to Olancho and the exit to the south. We have trained seven municipalities in the northern sector, including water boards, trusts, and cooperatives, among others.”

“In the south, we have worked with the communities with the highest rate of forest fires, such as the five largest municipalities in the south of El Paraíso, including Yauyupe and Texiguat. The next training points are Siguatepeque, Guaimaca, and San Marcos de Colón.”

Under the program, civilian residents are hired to protect forests from fires, while Military personnel fight blazes and maintain watersheds. The staffs of the Departments of Comayagua and El Paraíso have been fully trained, with a focus on educating the civilian population on how to prevent fires and maximize public safety.

Chamba Comunitaria will particularly benefit the municipalities most vulnerable to forest fires during the summer months, as determined by Honduras' National Institute of Protected Forest Areas and Wildlife Conservation and Development (ICF), which has determined risk zones and prioritized prevention activities.

The municipal contribution is essential in this joint challenge, according to Col. Pineda. The Forest Protection Plan categorizes risk levels by taking into account such variables as local weather, the amount of fire-prone vegetation in the region, the accessibility of the site, and its proximity to civilian populations.

Foot patrols and technology


As part of the prevention work, the Military forces are increasing reforestation in deforested and degraded areas through the production of 700,000 plants in nurseries. They also perform regular patrols of the areas and conduct fixed and mobile checkpoints aimed at curbing illegal logging and the timber trade, which could harm the environment and increase the chances of fires.

Meanwhile, the Secretary of National Defense, through the Armed Forces' Support Command to the Ecosystem and Environmental Management, will assign staff to different municipalities to protect and conserve the forests, air quality, and water as well as to reduce the impact of climate change. For example, Military personnel in the Support Command to the Ecosystem and Environmental Management will focus their efforts on patrolling forest regions to check for discarded, lit cigarette butts, which are the primary cause of forest fires.

Additionally, the government has also formed alliances and agreements with the nation's cellular mobile carriers, facilitating forest monitoring towers where Military personnel are posted to sound the alarm and organize a prompt response to fires.

Education is also an important component of the prevention effort.

On January 13, personnel from the Support Command to the Ecosystem and Environmental Management held a workshop on the prevention and control of forest fires in the municipality of Guaimaca, Francisco Morazán Department. Guaimaca is renowned for its natural resources and immense biodiversity, surrounded by two important natural reserves; but its forest areas are used by organized crime groups for illegal and indiscriminate logging, which harms the environment and increases the chances of forest fires.

In another educational effort on February 24, the ICF conducted a forest fire prevention workshop on the Chamba Comunitaria program. At least 40 mayors presented plans for forest protection and control of plagues with ICF Executive Director Misael León Carvajal. Attendees learned about the forest projects and the administrative procedures of the program.

The Ministries of Human Rights, Governance and Decentralization, and Employment as well as the Office of the Presidency also took part in the workshop.

Deforestation has increased as organized crime has risen


The forest protection initiative is designed to protect Honduras' 5.4 million hectares of forest regions, which are home to an impressive amalgam of ecosystems, biodiversity, and scenic beauty.

About 40 percent of forest cover, or 2.2 million hectares, are threatened every year by wildfires. The municipalities with the most forest fires are Central District, Puerto Lempira, Gualaco, Danli, Juticalpa, and Siguatepeque. As of June 2014, about 68 forest fires affected 81,506 hectares.

Meanwhile deforestation rates in eastern Honduras had been on a slight decline until 2007. That year, organized crime groups in Mexico such as Los Zetas and the Sinaloa Cartel significantly increased their operations in eastern Honduras, cutting down trees to build illegal landing strips for planes transporting drugs.

After that, the rate of forest loss in Honduras increased dramatically. Between 2007 and 2011, forest loss in environmentally sensitive areas in eastern Honduras increased nine-fold, from approximately 20 square kilometers in 2007 to approximately 180 square kilometers in 2011, according to the magazine Science.


The problem became so severe that in 2011 the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) designated Honduras’ Río Plátano Biosphere Reserve – home to threatened and rare animal species such as giant anteaters, jaguars, ocelots, and macaws – as a “World Heritage in Danger” zone.


The armed forces are very clever
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