Trees on farms in Honduras: a chance for biodiversity
Among the cattle ranches, mountainous natural forests and smallholdings of Catacamas, Honduras, researcher Yves Zinngrebe encounters farmers with both large and small holdings who are interested in the Trees on Farms for Biodiversity project and its transformative agenda.
By Yves Zinngrebe
The objective of our new project, Trees on Farms for Biodiversity, is to identify and support innovative approaches to integrate trees into agricultural landscapes.
Especially in the tropical developing countries we work in, it is agricultural production and land-use changes that compete with local biodiversity and ecosystem stability. Climate change and human expansion further add to the tension of this relationship, while at the same time highlighting the interdependence between production and healthy ecosystems.
Our current journey brings us to the city of Catacamas in the southeast of Honduras. The area is dominated by cattle ranching and its agricultural frontier keeps expanding into primary forest.
Our small group of Edwin Garcia, the local representative of Centro Agronómico Tropical de Investigación y Enseñanza (CATIE/Tropical Agricultural Research and Higher Education Center), Etti Winter of Leibnitz University, Hannover and myself, travelled to Catacamas on a mission to identify local people and to connect them to national policy processes and financing mechanisms for trees on farms.
During our three-hour drive from the capital Tegucigalpa, we passed through endless natural pine tree forests in the central highlands that had been strongly affected by a bark beetle. After entering the Department of Olancho, the forest opens up and reveals long pasture lands, divided by tree lines, fences and water currents. Steep, impressive mountain ranges of the Sierra Agalta preserve the remaining virgin forest and dominate the landscape. The range is home to 176 bird species, ocelots, tapirs, ant eaters, many different monkeys and threatened species.
After a short time in Catacamas, we realise that production systems are quite clearly defined. Compared to the high local biodiversity, there are few clearly defined cash-crop systems. While subsistence farming includes patches of beans, fruit (for example, banana, mango, avocado) and maize, primary cash crops are meat, milk, coffee and cacao. Farmers are organized in associations and corporations. It quickly became apparent that representatives from all of these farm systems see the necessity of introducing and conserving trees on farms.
The Harnessing the potential of trees-on-farms for meeting national and global biodiversity targets (Trees on Farms for Biodiversity) project is funded by the International Climate Initiative of the Federal Government of Germany. The goal of the project is to improve the ability of countries to meet Aichi Target 7 of the United Nations Convention on Biodiversity (sustainably managed agricultural areas) by advancing the knowledge of the importance of trees on farms for biodiversity and human well-being. Partners in the project are World Agroforestry; Center for International Forestry Research; Centro Agronómico Tropical de Investigación y Enseñza; International Union for Conservation of Nature; Gorge August Universität, Göttingen; and Leibnitz Universität, Hannover. Trees on Farms for Biodiversity is operating in Honduras, Indonesia, Peru, Rwanda and Uganda.
World Agroforestry (ICRAF) is a centre of scientific excellence that harnesses the benefits of trees for people and the environment. Knowledge produced by ICRAF enables governments, development agencies and farmers to utilize the power of trees to make farming and livelihoods more environmentally, socially and economically sustainable at multiple scales. ICRAF is one of the 15 members of the CGIAR, a global research partnership for a food-secure future. We thank all donors who support research in development through their contributions to the CGIAR Fund.