Farming Beneath the Cloud Forest

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Project Global Village

By Victoria Fenner

When you’re walking on a beautiful mountain trail, listening to the birds and enjoying all that nature has to offer, it’s hard to imagine why anyone would not do their best to protect it.

Now, imagine you’re a poor farmer with a small plot of land which doesn’t produce enough for your family to eat.  You live right next to this park.  And you think … maybe nobody would notice if I cut down a few trees to plant another row of corn.

 

This is the kind of land use conflict that happens every day all over the world.  It’s often difficult to convince people who are struggling to feed their families that wilderness parks aren’t just an extravagance for rich tourists.

Proyecto Aldea Global (Project Global Village) is a Honduran community development and conservation organization which skillfully manages to balance the needs of local farmers with the need to preserve Panacam National Park, a 320 square-mile nature preserve at the top of a mountain near Lake Yajoa, in the western highlands of Honduras.

PAG was originally established to help people with basic needs such as health care, education and livelihood. When the Honduran government started allowing cutting in the park,  PAG began lobbying to end the practice because it was affecting their water supply. In 1987, the Honduran government asked PAG to manage the park.

Panacam Lodge is now a prime destination for nature lovers and scientists studying the Honduran cloud forest ecosystem. Accommodation is simple, modern and elegant and the restaurant serves authentic Honduran food — a culinary experience par excellence.  While walking rainforest trails to a waterfall,  the value of this place is clear to see.

Farmers in the buffer zone between the highway and the park boundary also see the value of Panacam National Park. Thanks to the hard work of Proyecto Aldea Global, they understand that the park benefits them too.  PAG has been working with them to boost production of livestock, fruit, corn and beans on their own small land holdings, which reduces the temptation to take over land in the park.

Ecotourism is also a growing trend here. In the village of Cerro Azul, seven families have built bed-and-breakfast rooms for tourists who want to hike into the rainforest. They’re conscious about protecting Panacam’s water supply.  These farmers know that the clear, clean water cascading down Panacam is the key to healthy crops, healthy livestock, and above all, healthy families.

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