Suffering from a severely unequal distribution of income and high underemployment, Honduras is one of the poorest countries in Central America. Especially after Hurricane Mitch in 1998, which caused approximately $2 billion in damage, Honduras has had a long struggle to rebound economically. Agriculture comprises 13.5 percent of the GDP, but it also employs 40 percent of the labor force. With support from other countries, sustainable agriculture in Honduras could lead the country into a healthier, more prosperous period.
Honduras has long relied on U.S. trade and remittances for economic stability. Regarding agriculture specifically, in April 2015 the U.S. and Honduras signed an agreement to support the development of sustainable agriculture in Honduras. It will provide the government of Honduras with a vast amount of U.S. agriculture products valued at $17 million.
By selling these products, the government will then have the money to implement their own projects that focus on job creation and income opportunities for vulnerable citizens such as rural farmers. Similarly, it hopes to build a stronger agricultural sector that can begin to focus on sustainable forms of farming.
TechnoServe, a nonprofit that aims to help the impoverished, recognizes that climate change severely affects Honduras. Its Dry Corridor has had recent issues with flooding and droughts that are wreaking havoc on rural farming. TechnoServe decided to start the Sustainable Agricultural Improvement project (MAS in Spanish) to help build farmers’ resilience to climate change in their bean and coffee farms—two of the country’s major exports. It provides training on sustainable agriculture practices and access to high-quality products.
By learning from TechnoServe, farmers have been able to buy more drought-tolerant seeds than traditional varieties and organic fertilizers that increase water retention, all at a better price thanks to a marketing agreement that MAS facilitated. Similarly, 3,400 bean farmers and 16,000 coffee farmers have increased their incomes by an average of 50 percent.
The project has also helped these farmers access more than $15 million in funding during the past four years, which has allowed over 700 farmers to build solar-powered machinery to reduce regular fuel-based machines that are not as sustainable. As a result of these sustainable practices, participating coffee farmers have sold 14,500 tons directly to exporters.
With help from USAID and smaller programs and groups, sustainable agriculture in Honduras has slowly improved. As climate change increasingly wreaks havoc on poorer nations with droughts, extreme weather and varied agricultural productivity, these projects support Honduran farmers through loans, financing, knowledge and exceptional products.
Slowly, sustainable agricultural in Honduras is gaining ground in a manner that similarly sustains economic growth and stability for farmers. With international support, Honduras as a nation can sustain and improve its agricultural market.
– Nick McGuire