Weak governance threatens rich forests
Honduras contains substantial timber resources: pine, broadleaf, and mangrove forests cover nearly 50 percent of the country’s land and represent a quarter of Central America’s wildlife-rich forests. The nation is also home to significant stretches of protected areas including the extraordinarily bio-diverse Río Plátano Biosphere, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Miskito Indigenous people hold title to approximately 7% of Honduran land, largely tropical forested areas.
Entrenched corruption and illegality in Honduras’ powerful timber sector led to social conflict and ultimately a citizen’s movement that achieved passage of a new, more inclusive forest law in 2008. Unfortunately, illegal logging – both for timber production and from land conversion to agriculture and for large-scale infrastructure projects – remains a serious problem. It is degrading the nation’s pine forests, threatening to wipe out highly-valued mahogany stocks, and undermining the livelihoods of Indigenous and rural communities. Honduras experienced a more than 30% reduction in forest cover from 1990 to 2005.
Uncovering the root causes of forest destruction
Underlying causes of illegal logging include poor governance, corruption, and extreme social marginalization, as well as pervasive violence that threatens to silence the forest’s most dedicated and effective defenders. Research indicates that narco-trafficking and money laundering is now driving deforestation in parts of Honduras.
In years past, EIA has carried out undercover investigations into Honduras’ illegal logging crisis, which revealed a far-reaching web of corruption and illegalities involving politicians, government officials, timber companies, sawmills, transporters, loggers, police, and others. EIA’s reports and subsequent advocacy, conducted in coordination with local civil society, contributed decisively to the momentum for institutional reforms and a new forest law.
Negotiations offer hope for improved governance and territorial rights
In 2013, Honduras became the first country in Latin America to initiate negotiations for a Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) under the European Union’s Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) Action Plan. The ultimate goal of the negotiations is to improve forest governance in Honduras by giving legally-assured Honduran timber products increased access to the European Union market, and thus incentivizing good forest management on the ground. The VPA seeks to create systems that improve traceability, transparency, and civil society engagement.