Nicaragua–Honduras sentinel landscape

The Nicaragua-Honduras sentinel landscape is characterized by a variety of land uses. Tree cover is therefore diverse, competition for land is high, and speculation and renting land are common, but these arrangements drive deforestation, hinder long-term investments and exacerbate land degradation.

Research on this sentinel landscape addresses the following questions:
What conditions underlie the recuperation of tree cover?
What are the current land uses in the landscape and the different models to reintroduce trees?
Do current legal frameworks favor sustainable management or practices for the recuperation of trees?
What are the implications of the different models of tree reintroduction (in terms of quantity, function and taxonomy, for mitigation of climate change, hydrological networking and connectivity within the landscape)?
What changes to human welfare are related to the different models of tree reintroduction?
Where are the areas of conflict within the landscape?
What are the tradeoffs between social-ecological vulnerability and efficiency of the system under different models of tree reintroduction?
What opportunities and limitations are there for the different models of tree reintroduction?
How should initiatives be supported for the reintroduction of trees in farms and landscapes to secure ecosystem restoration?
13 candidate sites
Four sites chosen in discussion with local partners:
Cover the forest transition curve
Representative of main land use and forest types in the landscape
Presence of partners in the site
Security and accessibility
Forest cover
Tuma-La Dalia, Nicaragua
Fragmented landscape with low forest cover
Land use: basic grain production, coffee agroforestry and cattle ranching
Farm sizes approximately 0.5 ha–300 ha, most commonly smallholders with individual private land tenure
Good accessibility
Part of the Tropical Agricultural Research and Higher Education Center (CATIE) key territory
Very high population density >250 persons/km2 (Center for International Earth. Science Information Network [CIESIN] estimates for 2010)
Columbus, Nicaragua
Part of the Tasba-Pry indigenous territory (Miskitu indigenous reserve)
High percentage of non-indigenous settlers: 50% in the area. This is a source of conflict
Indigenous communities, recognized by the government, communal land
Settlers – individual private land tenure
Forest in recovery phase from a large event disturbance: Hurricane Felix in 2007
Migratory agriculture and livestock encroachment in tropical forest – particularly after Felix
Very low population density of 1-5 persons/km2 (CIESIN estimates for 2010)
Rio Blanco, Honduras
Main land use: pasture – cattle ranching and basic grain production
Small pockets of forest remnants (mostly along rivers)
A massive conversion from forest to cattle ranching started in the 1980s
Located between three protected areas (Patuca, Sierra de Agalta and Tawahka National Park)
Low population density, 5-25 persons/km2 (CIESIN estimates for 2010)
Rio Platano, Honduras
Still largely covered by primary forests (in mountainous areas within reserves)
Reserve land belongs to the government
Cattle ranching in fertile valleys, where population settle, managed as private land tenure (even within national territories)
People share agricultural activities and forest management (concessions) as sources of livelihood
Home to several indigenous groups within the reserve. Rights over land not recognized by the government
Low population density, 5-25 persons/km2 (CIESIN estimates for 2010)
Security issues – drug trafficking and land grabbing

Initial listing of villages with census data, regional censuses (scarce, not up to date)
National maps, regional maps
Visits to municipalities, knowledge of partners
Check location of villages within or near the block

Criteria for selection:
Distance to the road – forest (in Nicaragua used interchangeably)
Partners’ recommendations based on accessibility and security
Previous knowledge and availability of data
No existence of conflicts
Quick and easy to get permits (with villages leaders)
Socioeconomic survey
8 communities
297 households, 158 forms (International Forestry Resources and Institutions [IFRI] and ISOP)
8 communities
298 households, 137 forms (IFRI and ISOP)
3-5 days per village
Rio Plátano (Sico)
9 communities
146 households, 82 forms (IFRI and ISOP)
Rio Blanco (Catacamas)
8 communities
104 households, 88 forms (IFRI and ISOP)
3-5 days per village
Collection of information – village level
Random selection of households, based on lists of households from leaders, and snowballing.
IFRI survey:
Mostly workshops, ideally at least 30 participants
Focal groups – smaller groups (particularly for users and products)
Key informants, leaders and teachers
Individual interviews (users and products)
People chosen in coordination with the leaders of the villages
As much as possible 50% men and 50% women
Type of villages
La Dalia
Village with a core area (church, school, major building) and houses around
Spread households
Village is set along the road
Rio Plátano
Spread households
Village is set along the road
Rio Blanco
Village is set along the road
Institutional mapping
For the implementation of institutional mapping, CIRAD, Nitlapán and CATIE-Honduras have developed a pluri-disciplinary approach within a team formed with agroeconomists, foresters, and sociologists. A Protocol for Institutional Mapping at the landscape scale, led by Sandrine Fréguin-Gresh (CIRAD), working with Universidad Centroamericana (UCA)-Nitlapán and CATIE-Honduras, has been developed and implemented.
Gender components
This project seeks to have more participation of women
Researchers not only consider farming activities but also household activities to plan interviews
Attention given to power relations

Baseline field studies and production of clean databases have been completed.

Researchers will coorganize a national symposium-workshop on linking science to rural development and education, as part of the Government of Nicaragua’s Science Week. Current research on the Nicaragua-Honduras sentinel landscape will be presented for the first time. The symposium-workshop is jointly designed, sponsored and implemented by FTA, CATIE, the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), CIRAD, La Comisión Nacional de Investigación Científica y Tecnológica (CONICYT), Fundación para el Desarrollo Tecnológico Agropecuario y Forestal de Nicaragua (FUNICA), the National Council of Universities (CNU), ICRAF, and MAPNoruega. Others are expected to join the group of sponsors.

Information on trees on farms collected in the household baseline survey has been analyzed and presented in a comprehensive technical report, and a short manuscript to submit to a peer-reviewed journal once the quality of the manuscript is improved.

Dr Geovana Carreño, as part of a two-year post-doctoral position, will work on the inventory of trees and forest patches in farms in the four study blocks. An exchange student has been gathering technical information on cameras, remote sensors and unmanned flying vehicles to provide cartographic information in real time to lead the sampling of the trees on the farms.Another exchange student has been working on making CATIE’s agroforestry databases open access using the Dataverse platform. Some databases are already available on Dataverse.

The goal is to incorporate in Dataverse all the survey and experimental data on agroforestry with cocoa and coffee collected by Eduardo Somarriba. Once this is completed, we will conduct similar exercises with researchers with organized data, and eventually examine the databases produced by the MSc research. In the meantime, it has been recommended to CATIE’s graduate school that all MSc students submit their databases to Dataverse as part of their graduation process.

Various CGIAR centers and research programs are operating in various sections of the Nicaragua-Honduras sentinel landscape. An alliance between CIAT-CATIE-CIRAD has initiated a process to put everybody in contact and keep them well informed. Various project proposals, in alliance with colleagues from Bioversity International, CIRAD, CATIE and others, have been developed. More integration between ICRAF and MAPNoruega is taking place.

Researchers designed four Masters-level research projects involving fieldwork in the first half of 2015. All studies will focus on issues along the forest transition curve, tree botanical and functional diversity, livelihoods, etc.

As a part of the activities to support to others landscape teams, the Nicaragua-Honduras sentinel landscape field coordinator Norvin Sepúlveda travelled to Peru in order to share the methodology, but also experiences with and lessons learned from potential problems, and alternatives to solve them.

An agreement to start the biophysical baseline with training on the LDSF has been reached. LDSF training will be conducted by Sepúlveda (CATIE) and Noel Ulloa (CATIE), involving around 20 people from the organizations of three countries.

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