A Forest Stewardship Model for Market Development

A Forest Stewardship Model for Market Development

Organization type: 
nonprofit/ngo/citizen sector
$10,000 - $50,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

Community-led environmental monitoring, regional conservation planning, and farmer capacity-building to provide new economic opportunities in botanical product markets for coffee growers in protected forest areas. Starting in the El Chile Bioreserve region of Honduras, farmers work collaboratively with business leaders, government, and NGO allies to achieve mutual, long-term, sustainable goals.

About You
INADES -- Honduran National Institute for the Environment and Development
Section 1: About You
First Name


Last Name


Section 2: About Your Organization
Is your initiative connected to an established organization?

Organization Name

INADES -- Honduran National Institute for the Environment and Development

Organization Phone

US contact: 814-360-6698 (J. Chesworth). In Honduras: 00-504-225-0579

Organization Address

Street Address: Colonia Maradiaga No 2904, Tegucigalpa. Dirección Postal: Apdo No 4160 Tegucigalpa, Honduras Centro América

Organization Country
How long has this organization been operating?

More than 5 years

Your idea
Country your work focuses on

, XX

What makes your innovation unique?

The impact of agriculture on nearby protected forest lands and ecosystem services is intense and often destructive, demanding alternative approaches that integrate and harmonize economic and environmental concerns. How can local farmers increase and diversify their income stream while conserving and protecting the biodiversity around them? Botanical products offer unique opportunities for coffee farmers, since coffee processing facilities, drying patios and transport routes already in place are ideal for botanical product handling, while the coffee agroforestry system can accommodate cultivation of a wide range of non-timber forest products. However, export markets for botanical materials are complex, involving industry standards and certifications, legally required collection and handling practices, conservation protocol and trade policies, product tracking, phytosanitation laws, and more. Coffee farmers living in poverty in forest regions cannot diversify and access these alternative markets if they lack specific information or "market intelligence" and trade connections. By creating strategic alliances between farmers, business leaders, government, NGO and academic professionals in advance of market development, this program provides farmers with the information and planning tools they need to achieve industry specifications, meet legal requirements and successfully access new markets. It empowers farmers to take the lead in identifying and implementing conservation measures that conserve forest resources and protect critical watersheds and unique features of the landscape. Community-led environmental monitoring and participatory, regional conservation planning set the stage for sustainable economic development. Improving commercial drying, handling, and transport capabilities regionally in order to facilitate botanical raw materials export will have direct, complimentary benefits for improved, specialty-grade and organic coffee production in the region as well.

Do you have a patent for this idea?

Tell us about the social impact of your innovation. Please include both numbers and stories as evidence of this impact

Our program will begin with a pilot project in the El Chile Bioreserve region, serving as a model for replication in other protected forest areas nationally where INADES works in cooperation with local rural communities and the Honduran Ministry of Forestry.

The El Chile Bioreserve is a legally-designated protected cloudforest region of approximately 6,000 hectares, located in south central Honduras. More than 100 small communities in the region depend on El Chile’s critical watersheds, while residents from 44 of these communities, including coffee growers and agroforestry cooperative members, engage directly in agriculture and other allowed uses on buffer zone lands surrounding the Bioreserve. Especially given last year's political instability in Honduras, resulting in economic sanctions that have only recently been removed, on top of the current global economic recession, rural farming communities in Honduras are in dire need of new opportunities and income. With an aquifer slated to be developed for diversion to supply water for the capital city of Tegucigalpa, El Chile Bioreserve has received little attention from the international conservation community, while pressures on its natural amenities are intensifying. This project aims to instill a forward-thinking, inclusive model of market development that promotes a regional conservation ethic and genuine care-taking and protection of the Bioreserve by local residents, while enhancing both the economic and environmental benefits of local agroforestry.

The program will engage local community members in assessment of regional assets and needs, in monitoring environmental resources and ecosystem services, in setting their own priorities, and in planning for the future. This self-directed approach to local resource assessment, combined with the provision of concrete market specifications and business contacts, enables farming communities to achieve an economy of scale and successful market access in a sustainable manner that respects the carrying capacity of the land. This assessment will serve as the basis for both cooperative business and individual farm management planning, for design and implementation of environmental education and agricultural extension services, and for improvements to regional supply chain management capabilities. Collaboration with and guidance from business, government, NGO, and academic professionals, including faculty and students from nearby Zamorano (the PanAmerican Agricultural College), officials from the Honduran Department of Natural Resources and Ministry of Forestry, and extentionists from the Honduran Foundation for Agricultural Research, will help create development protocol and published resources for replication of the project elsewhere.

Problem: Describe the primary problem(s) that your innovation is addressing

A majority of local people are coffee farmers and agroforesters living at or only slightly above subsistence level. Increasing pressures in the forest's buffer zone, including expansion of coffee production and other conventional agriculture, deforestation from clandestine logging, and the practice of slash-and-burn, threaten the Bioreserve’s protected core. Unfortunately, local residents often, by necessity, make choices that bring short-term economic gains at the expense of long-term conservation and forest protection. Participatory, community-led environmental monitoring will help guard against imprudent forest resource use but can only be accomplished through an "honor system." Can viable, cooperative market development occur in an honest and inclusive way that truly promotes a regional conservation ethic and achieves conservation goals in the Bioreserve, including protection, ecological restoration, research, recreation, reduced carbon footprint, and curtailing of destructive land-use practices?

Farmers need alternatives to coffee production. However, both cultivation and wild-collection of botanical products for trade requires accurate species identification by each farmer/collector, preparation of specimen "vouchers" and other product tracking documentation, and diligent record keeping. In the humid tropics, quality control of dried products is of critical concern. What's more, brokers may ultimately require "product attribute" certifications, such as organic and fair trade, depending on market demand. These market requirements become especially challenging when community members may be functionally illiterate. Before a cooperative trade initiative can begin, community members will need training in botanical identification and collection protocol, while management techniques will have to be implemented that guarantee consistency of species and of appropriate handling and quality control among all farmer participants at each step of the supply chain.

Actions: Describe the steps that you are taking to make your innovation a success. Include a description of the business model. What might prevent that success?

Project coordinators from INADES have garnered the support of a leading botanical products broker, Ed Fletcher of Strategic Sourcing, Inc. (www.strategicsourcinginc.net). Mr. Fletcher has agreed to consult gratis and will provide farmers with the latest industry standards to help guide cooperative business planning, and with industry specifications for specific botanical products. Although no formal business commitment exists between Strategic Sourcing and El Chile farmers, Mr. Fletcher has provided us with a "letter of intent" expressing his company's support of careful and thorough, participatory environmental assessment and conservation planning in advance of market development, and its willingness to do business with these farmers once appropriate botanical products are selected and trade specifications are met.

INADES has also garnered the support of academic professionals including faculty from the PanAmerican Agricultural College (Zamorano), botanists from the Honduran National Autonomous University, and GIS specialists from California State University - Stanislaus. Members of INADES staff and community representatives from the regional Agroforestry Cooperative and Coffee Growers Association have met with officials from the Honduran Ministry of Forestry and Department of Natural Resources to confirm their participation in this collaborative effort. Mr. Fletcher has agreed to travel to Honduras for introductory meetings and to participate in assessments of supply chain and farmer capacities once our project is underway.

Once these initial assessments are completed, 50 local farmers will be selected and trained as "project promoters" to conduct farmer-to-farmer training. Environmental monitoring and group planning will begin by compiling existing map resources to create base maps of the region. Community workshops will accomplish on-site "ground-proofing" of botanical resources and other base map characteristics, generating a series of current, community-scale maps compiled into a regional Map Atlas. Farmers will also learn mapping techniques and produce base maps of their own land holdings. Community workshops will explore and define regional assets, constraints, and opportunities, using a participatory community visioning process to discover and cultivate shared goals that local residents envision for themselves.

While the cooperative business model is ideal for regional farmers, consistency and excellence in quality control among each participant will be the group's greatest challenge. Other potential barriers to success may include continued illegal and destructive land-use practices. We are deliberately using an inclusive, participatory planning process to facilitate learning and open, transparent dealings between all parties involved.

Results: Describe the expected results of these actions over the next three years. Please address each year separately, if possible

First year activities will result in preparation of a comprehensive business plan addressing community-wide conservation management, improvements to regional supply chain management capabilities, and prospects for botanical raw materials export. However, these activities in and of themselves will benefit regional farmers even if botanical export is found to be unlikely or delayed beyond our expectations. Group assessment and Working Group recommendations for processing facilities and transport routes will help farmers to better understand the requirements for specialty-grade coffee production and to make plans for improvements. Our project does not seek to end regional coffee production but rather, to discourage establishment of new coffee plots, to help farmers with coffee planted on unsuitable lands transition into more appropriate land use activities, and to maximize the quality and value of already-established coffee being produced in the higher elevations. Coffee production is the primary income source for regional farmers; development of any new economic activity must be complimentary, rather than interfering, with that industry's seasonal work schedule and quality control demands.

The social fabric of cooperative enterprise in the region is based on individuals' reputations, friendships, and familial ties. While these connections are important, the bottom line for successful cooperative coffee production is quality control. Addressing these issues in a group setting, with participation of Working Group members from outside the cooperative, will help the group make hard choices and express concerns they may be unwilling to explore on their own as neighbors and family members. It will help the group identify those members for whom a transition away from coffee is best -- for themselves, for the forest, and for the larger group -- in a supportive and inclusive environment that seeks to build positive new relationships and develop alternatives for everyone.

The community workshop format and group visioning process for identifying regional conservation priorities will enhance group learning and raise regional awareness of ecological values, risks, and ecosystem services. It provides the community with an opportunity to address fire prevention, fire protection, and community-wide fire emergency response. Signing a "Declaration of Commitment" to mutually-agreed-upon land use tenets clarifies and strengthens a regional environmental ethic along with individual farmers' understanding of their "social contract" as stewards of a nationally protected forest area.

Finally, SWOT analysis of the INADES organization -- the primary agricultural service agency in the region -- will improve our capacity to add new services while sustaining ongoing programs.

How many people will your project serve annually?


What is the average monthly household income in your target community, in US Dollars?

$50 - 100

Does your innovation seek to have an impact on public policy?


If your innovation seeks to impact public policy, how?

Protected forest areas in Honduras tend to be "Parks on Paper" with little or no way to enforce local land use policies. Participatory, community-led environmental monitoring and cooperative planning will strengthen enforcement of existing policies and may lead to additional forest protection measures.

In regard to INADES’ position on the political environment in Honduras; While we recognize that recent political events in Honduras dramatically affect the lives of all Hondurans, INADES cannot in good conscience take any position in opposition to our own government or in opposition to any class of our own Honduran people. The nature of cooperative enterprise demands freedom of association. This means that one's political affiliations are protected and are outside the scope of the cooperative program's interests. Our program will neither exclude people based on their political affiliations nor will the program be used in any way as a vehicle for any political message favoring or opposing any political party, candidate, or elected official. Not only would that be outside of INADES' mission, it would be against Honduran nonprofit law. Honduras Adelante.

What stage is your Social Enterprise in?

Idea phase

Does your organization have a board of directors or an advisory board?


Does your organization have a non monetary partnerships with NGOs?


Does your organization have a non monetary partnerships with businesses?


Does your organization have a non monetary partnerships with government?


Please tell us more about how partnerships could be critical to the success of your Social Enterprise

The challenges we face in Honduras are unique. We have had to provide emergency response and reconstruction support following tropical storms, hurricanes, floods and landslides. These types of natural events, when severe, can seem to put our nation, our organization and the communities it serves back on square one. The social context of our work, in predominately impoverished communities with high rates of illiteracy, combined with intense land-use pressures -- environmental and economic, legal and illegal -- demand careful mediation, non-violent communication, and multi-stakeholder participation in conflict resolution and decision-making. We have built strong relationships and our viability as an organization has depended over the years on inter-institutional cooperation and on collaboration with international entities.

Last year's political instability in Honduras resulted in economic sanctions against our nation for several months. Our organization, along with the communities it serves, were hit hard economically by these events. Please keep in mind that this happened on top of an already severe global economic recession. Earned income from ongoing programs has decreased dramatically as a result of the recession. Because this is true for agencies across Honduras, inter-institutional cooperation and partnerships are more important now than ever before.

The complexities of botanical trade demand expertise in a variety of disciplines which our Working Group is prepared to address. Non-monetary participation of Strategic Sourcing, Inc. provides farmers with market intelligence they would otherwise lack. The Group will design development protocol and generate published resources for replication of the project in other protected forest areas. As part of our initial assessments for this project, our Working Group will perform a SWOT analysis of the INADES organization itself, to improve our capacity to serve and to sustain this and other programs into the future.

We would like to learn more about how your initiative is financially supported. Please explain your business plan/revenue model

We recognize that $5,000 is not much in terms of accomplishing all we hope to achieve. But in Honduras, a little bit of money goes a long way, if spent judiciously. So far, unpaid volunteer professional services -- concept development, proposal writing, fundraising, communications, translations, and some field consulting -- have been in-kind contributions of great value to us. Consultants are a great service to this project, but are not the greatest expense. Farmers must take off work from their farms and often travel long distances to attend meetings. Should we win, a majority of these funds will be used to rent meeting facilities, to reimburse farmers for their travel expenses, and to provide them with meals. Eventually, farmer-to-farmer training will be the cornerstone of success in this project. But the full, larger community and Working Group must come together as well. $5,000, along with significant in-kind assets, will support two such meetings.

We will not know until community meetings are held whether participants will want to establish a new cooperative business or expand an existing agroforesty co-op. Ideally, our project will function using the three-tiered cooperative management system: 1st tier cooperatives organized at the village level among neighbors within reasonable walking distance of one another; a 2nd tier made up of elected representatives from the 1st tier that meets regionally; and a 3rd tier comprising the president, secretary, treasurer, etc. Decision-making "trickles up" rather than down using this participatory democratic process.

The conservation goals of our program require commitment and an investment of time on the part of local farmers. Successful market development will enable long-term sustainability of the program, so that local people do not have to seek foundation support year after year but rather, can hope to raise a self-generated fund to support the hard work of forest conservation and protection.

The Story
What was the defining moment that led you to this innovation?

Through direct experience in coffee growing areas high in the cloudforests of Honduras and elsewhere, we have seen the promise of sustainable coffee production and its role as a "refuge for biodiversity" along with the environmental destruction of too much coffee production. By and large, on a global scale, too many hectares of permanent agricultural lands are planted in coffee, while many forest lands too low in elevation or otherwise inappropriate for coffee yield little or no value to farmers while encroaching upon forest areas and agricultural lands better suited for other purposes. Even with Fairtrade markets in place, the majority of coffee farmers remain in poverty -- that is why the few who participate in Fairtrade markets qualify for Fairtrade certification in the first place. Coffee alone is clearly not the answer for these farmers. Meanwhile, in spite of unstable prices, ongoing problems with "coyotes" and farmer exploitation, and uncertain yields due to drought and climate change, coffee production continues to increase globally in an extremely competitive market looking to expand into non-traditional consumer markets such as China. It is clear to anyone who gets out into the field that coffee producers need to diversify, and are at the same time, uniquely positioned to do so. The coffee agroforestry system can accommodate an impressive diversity of wild and cultivated species. Our project coordinator, Jennifer Chesworth, has encouraged coffee producers to diversify since the first day she walked into a rainforest and witnessed the devastating effects of coffee production on the environment. It was not until she attended an IFOAM conference on Organic Certification of Wild Collected Products (2006) and a meeting of the American Herbal Products Association in (2007), where she met botanical industry professionals and convinced a handful of business leaders that farmers need market intelligence long before trade, that this initiative was first conceived.

Tell us about the person—the social innovator—behind this idea.

Jennifer Chesworth has worked as an independent consultant in organic production and certification of coffee and fair trade cooperative business management in Honduras and elsewhere for more than a decade. More than 2500 Latin American farmers have attended organic training courses she designed and conducted. With a degree in General Arts and Sciences from Penn State, Jennifer is almost entirely self-taught in the fields of organic agriculture and coffee production, as well as in the Spanish language. This education began more than ten years ago when she immersed herself in the coffee culture of Honduras by living with a coffee-producing family in the mountains of Olancho, Honduras for two months during the height of the coffee season, observing and participating in the harvest. The courses she designed, acquired funding for and conducted that year were the first courses ever offered in organic agriculture at the Honduran National College of Agriculture in Catacamas, Olancho. Jennifer's unique perspective on poverty and on the challenges facing small farmers was dramatically influenced by Hurricane Mitch (October, 1998). She was in Olancho conducting farmer training courses when the hurricane struck, was unable to leave the country for several weeks, and stayed as a relief worker at a refugee center in Olancho until safe travel to Tegucigalpa was possible. In 1999 she was invited to participate in a national assessment of Honduras's coffee industry. Since that time, she has been invited to teach courses to farmers in Bolivia and Peru, as well as in Honduras, and was a guest speaker at the first National Conference on Fair Trade in Chicago (2005). She was also interviewed as a field expert by the Working Group for the International Standard for Sustainable Wild Collection of Medicinal and Aromatic Plants (ISSC-MAP) and was a guest speaker at IFOAM's first International Conference on Organic Certification of Wild Collected Products in 2006 in Bosnia and Herzigovina.

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