We met the following people during our tour at ESNACIFOR:
*Ing. Perez, a forestry advisor who graduated from Virigina Tech and was working with a grant from USAID
*Ing. Salvador Romero, who had attended the University of Idaho and was teaching logging at ESNACIFOR
* Ing. Samuel Rivera, funded by the USAID to work with forestry development and graduated from Utah State University with a degree in watershed management
*Ing. Julio Eguigurens, six year sub-director of the school and currently director of the watershed management development project
*Ing. Elmer Mauricio Cruz Garcia, manager of short term training programs (he was with us the first half of the trip)
* Ing. Mario Molina, director of the entomology lab
*Sra. Navosa Madrid, director of the computer lab
*Ing. Oscar Leveron, president of the seedbank
*Profa. Dora del Leba, director of the soil analysis lab and professor of chemical and biology
*Profa. Rosaura, professor of biology, ecology, and ecotourism
*Guiellermo Cruzar, carpnter
*Ing. Miguel Mejilla, carpenter at the sawmill who attended school in Texas
* Ing. Fransisco Lopez, director of GIS lab
* Ing. Jose Luis Montesinos, professor
*Ing. Kasuhiko Sakai, retired volunteer from Japan
*Ing. Daniel Galeano, forestry management professor who obtained his Bachelor's degree in Finland
Our first stop on the tour of ESNACIFOR's campus was the herbarium, started in 1974 by a Peace Corps volunteer named Donald Hussler. Today it has over 10,000 samples and boasts a beautiful display of all native woods in Honduras. A large machine in one corner measures strength and compression of the wood. Green and dry weight and moisture percentages are also measured in the lab. The director of the herbarium told us there were "more species in one hectare in Honduras than in all of Europe."
Next we visited the 3-year-old entomology lab, the goal of which is to learn more about the pests and diseases of the forest. Sr. Molina was excited to show us a few of the 70,000 samples. The inventory is being updated, and the six to ten thousand species are being catalogued. We were told the smaller bugs and insects were not a huge threat to trees; it was the smaller creatures that bore into the trees.
The computer lab was our next stop. Sra. Navosa Madrid, director of the lab, told us that in the students second year they take a computer introduction course, and in their fourth year they take a GIS course. The students can take advantage of free lab time from 4 to 8 PM each day, which usually involves standing in line since the school only has about 30 computers. Programs used are the same that we use in the states, and include Idrisi, ArcView, and ArcInfo. Training workshops for professional are sometimes held in the lab, as it is one of the most up to date labs in the country.
Our next destination was the seed bank, which was started in 1976. It is the sustaining part of the school, as seeds are grown in the school's forest and then sold to create profit. Seeds are sold to the public as well as private interests, foreign and domestic, with sales of about 230,000 dollars annually. The sign in front of the building proclaimed, "IN THE LIFE OF TREES IS THE LIFE OF MEN." The goals of the seed bank are to research, teach, sell seeds, give money to school, and be autonomous. For an example of how effective the seed bank is, consider this: in 1998, Hurricane Mitch devastated all the pine trees on an island off the northern coast. The seed bank had enough of a supply to reforest it three times over.
We also visited the sawmill and solar dry kiln. Trees from the school's forest are used to make all kinds of products for the school, such as chairs desks, beds and chalkboards. The kiln is where they make charcoal, the sale of which also goes to the school.
The GIS lab had four computers; two for NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) satellites, one for GIS, and one for remote sensing. They had a digitizing table (used to input maps), plotter, and a continuous stream of data coming in from NOAA satellites. They were using GIS to find the borders of the 5000-hectare forest that the school owns, and analyzed landcover uses as well. The Natural Resource Institute (NRI) of Greenwich donated computers and money to the lab, as have the Germans and British.
Next we visited the nursery production site for students. Lots of hydrology research goes on at the nursery, and a recent project has been to produce pine trees to plant on the shores of a water reservoir nearby. The area is also used to grow flowers and plants for use in office buildings. Our guide made a point of telling us that women have better skills than men do when it comes to transplanting trees.
We drove a short distance to the research center, a 21-hectare area established in 1946 for the United Fruit Company. After being handed off to several other agencies, it was eventually given to ESNACIFOR. The school is using it most recently for environmental education of tropical dendrology, agroforestry, and rural development. Games, exercises, and other environmental interpretation models are being used to educate school children and their teachers. The idea is to encourage kids to protect their environment and to teach others. A fee program has been started recently in hopes that visitors will respect the area more if they have to pay. Non-Hondurans pay $1, adults pay 5 lempiras, students are 2 lempiras, and kids are charged 1 lempira. That is the equivalent of letting kids in for about seven cents. The rates are symbolic; by giving a little we can all protect such areas. The area receives about 5,000 visitors a year.
An experiment that an ESNACIFOR student was working on aimed to find the optimal distance to space plants apart. The diagram above shows how the plot was laid out. Areas A, B, and C were different species. The first ring outside the center was spaced at a meter. The second ring was at a meter and a half, and so on. This experiment will give provide more knowledge to the engineers who go through and thin stands of trees that are halfway to the final cut stages.
An old myth exists among campesinos (farmers) that says coffee cannot grow beneath pine trees. Research done at the school has shown that not only can coffee grow, but it can be very productive under pines. Campesinos are being brought into the site to see the results and take the new knowledge back to their plots.
ESNACIFOR owns a forest of about 5,500 hectares, mainly used for timber production and field research. The entire forest is made up of pine trees, and there are 8 villages inside the area. There are two fire lookout towers in the forest, and a weather station. We watched a logging operation know as yarding, where a log is dragged up the hillside by an intricate system of cables and pulleys.
There were 188 students when we visited in March 2000; students come from all parts of Latin America. Of the 188 students, roughly one-third are women. That number has steadily been increasing; in 1994 there were only 12. Today there are only four women on staff as teachers, but that number is also expected to increase. The low student population makes possible a schedule of three days in the field for every two days in class. The semesters run from January to June and again from August to December. The students' month off in the summer is expected to be time spent interning.
In 1998 ESNACIFOR received a national award and recognition for environmental conservation.
In the evening of the seventh day we performed a skit for culture night, which included a game show style of questions and answers. We pulled four members from the audience and they were our 'contestants.' By asking multiple choice questions in Spanish and English, and acting out each question, the contestants were able to choose the correct answer. The Hondurans reciprocated by dancing and performing songs and skits. The evening culminated in several of us on stage with the Honduran students, dancing a native dance called the "Punta."