- Laguna Bacalar Project Website (Spanish) -
The website above, though in Spanish, provides further details about this project.
Lagoon Bacalar is located within the Department of "Gracias a Dios" (literally "Thank God"), Municipality of Juan Francisco Bulnes, approximately 240 km or 45 minutes away by airplane from the city of La Ceiba. It is located near the Biosphere of Río Plátano (literally, "Plantain River") on the Atlantic coast.
The lagoon extends approximately 311 hectares (770 acres). The area of influence surrounding the lagoon is defined by a polygon of approximately 5,300 hectares (13,000 acres) in size, and is located geographically at the following latitude/longitude: 15° 55' 59" North, 84° 54' 59" West.
The area surrounding lagoon Bacalar greatly benefits the nearby communities of Batalla, Palacios, Coyoles, Pueblo Nuevo, La Fe and Buena Vista in terms of a food source, and environmental/environmental resource. Three of the seven ethnic groups in Honduras are represented in these surrounding communities (Garifunas, Misquitos, and Ladinos). The importance of the lagoon is also highlighted because it is the entrance to the "Biosphere and Human Reserve of Río Plátano" which is a global trust.
Support of the Project
The project sought to establish the scientific basis for the protection and sustainable management of the area surrounding Lagoon Bacalar via a participative approach involving the community and municipality. It was financed by the FUNDACIÓN VIDA and USAID and was executed by Bayán Association. Scientific and social studies were conducted to better understand the current state of the marine/coastal resources with the objective of creating a management plan in order to conserve the biodiversity and better the living conditions of the people living near the lagoon.
In order to reach the goals and objectives planned in 2002, it was seen that they should be executed via the coordination of institutions involved in the region's protection and conservation activities such as AFE-COHDEFOR, MOPAWI, Project BRP, and the municipal government. Along with the institutions the project sought to involve relevant stakeholders (fishermen, water boards, local leaders, and students) to the process of making decisions and taking actions.
Achievements reached throughout the life of the project
- Sharing activity's results with stakeholders and the general population.
- Implementation of strategies to further environmental education with the communities.
- Training stakeholders how to make decisions to improve their life style.
- Development and the sharing of the Participative Rural Analysis (DRP - Diagnostico Rural Participativo)
- Signing of agreements with governmental and non-governmental institutions (DIGEPESCA, AFE-COHDEFOR, Proyecto BRP, CURLA, UNAH, Municipality of Juan Francisco Bulnes)
- Establishment of a scientific database
- Analysis on samples taken from the water, aquatic fauna, and forests.
- Creation of catalogue for area's flora and fauna
- Nomination of the area of Lagoon Bacalar as a Ramsar site
- Separating pieces of land to measure the rate of regeneration
- Development of an actual land use map
- Organization and training of the fisher's guild resulting in a Fisher's Board of Directors
With the goal of further integrating community and municipal with project activities, a strategy has been put into place to train the community in the areas of:
- Fishery laws
- Development of project proposals
- Management of small businesses
As a result, the project has succeeded in further involving the local population and stakeholders (local leaders, water boards, fishers) in the activities related to decision-making to improve the quality of the natural resources in the area.
The local populace started to become more aware of the care that must be exercised towards the environment after taking part in an environmental camp. This event presented and made participants aware, in a fun way, of the importance to: (a) maintain a balance with environment that surrounds us and (b) having a management plan. The event was evidently relevant to the needs of the people since the participants requested that it be repeated.
The biological study related to fish, water, and overall vegetation is in a monitoring phase which ends March of 2003.
A Committee of Surveillance and protection of Lagoon Bacalar was created which needs to be restructured according to the terms of the agreement under the Committee for the Sustainable Management of Lagoon Bacalar (COMASOSLAB - "Comité para el Manejo Sostenible de la Laguna Bacalar"). The committee carries out a series of functions intended to support the Municipal Environmental Unit ("Unidad Municipal Ambiental") and resource management plan. These activities require continual follow-up and reinforcement.
Enfoldment and Maturation
As a result of wanting to increase community participation and keeping in mind the issue of sustainability, the running of the hospital was delegated to an Administrative Committee in 1998. Its members include the Secretary for Public Health, the Municipality of Brus Laguna, the Municipality of Juan Francisco Bulnes, and the Bayán Association. This new arrangement increased community participation and strengthened the local inhabitant’s understanding of a participatory approach.
In 2001 a British ambassador visited the hospital and supported its endeavors with a monetary donation. Donations of surgical equipment and medicines received from the Development Cooperation of Ireland, helped strengthen the quality of the hospital's setup.
During 2002, the Cuban government continued to support the hospital by sending medical specialists and nurses, maintaining an average of 4 to 5 professionals serving the hospital.
In March of 2002, Bayán Association provided the hospital with 10 solar panels to help especially in times of a power-related emergency. The municipality supported the endeavor by purchasing the equipment necessary to install the panels.
The Secretary of Health has risen the health-ranking of the Municipality of Juan Francisco Bulnes to that of "Healthy Municipality." The Secretariat has also begun receiving greater human and financial resources and has therefore been able to install many more Centers of Primary Care ("Cesamos") with all the necessary doctors, medicine, and infrastructure to do their work. The hospital has therefore seen a shift in the kinds of cases it deals with to ones more complex in nature.