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Management of Forest Fires and the Participation of Local Communities

By César Augusto Alvarado, Sara Elisa Rosales et Miguel Angel Salazar Aguilar; February 2001
César Augusto Alvarado, Escuela Nacional de Ciencias Forestales, ESNACIFOR, Siguatepeque, Honduras; E-mail:
Miguel Angel Salazar Aguilar, Departamento de Protección Forestal, Corporación Hondureña de Desarrollo Forestal, (COHDEFOR/AFE), Tegucigalpa, Honduras
Sara Elisa Rosales, Tegucigalpa, Honduras; E-mail:


Although forests are an important source of financial resources and well-being for society in Honduras, in some communities they have become a barrier to the expansion of certain activities, such as farming. As a result, 99 percent of forest fires are caused by human interventions, and most of them originate on private land.

However, some communities are aware of the need to protect the forests because they depend on them for their resources, from both a cultural and a social and economic perspective. It is for this reason that a decrease in forest fires is more noticeable in areas where communities have links with the forest through production activities.

In order to improve understanding of the dynamics that favour such awareness raising, this study analyses the status of forest fires in the light of relevant legislation and the municipalities’ role vis-à-vis the communities that carry out forest activities. The study also suggests strategic guidelines aimed at protecting forest resources and making rational and sustainable use of them. Among these strategies are the strengthening of institutions, the coordination of international aid, a review of municipal policies and norms, forestry education, educational tours, the control of slash-and-burn permits and the creation of incentives for communities.

As a reference, the analysis uses the communities of Chagüite Grande, El Carrizal, Lavanderos and Laínez, which are located in forest ecosystems with a high risk of forest fires and in which the forest is the best alternative for local socio-economic development.

Although forest fires continue to pose a threat to these communities, there is a high level of forest awareness, and this may make protection of the forests easier - for example, by introducing such activities as the planting of rapid-growth, multiple-use trees, which would stimulate the protection of the forest.

The study draws a range of conclusions and recommends that the State Forestry Administration - Forestry Development Corporation of Honduras (Administración Forestal del Estado - Corporación Hondureña de Desarrollo Forestal [AFE/COHDEFOR]) review its policies with a view to changing the attitude of part of the population by encouraging actions that favour protection of the forest. Another recommendation highlights the need to implement community development programmes that are in line with the natural potential of the areas under study, so that the programmes may encourage community participation in activities that are aimed at protecting their natural resources, such as the prevention and fighting of forest fires.

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