Honduran Collaborative Water Project Awarded 2015 ISTF Innovation Prize

ISTF conference 2015 vert
<p class="p1"> F&amp;ES Prof. Brad Gentry (left), Melissa Arias &rsquo;15 M.E.M., Zumilda Duarte (of AJAASSPIB), Jayson Ibanez (of the Arakan Forest Corridor Development Program), Krysia Solheim &rsquo;15 M.E.M., and F&amp;ES Prof. Liza Comita.</p>
A project that has coalesced 28 villages in Honduras to promote long-term water and land conservation in the face of numerous environmental threats received the International Society of Tropical Foresters (ISTF) Innovation Prize during the Yale Student Chapter’s annual meeting held last month at the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies (F&ES).
For nearly a decade, the Association of Water Councils of Pico Bonito National Park’s Southern Sector (AJAASSPIB) has utilized a model of rural community-led conservation to protect the watershed of the Olanchito, Honduras, a city located near the biodiverse Pico Bonito National Park. Founded by EcoLogic, the project includes a coalition of community members, municipal authorities, ranchers, and students working to protect and monitor 33,500 hectares of critical ecosystems and watersheds.
The $2,500 first place prize was sponsored by F&ES and the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.
“The fact that a municipality took the initiative in establishing a partnership with AJAASSPIB, a rural organization, testifies to the Association’s unique reputation in the region for honesty, technical rigor, and capacity to resolve conflict and build connections between disparate interests,” said Barbara Vallarino, EcoLogic’s executive director.
Zumilda Duarte Sandoval, a founding leader of AJAASSPIB, was in attendance to accept the first-place prize.
The prize was awarded on the second day of the conference — “Conserving Biodiversity Across Multiple Use Landscapes Through Strategic Governance and Land-Use Planning” — which was hosted by the Yale chapter of the ISTF from Jan. 29 to Jan. 31.

The conference attracted more than 100 practitioners, academics, and students from across the world, including participants from 15 countries.
“The dialogue between experts from different fields ensured the event was interdisciplinary and elicited participation from a broad range of experience,” said Krysia Solheim, ’15 M.E.M., co-chair of the event. “The conference strengthened relations between students and conservation practitioners worldwide, and generated a creative environment for exchanging ideas and solutions for biodiversity conservation at the landscape level.”
The three-day conference, which also featured two practical workshops, covered a wide array of topics relevant to landscape conservation. Discussion topics included a debate over the benefits of sharing or sparing, zoning, restoration, community forest management, the environmental impacts of global commodity production, innovative polycentric governance mechanisms, different scales of conservation finance, and spatial analysis tools for monitoring biodiversity conservation.
And for the second time the organizers awarded the ISTF Innovation Prize for outstanding ideas and concepts in financing tropical forest conservation. 
Receiving a $500 second-place prize was the Arakan Forest Corridor Development Program (AFCDP) — a Philippines-based project that combines forest management, poverty alleviation, resource mobilization, and education to restore social and environmental resiliency in the Arakan Forest region.
“The top two innovation prize finalists we brought in, from Honduras and the Philippines, were able to showcase the incredible biodiversity landscape initiatives they have implemented,” Solheim said. “We wanted to ensure that we recognized the hard work that small, local organizations are doing in the field, because their efforts are truly amazing and what conservation on the ground truly is about.”