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INTRODUCTION

Honduras possesses a comparatively advanced Social Forestry System which

originated in the mid-1970s. Within the system, rural communities are given rights to

manage and protect forest lands near their communities. The system was created to deter

the continuing destruction of forest resources in Honduras and to promote development

of rural communities. The majority of communities that participate in the Social Forestry

System do so through agroforestry cooperatives, many of which were founded and

trained with support of COHDEFOR (Honduran Forest Development Corporation)

immediately following the formation of the government agency in 1974. The system is

backed by formal laws and has functioned for three decades. This success makes the

Social Forestry System of Honduras the most developed of all its neighbor countries.

The system and many of the first cooperatives founded within it are still functioning. In

addition, new communities are continually becoming involved. The purpose of this study

was to examine the history of these groups as well as their current status to determine the

strengths and weaknesses of the groups. This is important for the improvement of

existing cooperatives and the establishment of new ones.

Honduras is a mountainous country with a total land area of 111,890 km2 (FAO,

1999). It is estimated that only 12.3% of the total land area is well-suited for agriculture

(Silviagro, 1996). The remainder of land in Honduras is better suited for forest

production due to slope, soil depth, and rockiness. Of the total land area, 4,115,000

hectares, or 36.8 %, are forested (FAO, 1999). The forest area consists of 48.4%

broadleaf forest, 42% pine forest, and 9.3% mixed pine and broadleaf forest (FAO,

2001). Because of the difficulty of planting crops on forest land, most of these areas

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