I am writing from the Hotel Morales lobby in Comayagua, Honduras. Yesterday the Honduras Farmer to Farmer trip began when Jeff and Analisa arrived at the San Pedro Sula airport. There was a little setback because Delta left their luggage in Atlanta, but promises were made on the part of the airline and reluctantly accepted on Analisa's part, so we left the airport with our friends Hector and Hernan. I got to ride in the back of the pick-up with Jeff and we had a beautiful view of the Honduran countryside. Jeff and I talked about what I knew of the history of international aid in Honduras and he told me the same story from a Geography PhD candidate's point of view. It was nice to physically point out different things to highlight our discussion from our reclining open air vantage point. Around San Pedro we saw sugar cane fields, coffee warehouses, and huge free trade zones where Taiwanese and Korean clothing assembly plants sprawled behind high fences. There were armed checkpoints, and an unmarked police pick-up sped by bristling with weaponry. The traffic was constant, with every type of bus, pick-up and motorcycle jockeying along on a road that seemed to have two, three or four informal lanes, depending on the needs of the moment. As we climbed out of the Sula valley, we came into the watershed of the El Cajon dam and we were able to talk of the great cascade of unintended consequences that can come from a huge World Bank project. As the rain started to come down (we were sheltered by the movement of the pick-up truck), the conversation wandered to the vast efforts of aid groups to try to protect the El Cajon watershed, and the game that Honduran governmental and non-governmental agencies play to capture money intended for sustainable development. Later we came in sight of Lake Yojoa, and I was able to tell Jeff of the folly of introducing large-mouth bass to a pristine tropical lake full of endemic species. Later still we passed rows of places selling fried tilapia, the only commercial fish to come out of Yojoa now. As we climbed into the central high plains of Siguatepeque we talked of the vast forests of pine and the incredible corruption of the tragedy which was and is the Honduran forest products industry. We saw coffee farms along the road and it gave us a chance to discuss the failed USAID supported programs of the 80's which were intended to promote hybrid coffee varieties and huge production by cutting down all the shade trees and adding in chemical fertilizers and herbicides. As usual the unintended consequences were completely predictable. As we dropped into the Comayagua valley we saw the meager remnants of the tropical dry forest ecosystem and the brand new four lane highway which is intended unify ports on the Salvadoran coast with Puerto Cortes on the Honduran Atlantic Coast - the completed highway will compete with the Panama Canal, by using trucks to haul shipping containers.
By the time we got to Comayagua we were dry again and welcomed by the familiar hotel and friendly staff.