The Honduran territory is mostly mountainous, with slopes steeper than 30%. Due to its nature and coverage, it is considered a country with an eminently forestry vocation. Despite the predominant forestry vocation, currently only one half of the territory is covered by forests; the rest is used for agricultural activities, other land uses or is not covered at all.
Forests cover is about 6,301,097.11 ha (approximately 56% of the national territory) according to the Forest Map of Coverage and Land Use 2018 . Forest cover is distributed as follows: 27.95% (3,144,171.75 ha) of moist broadleaf forest, 17.31% (1,947,558.51 ha) coniferous forest, 10.30% (1,159,201.66 ha) deciduous broadleaf forest, and 0.45% (50,165.19 ha) mangrove forest.
Nearly 40% of the forest area belongs to the private sector. The State has ceded forests to private hands to participate in carbon trading as part of the REDD program.
According to official figures from the Central Bank of Honduras, the contribution of the forestry sector to GDP during 2018 was 0.80% .
Land degradation from deforestation during 2016-2018 was 369.12 km², with an average annual loss of 200 km²/year over the last decade.
The main drivers of deforestation in Honduras include the expansion of agricultural and livestock ranching, migratory agriculture, timber exploitation and logging, extraction of fuelwood, forest fires, and pest and diseases.
According to the ICF (2011), Honduras loses annually about 78,000 ha of forests by illegal logging, fires, and extraction of fuelwood; and 20,900 ha of forests by land use change, migratory agriculture schemes, extensive cattle ranching, and land grabbing. Some 215 forest fires were recorded in various regions of the country in 2021 which destroyed 6,137 ha; 509,291 ha of coniferous forest were lost between 2014 and 2016 to the pine bark beetle pests.
Key policies and governance approach
The Forestry Law sets guidelines for land ownership, land management, economic development, nature conservation, protection of vulnerable groups and poverty reduction. Accordingly, the ICF provides support to cadaster processes, regularization and titling of public forest lands and protected areas. The ICF has delegated this responsibility to the Forest Heritage and Information Center (CIPF).
To reduce illegal logging, an AVAFLEGT agreement has been signed between Honduras and the European Union. The agreement intends to support the pillar foundation of the social development programs that are promoted in the country with the aim of generating employment, expanding the conditions for investment, policy making in the context of territorial planning and legal certainty in the land tenure, contributing to boosting the industry and ensuring the use of resources in a sustainable manner from the environmental and social perspective.
The National Strategy for the Use and Management of Fire promotes actions to improve the protection of ecosystems through practices of responsible use of fire and its function, preventing forest fires and controlling their use.
Honduras' National Restoration Programme proposes investments for the adaptation and restoration of ecosystems and landscapes for climate change mitigation.
The National Agroforestry Programme seeks to increase production in the rural sector and reduce deforestation and forest degradation through five lines of action: (i) reduction of deforestation and degradation, (ii) restoration and reforestation, (iii) incentives for the sustainability of the productive sector, (iv) reduction of emissions in productive chains, and (v) integrated watershed management.
SUCCESSES AND REMAINING CHALLENGES
Deforestation rates have been difficult to evaluate as no reliable continuous forest monitoring programme is in place in the country. SDG Indicator 15.2.1 Forest area annual net change rate (%) was -0.33 over the 2010-2020 period.
Initiatives and Development Plans
According to forest management plans, forest harvesting areas must set aside a certain fraction of their territory for conservation. To date, there are 48 logging areas covering 124,741 ha.
One of the strategies aimed to promote forest restoration is the establishment of Agroforestry Systems (SAF), predominantly coffee SAFs, through which producers convert forests into agroforestry systems. Due to the reduction of the carbon stock, any forest that passes to an agroforestry system will be considered degradation; however, it is considered an area for future improvement due to the lack of spatial information on the surfaces and associated emissions.
The Master Plan for Water, Forests, and Soil implements interventions for integrated, sustainable management of water resources, forests and soil with local participation. This plan includes a Forestry Incentive Regulation in accordance with the Forestry, Protected Areas and Wildlife Law; and the activation of the Soil Protection Standard for the development of agricultural and forestry projects and/or forest conservation.
The National Reforestation Program comprises four subprograms: (i) Economic Development of the forestry sector; (ii) Community Forest Development; (iii) Environmental Services, Ecosystem Restoration, and Climate Change; and (iv) Protected Areas and Biodiversity. It includes an Information System for Forest Management and Monitoring.
Goals and Ambitions
To counteract forest loss, and mitigate climate change, the Honduras Forests Restoration Strategy aims to restore one million hectares through participatory processes, by 2030.
The country aims not only to strengthen land governance, rights of use, land tenure, and the regulatory framework of the forestry sector; but also establish robust and effective processes for multiple stakeholders. Moreover, the country aims to create conditions that enable larger-scale investments; generate land use policies; investment policies that support the legal production of timber; support the implementation of REDD+ policies by directly addressing some of the causes of deforestation and forest degradation .
Implementation of Honduras' REDD+ Strategy, National Restoration Program, and the National Agroforestry Program will require significant financial and technical support.