WWF signs MoU with palm oil producers in Honduras to protect biggest reef in the Americas
La Lima, Honduras – A memorandum of understanding signed today between WWF and palm oil producer groups in Honduras outlines ways to better protect the Mesoamerican Reef, the biggest coral reef system in the Americas and the second largest in the world.
The agreement, signed with Palmas de San Alejo (PALSA) and Agropecuaria Tornabé (AGROTOR), will also benefit local communities living in the area and the region's natural resources.
“The agreement will ensure that better agricultural management practices are adopted thereby reducing the environmental impact on the reefs caused by the surrounding oil palm plantations,” said José Vásquez, WWF Central America’s agriculture officer.
These practices include better management for disposing empty agro-chemical containers, increasing plant cover to avoid soil erosion, and reducing use of herbicides and fertilizers, especially nitrogen.
Oil palm is grown on about 68,000 hectares along the coastal plains of Atlántida and the Sula and Aguán valleys in Honduras. In Atlántida, the oil palm plantations are located along the Caribbean coast where several large rivers flow down from the Nombre de Dios mountain range.
“The steep mountains and the region’s strong rains make agriculture a threat to the reefs as large amounts of sediment and agrochemicals flow down to the sea,” Vásquez added.
“Best management practices on agricultural plantations are vital for watershed protection and to minimize the transport of contaminants to the corals. It is important that measures are taken to control such contamination.”
Established in the 1950s, Palmas de San Alejo and AGROTOR employ over 500 workers, drawn mainly from the 14 communities living around the plantations. The companies produce 23,000 tons of oil annually — about a third of Honduras’s palm oil production — mainly for preparation in food products. There are plans to produce palm oil biodiesel.
“We have accepted WWF’s invitation to carry out studies on how the oil palm plantation can be better managed,” said Danny Gabrie, Vice-President for Agroindustrial Operations of the Jaremar Group, to which both Palmas de San Alejo and AGROTOR belong.
“We have oxidation lagoons to collect the wastewater which we then use to produce electrical energy in the processing plant. This helps to minimize the agricultural impact on the reef.”
WWF continues to work with different agricultural sectors in the region with the aim of improving benefits for the health and conservation of the reef and the communities that depend on its resources.
• The palm oil production studies in Honduras are part of an initiative sponsored by various organizations including WWF, the Summit Foundation and the International Coral Reef Action Network (ICRAN), an alliance that addresses the conservation needs of coral reefs and the well-being of local communities who depend on the reefs. Other funders of the initiative are the United Nations Foundation (UNF) and the US Agency for International Development (USAID).
• The Mesoamerican Reef (MAR) is the largest reef system of the Americas, and the second largest reef in the world after the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. Shared by four countries, it extends some 1,000km from the northern tip of the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico, past the barrier reef of Belize and the Caribbean coast of Guatemala to the Bay Islands/Cayos Cochinos complex adjacent to the northern coast of Honduras.
For further information:
Cinthya Flores Mora, Communications Officer
WWF Central America
Tel: +1 506 234 8434