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Tue Apr 16, 2019, 07:24 AM

Honduras' Remaining Natural Lands, Parks Being Shredded By Palm Oil Plantings

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By 2010, Jeanette Kawas National Park had lost approximately 40 square kilometers (15 square miles) to oil palm plantations, according to a 2018 report by the country’s Zamorano Pan-American Agricultural School. It loses around 6 square kilometers (2 square miles) each year. Around 1,900 deforestation alerts were recorded in the park by mid-March this year, according to the University of Maryland’s (UMD) Global Land Analysis and Discovery lab, which uses satellites to detect tree cover loss. Averaged per month, this represents a jump over 2018 numbers. Further east, Punta Izopo National Park lost more than 8 percent of its tree cover between 2001 and 2017, according to UMD data. Meanwhile, the data show a more than 4 percent loss in nearby Cuero y Salado National Park.

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Since Kawas’s death, production of oil palm has risen by nearly 560 percent, making Honduras the eighth-largest producer worldwide and number three in the Americas, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Small-scale farmers in northern Honduras make about $73 per ton of oil palm fruit, while putting in significantly less work than is required for bananas or livestock. However, oil palm requires massive amounts of water and must be grown as a monoculture, the agricultural practice of devoting land to a single crop. An independent farmer needs to plant at least 10 hectares (25 acres) of oil palm to make a profit, leading them to clear huge swaths of forest in the parks.

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Without mangroves and other coastal vegetation, there’s nothing to prevent fertilizers from running off into nearby bodies of water. Each hectare of oil palm requires an estimated 300 kilograms of fertilizer per year, about 270 pounds per acre, which in 2017 contributed to an 80 percent decline in Los Micos Lagoon’s overall fish population, according to PROLANSATE.

Rigoberto López Cruz, 62, a fisherman in the Marión community at the center of the park, said it’s becoming difficult to make a living. He said that not only are fish populations decreasing, but authorities trying to combat the problem imposed strict regulations in 2017 that limited who can be on the water and when. “It is much more complicated to live solely on fishing,” López said. “What we used to catch in maybe one hour, we now catch in two days.”

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https://news.mongabay.com/2019/04/its-getting-worse-national-parks-in-honduras-hit-hard-by-palm-oil/

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