By Daniel Torres-Gracia*
The paving of the Tegucigalpa-Puerto Castilla Agricultural Corridor in Honduras has become a focus of economic and social development benefiting more than 500,000 of the region’s residents.
The Tegucigalpa-Puerto Castilla Agricultural Corridor, in Honduras, came about as a means of improving the lives of 500,000 people. Standing testament to this are a breadwinning mother, and a mayor from the indigenous Pech community. Even the emerald hummingbird, a bird in danger of extinction, has been protected by this project.
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Location: States of Olancho and Colón, Honduras
Length: 181 kilometers
Municipalities benefitting: Gualaco, San Esteban, Bonito Oriental, Trujillo
Beneficiaries: 500,000 people
Investment to date: $33.9 million
Vision for the future: With a view to exports, the Agricultural Corridor will allow goods to be transported between the central region, the east and Puerto Castilla.
This initiative for economic growth implemented by INVEST-Honduras, also known as Millennium Challenge Account Honduras, with financial support from the Inter-American Development Bank, changed the notion of quality for a road paving project.
The investment, which meets the technical specifications concerning road building quality, improved efficiency in the transportation of both passengers and loads in Olancho and Colón – two states with productive, agricultural, tourism and industrial potential.
So far, 83 of the planned 181 kilometers have been completed, and as a result, the journey is already half an hour shorter. It is estimated that this will ultimately save 78 minutes in travel time. But beyond the improvements in transport, this project also creates employment in an equitable manner.
Between professionals and field staff, the program has employed 325 people to date. Among them is Santos Dinora Mendoza, a single mother of three children, who is working as a traffic control operator on the highway. Job that is breaking job stereotype between men and women.
The project also includes measures to protect the environment. The small emerald hummingbird, 7.4 centimeters long and weighing 2.6 grams, managed to unite central government representatives, local authorities, civil society, private business, and international organizations under a common cause: the protection of its habitat.
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1. Short term:
To get the “El Ciruelo” Protected Area declared as a Site of Wildlife Importance.
2. Medium term:
To assess the Biodiversity and the Ecosystem of the Agalta Valley.
3. Long term:
To implement a Monitoring Protocol for the Payment for Ecosystem Services Scheme.
A strategy for the protection of this species, which is in danger of extinction, was led by INVEST-Honduras. The aim was to avoid delays in the road paving work on the Gualaco-Saint Esteban section while conserving the environment of these two municipalities.
“We know there are ecosystems and species, such as the emerald hummingbird, that we have to conserve. As municipal representatives, we will assist with whatever is required to both create a process that helps to conserve the species, and prevent the road project from being delayed,” said Francisco Urbina, Deputy Mayor of the municipality of Gualaco.
Investments that respect traditions
The emerald hummingbird are not the only natives affected by this project. The Agricultural Corridor passes through one of the settlements of the Pech community, who are believed to have been living in the area for more than 3,000 years.
Ensuring the sustainability of the highway investment, by respecting the environment and traditions of the Pech community, was a key factor for carrying out this project.
With backing from the IDB, a nursery of both timber-yielding and fruit trees was created in order to reforest micro-basins in the area, and support food security through the generation of income for local people.
The project is being run by the Tribal Council – the highest authority of the indigenous Pech group. They receive technical help by way of an agreement with the Universidad Nacional de Agricultura (UNA) (National University of Agriculture) in Catacamas, in the state of Olancho.
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Training and awareness-raising: the key elements for the future of the Agricultural Corridor
With the support of the Dirección Nacional de Tránsito (National Transport Authority), an insurance company, and the municipalities of Gualaco and San Esteban, community leaders, teachers, ranchers, and truck drivers were trained in road awareness. The aim was to produce a change in attitude about roadwork in order to prolong service life and prevent traffic accidents.
During the residents’ training, Miguel Méndez, Mayor of San Esteban, emphasized the point that “large-scale projects involve everyone taking on the big responsibility of looking after these projects and raising awareness. It’s the only way we will manage to prevent accidents in the future.”
Moving from the basic idea of road paving to a total quality project has not been easy. We had to overcome obstacles that arose during the appropriate implementation of the environmental component. This not only requires taking specific actions before, during, and after the project, but also needs the commitment of key players at both central and local levels. Mindfully developing this project benefits many of the area’s actors, not just those who transport their goods along this agricultural corridor.
This post is part of a blog series on development effectiveness featuring stories on learning and experiences from IDB projects and evaluations. To learn more about design, monitoring and evaluation of IDB projects visit deo.iadb.org.
*Daniel Torres-Gracia is a Senior Specialist at the Transport Division of the Inter-American Development Bank. He works as team leader at country offices of the Bank, helping executing agencies since 2007, to achieve the goals of the transport projects financed by the Bank.