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Sustainable development majors study rural sustainable agriculture practices in Honduras

Two Appalachian State University undergraduates worked with Honduran government organizations this summer to find ways to enhance the agricultural practices of the Lencas, Honduras’s largest indigenous group, while maintaining their traditions and environmentally sensitive farming practices.

The students are sustainable development majors Henry Blackford and Claire McLendon. They are mentored by Dr. Jeff Boyer, a professor in the Department of Anthropology.

Boyer has studied or consulted on rural development programs and projects in Honduras since he served in the Peace Corps there from 1963-66.

Wilfredo Cardona, the former director of Honduras’s Office of Research on Rural Sustainable Agriculture and Community Development, knew of Boyer’s work and asked for his help in expanding the Lenca’s educational and sustainable agricultural practices.

The Honduran government provided room and board for the students, and

Appalachian’s Office of International Programs, Office of Research and Graduate Studies, and College of Arts and Sciences provided additional funding for the project.

The Lencas live in and farm Honduras’s western highlands. They have long used agronomic and silviculture techniques to protect the land and forests, but Cardona is seeking ways to improve their farming methods and enhance their economy by incorporating additional sustainable development practices.

The Lencas depend on their crops for their own subsistence, and as a source of revenue when sold at local and regional markets.

Working from the Ministry of Agriculture’s regional training center in La Esperanza, Blackford and McLendon explored the possibility of establishing a Lenca-run technical institute to train Lenca youth and interested adults in sustainable agriculture, microenterprise and cooperatives, and courses that would enhance the Lenca sense of cultural identity and pride within the wider Honduran regional and national identity.

The students presented their research at the Canadian Embassy in Tegucigalpa to interested Honduran and international grass roots development agencies.

The students will make a public presentation about their experiences to Appalachian students and faculty this fall.