“We Want Our Water”
One of the projects I worked on involved protecting a watershed in the mountains that would serve as the water source for 11 communities spread out in the valley below. Another volunteer worked on designing and constructing the water system, and I worked on establishing the watershed as a protected area.
Fast forward eight years. A teacher in Manto told me the story of the fight that took place between the people in the 11 communities and a logging company. The communities had had water for a few years, and were grateful beyond what we can imagine.
Logging, mostly illegal, is a major problem in Olancho, and all of Honduras for that matter. The Environmental Movement of Olancho, led by a Catholic priest who won the coveted and internationally recognized Goldman Prize for his work to protect the environment, has led the people of Olancho against the loggers.
Assassinations of environmentalists in Honduras are not uncommon. From Jeanette Kawas to Carlos Luna to the two men gun downed in Guarizama—the town next to Manto—and several others, working to protect nature in Honduras is a deadly vocation. In Guarizama, I saw the bullet holes in the wall where the two men were killed.
Back to the 11 communities. The story goes that women armed with machetes stood on the front lines. Their husbands were behind them, armed with pistols for sure, so that fighting, or worse, would not break out between the logger men and the village men.
They blocked the entrance to the scrabble road that led up to their village. When the logging truck showed up, they wielded their machetes and shouted:
“We don’t want your new road, and we don’t want your new school. We want our water, and you are not taking one tree from us.”
They’ve heard all the false promises before, and they knew that cutting trees meant damage to the watershed, and the possible drying up of their water source.
After some tense attempts at negotiating a compromise, the loggers left. The people did not back down.
Poor. Armed with machetes and pistols. Fighting for water. The poor won the battle. This time.
(part 3 of many…)