Alejandro de Humboldt National Park, Cuba
Project duration and start
3 years, 2011-2013
Neckermann Reisen Deutschland
Within the less developed eastern provinces of Holguin and Guantanamo lies the Alejandro de Humboldt National Park, the last large contiguous tropical forest in Cuba. The park encompasses an area of approximately 70 km2 and due to its extensive size, variations in elevation, scenic diversity, and wealth of endemic flora and fauna species, was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2001. The park is comprised of many ecosystem types, ranging from mangrove forests and offshore reefs to forest on the 1,168-meter summit of the “El Toldo” mountain, and is part of the biosphere reserve Cuchillas del Toa. The Alejandro de Humboldt National Park is of great importance as a reserve for numerous endemic species of Caribbean flora and fauna threatened with extinction and is also a popular destination for national and international tourism.
A major cause of concern to long term preservation, and thus also to the potential for tourism in the area, is that small farmers who live along the margins of the preserve (buffer areas) are unable to earn enough income to feed their families. Their living conditions are difficult, with many living in wooden houses with earthen floors and no electricity. There is a lack of available health care as well as access to clean drinking water. Since the amount of land that can be cultivated is relatively small and the easily exhausted, farmers have cleared new areas within the reserve and let their livestock animals roam freely. Illegal logging, vegetation clearing and free-roaming livestock has caused severe soil erosion and negative impacts on groundwater and soil fertility, thus creating a demand to clear additional new areas within the preserve. This cycle of environmental degradation is especially difficult for small farm families, whose survival is also dependent on the use of the forest to obtain firewood and construction materials. In addition, the potential sale of standing timber has become an attractive option as a source of income. Unfortunately nearly every community awareness program about the effects of deforestation and potential alternatives has not been sufficiently developed or implemented in the region.
This project has been developed to improve the living conditions of families inhabiting buffer areas and to include them in conservation and tourism outreach programs at the park. In addition to providing education regarding improvements in agricultural production, the project includes programs focused on environmental awareness and education. Conservation of biodiversity is also a priority, and a program to create a seed bank for threatened species in collaboration with the Forest Research Institute in Baracoa (Estación de Investigación Forestal de Baracoa) will be implemented. Seeds will be made available to nurseries in the area involved in restoration activities in coordination with the park administration. The partner organization in Cuba, ACTAF [Asociación Cubana de Técnicos Agrícolas y Forestales (National Association of Agricultural Engineers and Foresters)], 24 agricultural production cooperatives, and the "people's councils" (Consejos Populares) of the villages Quibiján, Cayo Güin and Nibujón will work together with the staff of the National Park Administration, representatives of the Ministry of Environment, and teachers from four schools to implement programs encouraging environmentally-friendly behavior and awareness for the protection of the natural environment. Events will be coordinated and instructional materials will be developed and distributed. The programs and informational materials for this project will be prepared so that they are suitable for transfer to other communities.
- The main objective of the project is to improve living conditions for inhabitants of the buffer zone and to improve the potential for tourism at the Alejandro de Humboldt National Park.
- To improve the economic and social conditions of the inhabitants of the buffer zone through diversification and adaptation of production methods to environmental conditions and to support alternative sources of income (e.g. ecotourism) in combination with nature conservation.
- Reforestation and regeneration of soils and seed banks of endangered plant species.
- Development and implementation of environmental awareness programs for different target groups and development of potential sources of income from tourism (while taking into account the political conditions in Cuba).
Partner / Project Coordinator
Project Organization: World Hunger Relief
Local Partners: ACTAF [Asociación Cubana de Técnicos Agrícolas y Forestales (National Association of Agricultural Engineers and Foresters)]
Project Coordinator: Walburga Greiner