Zamorano, Switzerland and CICA facilitate the environmental management of 21 Honduran universities
21 April, 2021
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Workshop on Applied Research in Climate Change and Comprehensive Disaster Risk Management.

The workshop focused on aspects aimed at strengthening the applied research skills of 35 teachers from Honduran universities. The teachers are specialists in different fields and subject areas representing 17 of the country’s 21 universities.

Zamorano, with the support of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) and the Inter institutional Committee of Universities in Environmental Sciences (CICA), launched the Workshop-Contest on “Research Applied to Climate Change (ACC) and Comprehensive Disaster Risk Management (GIRD)” for all the universities in Honduras. The activity aimed to find solutions for various problems that, in terms of climate change and disaster risk, are experienced every year in the country. For 20 years, Honduras ranked first among the countries with the greatest vulnerability to the effects of climate change.  Currently, as a result of the occurrence of disasters caused by natural phenomena, the loss of human lives, economic losses, diseases and poverty in the affected areas, the effects of climate change have increased considerably.

The training included the participation of international and national experts and a team of Zamorano teachers who shared their research experiences on the subject. Each teacher-participant prepared a proposal aimed at analyzing specific problems or needs that exist in Honduras around the ACC and GIRD, in order to access competitive funds to develop the research. Students, along with other researchers, are expected to be part of the creation of a network of researchers. The course lasted 16 synchronous hours and 8 asynchronous hours. It ended with the submission of research proposals by the participants. The methodology of the workshop combined presentations by experts on both topics and support in the preparation of a preliminary research project, as a requirement to participate in the contest.

The speakers included Dr. Edwin Castellanos, a Guatemalan scientist and  Central American benchmarker as the author of reports from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Dr. Castellanos shared his experience of approaching and creating research consortia on Climate Change in Guatemala. For her part, MSc. Lidia Torres, director of the Honduran Institute of Earth Sciences (IHCIT) shared the research carried out at the institute with an emphasis on disaster risk management and international alliances with universities and world research centers. Meanwhile, Dr. David Matarrita of Texas A&M University, facilitated on the topic of how to jump from researchers to authors of articles published in scientific serials

For Zamorano, Dr. Juan Carlos Rosas spoke about his experience as a researcher in the development of bean varieties resistant to drought. Dr. Lenin Henriquez, shared an investigation related to the water harvesters in the dry corridor promoted by INVEST-H in Honduras. The MSc. José Tercero presented research results on climate change and the Lenca and Pech indigenous peoples in Honduras. Dr. Juan Carlos Flores, for his part, mentioned a series of investigations on methods of measuring forest biomass for estimating forest carbon. The workshop was facilitated by Dr. Laura Suazo and the MSc. Alexandra Manueles, from the Environment and Development Department.

Nina Astfalck, SDC Deputy Head of Cooperation, said that for Switzerland the fight against climate change and its effects is a priority, and she highlighted that the contribution of the Honduran academy in generating knowledge is essential to building more resilient and sustainable societies. For her part, Angie Murillo, SDC Program Officer, pointed out the importance of investing in teaching and applied research to make informed decisions for the development of countries. The workshop was developed at a key moment for Honduras, due to the recent disaster situation experienced with the tropical phenomena Eta and Iota in 2020, and the recurring risks of disasters in which universities can play an advocacy role to reduce the negative impact.

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The MSc. Gloria Ochoa, president of CICA, celebrated the performance of an activity that seeks to strengthen university action in environmental management with an emphasis on CC and GIRD. Several academies in Honduras have already taken a step towards becoming green universities that include risk management plans. It has also ventured into curricular mainstreaming initiatives of the two topics that should be extended to the rest of the Higher Education Institutions in Honduras. Presently, there is an initiative of the CICA before the Council of Higher Education to mainstream these two topics in the undergraduate study plans. MSc. Ochoa thanked SDC for their support and recognized the work of all the universities.  She motivated the research professors to “continue studying, working and researching hard in search of better scenarios for Honduras”.

“The workshop is a great opportunity to develop research projects from different fields of science and technology. It has guided us in two ways; It shows us examples of research that scientists from different institutions have carried out and at the same time, it shows the step by step way to specify the research project and thus be able to compete for funds to specify the projects. Our research was focused on the issue of inclusion of CC and GIRD in the training space of the introduction to environmental education”, expressed the MSc. Zoila Moncada, Head of the Department of Natural Sciences, Francisco Morazán Pedagogical University (UPNFM).

On their side, the participants MSc. Carol Elvir, from the Catholic University of Honduras and professor MSc. Luis Herrera, from the Polytechnic University of Honduras, highlighted the practical learning experience. His research topics will focus on climate finance and flood disaster management. Research proposals cover topics ranging from education, watershed management, waste management, flood risks and landslides, climate-smart agriculture, early warning systems, coastal marine management, public policy, agro ecology, water resource management and renewable energy, among others.

“We have been given the opportunity to share ideas in a transdisciplinary space, together with researchers with a long history who share their knowledge and expertise in order to solve problems that afflict the country, especially in times of so much uncertainty due to the pandemic crisis.  It is the perfect environment in which to provide innovative and sustainable solutions that have the capacity to attack root problems through a comprehensive approach. The Workshop-Contest has the potential to improve applied research in Honduras; the rest is our responsibility”, stated Manuel Martinez, Regional Coordinator of Scientific Research at UNAH-TEC Aguán.

The workshop highlighted the messages of Dr. Ana Margarita Maier and Dr. Laura Suazo, who emphasized the priority for Zamorano to work collaboratively in university networks, to share what they have learned on this subject and to contribute to society through applied research that will be promoted through the project. Zamorano thanked SDC for its support of this project with an impact on education and in this case in the reduction of the country’s vulnerability to climate change.

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