More than a decade ago, woodworker Scott Landis and a small group of concerned craftsmen ventured into the Honduran forests to better understand the reasons behind deforestation. The group began teaching subsistence farmers how to build from what they had been burning to clear land for agriculture. “Enhancing the value of wood products to get a higher return provided the farmers with a natural incentive to manage their forests,” Landis explains.
The key is matching appropriate technology to the existing market. The group started by introducing the techniques of badgering, or green woodworking. Farmers were quickly able to build marketable furniture with a few basic hand tools. In addition, the group strove to introduce lesser-known wood species to the world market.
Now known as the Good Wood Project, the program continues to grow. Landis says it is slowly becoming self-sufficient as the first students are now teaching the latest generation. Most recently, the project brought New England boat builders and a portable sawmill to the Mosquito Coast to help replace traditional dugout canoes with plank-built boats. “Whereas one tree was once used to make one dugout, the tree can now make eight to ten hulls,” says Landis.