Honduras can be divided into three landscape zones, each of which has a specific ethnic, cultural and economic character. The highlands in the west and south with the capital Tegucigalpa are mainly inhabited by the mestizo and indigenous majority of the population. From an economic point of view, mostly small-scale coffee cultivation is predominant in this zone, as is the subsistence farming of corn, beans and other agricultural products. The plains along the north coast, however, are home to a large number of people of Afro-indigenous descent (Garínagu) in addition to Ladinos / -as. Here is San Pedro Sula, the second largest city in the country and the most important location for trade and industry, in the Sula valley mainly the processing industry. The most important traffic connection in Honduras is the Carretera Norte, a country road that is quite well developed by Honduran standards (but far from optimal in terms of traffic safety), which connects the capital with San Pedro Sula and the Caribbean coast.
The north is dominated by the plantation economy. The cultivation and export of bananas, which gave Honduras the dubious reputation of a ” banana republic “, is declining today in favor of other products (palm oil, sugar cane, pineapple, etc.) and the so-called maquila industry. The third landscape zone is the very sparsely populated (mainly by indígenas who do not belong to the Maya descendants residing in the highlands) Mosquitia, a largely undeveloped area with tropical rainforest that covers almost a third of the area of Honduras.
Before the Spanish conquest, today’s Honduran territory was rich in gold deposits, which were largely exhausted by intensive mining during the colonial period. Nevertheless, Honduras has a large number of other mineral resources. Today, mostly silver, copper, iron ore, tin, lead, antimony and rare earths are mined, mostly in opencast mines and operated by multinational companies, in addition to small amounts of gold. Mining is highly controversial because of its social and ecological consequences. The legal and illegal timber industry also has negative ecological effects.
In addition to the two coasts – the Caribbean coast in the north (with the offshore islands of Roatán, Utila and Guanaja, the so-called Islas de la Bahía) and the south coast on the Pacific (or on the Gulf of Fonseca) – the hydrogeography of the country is dominated by the three most important rivers (Río Patuca, Río Ulúa and Río Choluteca) as well as the inland lake Lago de Yojoa, which is also important as a drinking water reservoir, should be mentioned.
The climate on the Caribbean coast is tropical. But moderate on the plateaus inland. From November to April is the dry season, from May to October the rainy season, when the weather is cooler, especially in the highlands. Tropical storms such as the devastating 1998 hurricane “Mitch” can occur between September and November in particular. The temperatures on the north coast are usually hot, with rainfall all year round. In the south (Pacific coast) there is a more humid tropical climate. But the dry season is also more pronounced there. In recent years it has been shown that the occurrence of rainy and dry seasons has decreased, which makes it difficult to predict the annual climate.
According to a2zgov, Honduras is one of the countries that are hardest hit by climate change due to extreme weather situations. Missing rainfall, extreme drought and heavy rain events have increased over the past five years. The year 2020 began in Honduras with a catastrophic drought, leading to water scarcity and rationing in many places. For smallholder communities, this means crop failures and hunger.
The hurricane season in 2020 produced more tropical storms than ever before. In November 2020, Honduras was hit by two hurricanes: Eta and Iota. Both tropical storms left more than 150 dead, hundreds of thousands of people in emergency shelters and destroyed infrastructure. Almost four million people live in the areas affected by Eta and Iota. Landslides and floods, triggered by the days of heavy rain, caused enormous damage, especially in the Valle de Sula and other areas of the Atlantic coast. But other parts of the country are also affected. UNOCHA has summarized the damage in a report.
Honduras is an ecologically easily vulnerable country, which was noticeable in 1998 with Hurricane Mitch but also in subsequent less severe hurricanes. A network of municipal emergency response commissions (COPECO) was established after 1998; however, there is no effective disaster risk reduction.
Deforestation, increasing desertification, extensive monocultures and the exploitation of natural resources bring with them enormous ecological problems.
The south of Honduras has been largely deforested and desertification is progressing, other regions are threatened by dry periods or droughts. Time and again there is water shortage in the dry season; Tegucigalpa is particularly affected by this. Extensive monocultures, especially of oil palms, contribute to water shortages.
The area of the mosquitia (tropical rainforest), which covers a third of the country, is threatened by overexploitation, especially illegal logging.
The center, west and north of the country are characterized by monocultural agriculture and the environment is threatened by mining. In January 2013 a new mining law was passed by the Congress, which enables concessions to mines (metals, precious stones) for foreign companies. Above all, various metals such as gold, silver, zinc, lead, iron oxide and others are mined both above and below ground. The environmental damage is considerable: contaminated rivers and fish deaths. The pollution of the environment with cyanide is particularly dangerous. The population in the polluted areas, such as the Valle de Siria, mainly suffers from skin diseases.
A number of organizations, such as CEHPRODEC or ASONOG, have been involved in the field of mining for years with regard to the associated environmental destruction and human rights violations.