In order to create each community map, the HTH CoHI staff worked together at our Santa Elena office to trace out the primary roads in each town using Google Maps, a projector, some markers, and flip chart paper. This provided a “skeleton” of each community to which details could be added by community members.
In addition to each map, a simple key was developed that included some of the most common features of local communities: water sources, paths, farms, churches, schools, medical attention, gray and black water in public streets, common areas, cantinas, houses, and many more. The key was designed to only capture information that is visible by walking through local streets and paths. More intensive demographic information will be captured at a later date in other exercises.
With the map skeleton and key, the CoHI staff then led a small overview workshop with community leaders in each respective community that explained the purpose of a community map as a diagnostic tool – not as an answer to development issues, much as an x-ray is not intended to heal but to help in identifying the correct intervention for an injury. Communities then examined example maps before forming mapping teams. Each team then traced out a section of their town on small sheets of paper, picked up their markers, and headed out to start mapping.
Although ginger farming is making a mark on the local market, coffee farms continues to dominate the local economy, as evidenced by a large number of coffee processing stations or "beneficios" where freshly-picked coffee is depulped, washed, and fermented. Each one is marked on the community map by a locally-invented symbol - a sack full of freshly picked red coffee cherries!
Following the walking portion of the mapping exercise, each group return to start passing the information from their traced pages onto the master community map. Businesses, bus stops, water tanks, cemeteries, trash dumps, medical care, open gray water, forests, farms, and friends' homes were all marked. In our way day with Lomas del Aguila, they mapped half of their town - ready to complete their homework - the other half!
The people of Las Lomitas had a unique circumstance. They had recently worked to perform a small census and simple mapping survey with another local organization. So in order to honor their previous efforts, instead of repeating the extensive community walk, everyone worked together to pass the information they had gathered on small maps onto the large community map in order to have all of the data organized in the same place.
Caliche lies on the edge of a large valley stretching towards Sta Rita, Yoro. In the middle of Honduran summer, the normally hot Caliche was nearing furnace temperatures during the mapping exercise. Much of the local economy revolves around basic sustenance agriculture - corn, beans, cattle, and hogs. Horses abound as a primary source of transportation - a complement to the sturdy little bus that makes the two-hour trek to Santa Cruz four times/week.