Harnessing local leadership in Honduran coastal communities – An interview with Diana Vasquez

"Rare Quotes" features leaders from across Rare putting the work into their own words.

March 29, 2024

In this video, Diana Vasquez, Vice President of Rare’s Fish Forever program in Central America, highlights the program’s success in empowering local leaders and their communities to drive change. She reflects proudly on the program’s focus on community empowerment, trust, and local leadership in achieving sustainability goals for the region’s marine sector.

Full transcript

How does Rare’s Fish Forever program support Honduras’s coastal communities?

The Fish Forever program is a solution to the problems of overfishing. It focuses mainly on two very important components: one is establishing marine reserves and the other component that is linked to the first is their responsible use. Fish Forever tries to find a balance between conservation and resource use, understanding that, we cannot hope to save the planet without first securing goods and benefits for the populations that depend on the resources from the sea.

How do you see your role at Rare?

So for me it is very important to always stay connected with the program, with the people, and with the communities. Behind me is one of the most wonderful places in Honduras [Iriona] and one of the most important achievements of this program. When I come here, for me, it’s a moment of inspiration, it’s a moment in which I remember why I’m doing what I’m doing.  My job four years ago was to build a team that was, in truth, effective. And the only way that this could reach the communities was by identifying talented young people from the community and converting them to be the program’s leaders the spokespersons, and its ambassadors. I become a spokesperson, and I sit in front of them [national authorities] feeling fully empowered because I know the reality, I have spoken with real people, I have seen the real problems and that gives me the ability I require to be able to demand from the government that they provide answers to the communities.

What is the key to Fish Forever’s success?

Trust is the fundamental pillar for building processes… If the communities don’t trust us, they won’t feel supported]. For example, most of my staff currently has that profile, young people from the community who speak the native languages of the communities, who are perfectly aware of the problems, who know who in their community are the changemakers who have the right words, can translate the technical, scientific knowledge into community language, popular language; Fish Forever would not be in Honduras at the level it is…. if it weren’t for the work of those local staff, those local community leaders who have managed to convince their community that change was needed.

What is something you are most proud of?

The communities asked the authorities to accompany them in the process of protecting their marine resources. I have been working in marine conservation for 23 years and I had never seen a process supported or led by the community; others had always led it. In Honduras we have achieved a lot in a short time. Our job was to give the communities tools to reach their goals and I think that has been one of the most important successes of the program so far.