Norvin Goff Salinas (’06, Honduras)
In September 2013, the New York Times reported that the Honduran government had awarded title of 760,000 hectares (about 2,930 square miles) in eastern Honduras to the indigenous Miskito people. At the head of this effort was Norvin Goff Salinas, an EARTH graduate from the class of 2006, who is now serving a second term as president of the Miskito federation known as MASTA. MASTA celebrated another victory in mid-2015 when the government issued title for an additional 800,000 hectares (about 3,090 square miles) in the Río Plátano biosphere reserve, an endangered UNESCO World Heritage site.
As president of MASTA, Norvin supervises some 50 employees and the actions of the entire Miskito region, working to protect territorial rights and culture, strengthen local governance and natural resource management, and improve regional health and education systems. Through land titling, the group has significantly decreased deforestation and helped create sustainable livelihood options in forest management, small-scale fisheries and organic agriculture benefiting more than 100,000 people. Under Novin’s leadership MASTA has also worked to improve access to social benefits for more than 5,000 low-income families, and its economic development programs have directly benefited 12,000 families. In recognition of their contributions to sustainable development, MASTA was awarded the 2015 Equator Prize by the United Nation Development Program.
“For us, the acknowledgement of our land rights has inspired us to continue working for those most in-need, and to promote sustainable development that is just and with a community economy that ensures equity,” explains Norvin.
Norvin, who is EARTH’s first Miskito graduate, credits EARTH’s emphasis on solidarity with strengthening his commitment to defend the rights of those who cannot do so for themselves. He adds that the opportunity to study at EARTH was not just for him, but for all of the Miskito people.
“I am a professional, but more than that I am a servant of our people,” says Norvin.
According to Norvin, EARTH prepared him to be an indigenous leader and that by applying his EARTH education he has been able to go beyond just the technical aspects of agriculture to address human, environmental, and social issues fundamental to the development of indigenous communities.
Norvin hopes to send more Miskito youth to EARTH and dreams of one day building an EARTH-like institution in the Miskito territory.
“Supporting the education of indigenous youth gives opportunities to those who for many centuries have not had any; it’s a long-term investment that pays because we return to our communities and fight for those most in need.”
Norvin gives thanks to his scholarship donor, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, for its support of the Miskito people, adding: “I am extending an official invitation to the representatives of the Kellogg Foundation to come and see the results of their investment in our people.”