By Betsy Agle
Drought over past several years is causing a national emergency in Honduras. The drought is caused by climate change, possibly aggravated by El Niño. Without rains in May and June, many families will be malnourished and even hungry. Some family members will be forced to leave the communities to search for city jobs or even to leave the country. In communities that have been in the TCP program for years, improved soil and water conservation practices are providing some protection against the impact of the drought.
During a recent trip to Honduras, TCP members saw scattered fields of dead cornstalks. Corn and beans are the staple crops and together are a source of complete protein in the daily diet. Drought reduced the planting done last December. Farming families are now praying that the annual May and June rains will water the seeds planted this spring. Two poor crops in a row will spell severe hardship for all the families and disaster for some.
Florentino Amaya told the TCP visitors during their recent visit that the agricultural practices he has learned from Roy Lara are “excellent” because they have helped protect his crops from climate change. Antonio Gamez says that turning the material he slashed down at the end of last year’s harvest makes good mulch and protects this year’s planting. A simple tool made of a wooden A-frame and a plumb line enables farmers to plant seeds in contour lines across the mountainsides to catch and hold the water in the soil. Placing recycled plastic bottles filled with water provides drip irrigation through pin holes in the cap to individual plants with almost no water lost to evaporation.
Their fields and vegetable gardens of long-time TCP farming families are now demonstration plots for others. New families are eager to learn these new practices and in some communities farms belonging to new TCP participants are already being used for training.
The number one home improvement which the women in the new communities want is a water-conserving sink. Traditional sinks store water in large basins for later use in smaller sinks with drains. Scarcity of water and loss of water to evaporation make these large holding sinks impractical. Both communities depend on water brought to the villages from far-away water encatchments in tubes that have been heavily damaged by fallen trees and mudslides. In one community this public water system delivers water only intermittently and in the other never because it is completely destroyed. In the second community they bathe and wash clothes in the nearby river.
Altagracias Pena, like the other women in the village of El Puente, brings water up from the river to cook, clean her home, and water fruit trees and a small garden. She treasures this new water-conserving sink that was built for her by other members of her village, who had learned how to make them from a demonstration by a Vecinos Honduras staff member. After being used and then passed through several layers of gravel and rocks, the filtered water is drained into a nearby family garden.
As shown in the photo above, in El Cablotal which receives diminishing supplies of water from functioning water pipes, water-conserving sinks made of recycled tires and cement are valued. No matter what material the sink is built of, the water is used sparingly, filtered, and then drained to water plants.
Emphasis on workshops on practices to conserve soil and water will continue during 2016. The specific practices will differ, depending on the needs and wishes expressed by participants in the community.
Click to see Conservation Measure and Drought photos.