Personal water harvest coaches
Watershed community management in Honduras
David Marquez wanted to increase his farm’s production to make a better life for his family, so he signed up for training from iDE in 2012, where he learned about the importance of diversifying crops. He then planted a vegetable crop in addition to expanding his coffee. When a fungal disease called la roya (literally, “the rust”) began to destroy his coffee crops, he was very thankful.
“Many who had just been growing coffee lost everything and are struggling to pay for food, school, medicine, etc. I thank God my family is not in that situation; I can’t imagine what I would do if my extended family of 19 didn’t have enough to eat.”
The thin months
The Corredor Seco (“dry corridor”) in Honduras covers most of the southern region. Due to geographic and climate conditions, the area regularly suffers drought conditions, which have only increased in recent times.
Nearly all of the 650,000 people living in the Corredor Seco have incomes under $2 a day, and half are estimated to suffer from stunting due to years of malnutrition. Models have indicated that investment in agricultural technologies here would produce the highest reduction in extreme poverty.
Honduran coffee farming typically takes place only in four months of the year, with the other eight months considered “thin months,” where families have to survive on the earnings from the coffee harvest.
Through training from iDE, David Marquez introduced new crops to his coffee farm to help his family through the thin months. He began growing radishes, lettuce, cucumbers, tomatoes, beans, plantains, chiles, pumpkins, potatoes, maize, cabbage, and coriander. This diversification not only provides him and his family with a richer diet, but also increases his yearly income through sales of the produce.
iDE’s Nuestra Cuenca Goascorán project, implemented in partnership with the Swiss Development Agency for Cooperation (SDC), helps people like David Marquez. Project technicians engage with communities and households to discuss their water challenges. We connect farmers with training opportunities, and develop community improvement projects that can be submitted to the Fundación para el Desarrollo Empresarial Rural, a government-run savings program.
An example farm
David Marquez has now equipped his farm with a drip irrigation system that uses gravity to feed the lines. As the river from which his water comes sometimes dries out in summer, David worked with iDE technicians to build a rainwater catchment basin.
David’s farm is now a training site and a success story, showing how to diversify farm income with easy and sustainable agricultural and water management techniques. Farmers, technicians, and students from the region frequently visit his farm for learning and inspiration. He plans to introduce fish into the reservoir in the next summer, anticipating being able to sell fresh fish meals to visitors.
iDE’s activities under the Nuestra Cuenca Goascorán project include training sessions on improved agricultural practices, promoting reforestation, discussions on water governance, raising awareness about water protection, and identifying leaders to further promote water management in their communities.
The focus on leaders like David Marquez is important, as the current project can only reach about one percent of the population (5,000 families, representing at least 15,000 individuals). But the project is laying the groundwork for the establishment of a network of farm advisors, to extend and scale water management concepts in the future.
Since the project began, iDE has:
- successfully trained 800 families, 700 of which are already using better farming practices and micro-irrigation technologies;
- implemented 19 community, water protection, and reforestation programs;
- established 52 families with reference farms;
- built 12 impluviums, or water reservoirs; and
- facilitated community work oriented to governance, so that projects are sustainable in the long run.