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María’s Harvest: Empowering Sustainable Farming and Drought Resilience in Honduras

Published 06/05/2024 by Global Communities

María now stores water in her water harvester for irrigation of her crops.

María Martínez is a wife, mother, grandmother and producer of basic grains living in the Zacatustal, San Ramón, Choluteca community in Honduras. Her home is far from central markets which makes access to nutritious food a challenge. María received fencing wire, seeds and fertilizers from the United States Agency for International Development’s Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance (USAID/BHA)-funded Strengthening the Agricultural System of Honduras (HASS) project to establish a family garden. Receiving these materials allowed her to diversify her and her family’s diets by growing a variety of fruits and vegetables, thus ensuring continuous access to fresh food for her household. María also received technical assistance through HASS Field Schools. She and her husband were able to apply newly learned cultivation techniques to their corn and bean crops.

“This is the first time that a project has come to the community to provide training to improve farming techniques,” shares María. “Before, we managed to produce six loads of corn and now, we manage 14. We did not plant any beans before [the HASS project] and now, we harvest four loads because we learned how to take advantage of the land. Thanks to USAID/BHA

, we now have guaranteed food for a longer time.”

Through HASS, project participants, like María, are putting into practice what they have learned. They have planted a variety of crops such as beans, radish, sweet chili, cucumber, squash and mustard. Crop diversification for self-consumption is a key strategy to improve the nutrition of communities by providing a greater variety of nutrients, reducing the risk of deficiencies and promoting healthier diets.

Integration of sustainable agricultural practices

María harvesting produce in her family garden.
María harvesting produce in her family garden.

HASS promotes food security, encourages learning sustainable agricultural practices and strengthens producer’s knowledge through targeted project implementation strategies. The integration of agricultural practices carried out by HASS works to improve food security, provide access and facilitate food for families. HASS trainings include agricultural technologies, technical assistance, delivery of agricultural materials, tools and equipment for the establishment of family gardens, drip irrigation systems and water harvesting with geomembrane bags.

An alternative method for the dry season

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the first half of 2024 is expected to be impacted by the El Niño phenomenon – a weather event marked by warmer-than-average sea surface temperatures – creating prolonged droughts. In the upcoming months, the impact of the La Niña phenomenon is expected to put small-scale production of basic grains at risk in the Honduran Dry Corridor (CSH).

María irrigating her vegetable garden with water available from the water harvester.

Without the added complication of the El Niño phenomenon, María faces water shortages during the dry season. To meet her family’s domestic need for water, they temporarily connect hoses from the beginning of a creek to their homes. However, this solution does not meet the additional water requirements to irrigate her garden. Aware of the importance of keeping the harvester full, María and her family have explored alternatives, they organize themselves to carry water in containers to ensure the supply of the vital liquid.

To help reduce the impact of the dry season, Global Communities with support from USAID/BHA, is installing water harvesters with geomembrane bags for small-scale producers in supported communities. With these water harvesters, they can maintain a constant supply of water for irrigation of their home gardens. This equipment collects rainwater through a polyvinyl chloride (PVC) drain installed on the roof of the house. Once collected, the water is stored in a highly resistant geomembrane bag where it is kept until it is used to irrigate crops. Knowing that water will be available helps farmers navigate the increasingly unpredictable planting cycles in the dry corridor and mitigate the impacts of climate change in the region.

These harvesters represent an innovative and efficient solution to capture and store water in areas where the resource is limited. This allows project participants to collect and retain rainwater effectively, offering an opportunity for communities and families facing water shortages.

“My commitment is to take care of this water harvester so that it will last me a long time,” said María.

In these CSH communities, water harvesters emerge as a ray of hope, as a tool that guarantees crops’ survival and represents the communities’ symbol of resistance and resilience in the face of climate change effects.