Published on August 30, 2013
water is life
‘DLO SE LAVI’ There are 2.6 billion small-scale farmers in the world. Together they produce a third of the world’s food. To do this, farming families, like those you will meet, need water. Water is the key ingredient that farmers need to grow crops to feed their families and to sell to make a living. Yet, limited and unreliable access to water is the biggest challenge facing all of the small- scale farmers that Progressio works with across the world. In April 2013, Lis Wallace, Progressio’s Policy Officer on Environment, and Fran Afonso, photographer, visited farming families in Gens de Nantes and Lamine in the north east of Haiti. They learned how Progressio is working with local partner organisation Solidarite Fwontalye to make the most of the limited water resources available to farmers. The people they met repeatedly explained: ‘dlo se lavi’ which in Creole means ‘water is life’. Water is important not just for drinking and washing, but also for growing crops so that there is enough food to eat and so farmers can sell their produce and make a living. water is life Previous slide: Jeannie and Luginas, 14 and 3, from Lamine, Haiti
In Gens de Nantes, farmers agreed: ‘Water for agriculture is our priority because if we can grow crops then we can sell the surplus and buy bottled water to drink, but without water for agriculture, we have no food, water or income.’
Good water management is essential, especially when water is scarce. All water users should be empowered to plan for and manage the sustainable use of the water that they depend on for their lives and livelihoods. One farmer explained: ‘People feel responsible for the water that they depend on. Training sessions about how to use water more efficiently have been very useful. These local solutions need to be matched by planning and support from the national level. We would like to have more irrigation projects but haven’t been able to get funding despite offering our labour for free.’ Previous slide: Hands up for water for agriculture The Farmers’ Association meets in Gens de Nantes, Haiti
Angedala and Johnsy, 10 and 12, carry produce that wouldn’t have been able to grow without water Gens de Nantes, Haiti
70% of farmers in developing countries are women. In Gens de Nantes, as elsewhere in the world, women are water managers, food producers and drivers of livelihoods. As such, their participation in decision-making about how water is used is vital. Climate variability affects the amount of water available and in north east Haiti this contributes to an existing scarcity of actual water sources. So girls and women have to walk further to collect water to meet household needs, putting them under ever-increasing pressure and physical strain. Women produce more than half of the food grown in the world
Gens de Nantes, Haiti
Oranus, 42, and Christemene, 38, Gens de Nantes, Haiti
In Gens de Nantes, wellbeing depends on the distance between home and the nearest water source Oranus, 42, and Christemene, 38, (previous slide) live with their four children. Their home is a ten minute walk away from the nearest river. It may not sound far, but that is the distance between thriving and surviving. ‘The distance between the crops and the river has a big impact on whether the crops thrive or survive. The peanuts growing directly next to the river are thriving, whilst the same crops growing only a five minute walk away are struggling to survive in the dry soil,’ explains Oranus. ‘Water is life, because without it we can’t do anything.’
‘Water is life and without it we can’t grow anything,’ says Mimose, 45 Lamine, Haiti
Mimose, 45, and husband Elismar, 51 Lamine, Haiti
Mimose, 45, and husband Elismar, 51, (both pictured previous slide) grow pineapples, sweet potatoes, yukka, cabbages, beans and plantain on a plot of land next to their home. Agriculture is their main source of income, but unpredictable rainfall means crops are struggling and they currently have to buy in food to feed their family. ‘Water is life and without it we can’t grow anything,’ says Mimose, 45. ‘We believe we could grow more food for our family if we were able to collect and store the rain that does fall and if we could find a way of getting water from the river to irrigate our land. ‘We are concerned that things will only get worse without leadership and intervention. With the help of Solidarite Fwontalye we have improved our farming techniques but the important thing for us now is to improve our access to water.’ ‘Generally we use rain water for agriculture, and the river for everything else, but there’s no water downstream where we live so we have to walk to the source, which is an hour away,’ Elismar explains.
Placide, 69, wants water storage solutions that will meet future water needs Lamine, Haiti
‘Over the years the amount of water in the rivers has reduced due to deforestation, soil degradation and climate change,’ says Placide (previous slide). ‘Before, agriculture was more productive and we were able to sell surplus crops at market but we can’t grow as much anymore as there is less rain. Both the quality and quantity of water has decreased so we are concerned that it will continue to get worse in the future. ‘Water is fundamental to everything: agriculture and keeping livestock, cooking, cleaning, drinking and washing. We only have access to water from two rivers. There are no pumps or cisterns in this community. We would like a pump to access the ground water, and a tank to store it.’
Placide, 69, and Marie-Jocelyne, 57 Lamine, Haiti
Progressio’s ‘people powered development’ works. For Placide, 69, Marie-Jocelyn, 57, (both previous slide) and son Kesnel, 20, the result is a rich variety of crops, including cocoa, plantains, red peppers, sweet potatoes, peas and potatoes. This is possible because of better water resource management. Kesnel and his family presented their concerns about the lack of irrigation and the contamination of local water resources to the local authorities and local radio stations. But until Solidarite Fwontalye started working with them, no one was doing anything about the problems. ‘With the help of Solidarite Fwontalye, we are learning different farming techniques and how to be more productive and sustainable with the resources that we have. In order to cope with extremes of floods and droughts, we have built a water-retaining wall to limit the damage of tropical storms and we have planted trees and restored ravines in order to protect against soil erosion and landslides,’ says Kesnel.
Progressio Development Worker Gabriel Petit-Homme Lamine, Haiti
‘We need more money and political will to invest in rain water capture and storage systems, and more irrigation systems,’ explains Gabriel Petit-Homme, one of Progressio’s Development Workers in Haiti (previous slide). 80% of land used globally for agriculture is rain fed. By 2020, as a result of changing climate and rainfall variability, crop yields from rain-dependent agriculture could be down by 50%. Yet, by 2050 the world’s water resources will have to support agricultural systems that can feed and create livelihoods for an additional 2.7 billion people. The link between water and agriculture often does not get the political attention and priority that it deserves. Consequently, there is not enough funding available for small-scale irrigation and rainwater capture and storage systems. National governments and international donors must prioritise investment in infrastructure to improve smallholder farmers’ access to water. Governments should direct significant resources towards promoting sustainable water resource management, providing training for rainwater harvesting and supporting water conservation, so that even during periods of drought crops can grow and families can feed themselves. So what can be done?
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