Community Resilience in the Dry Corridor of Honduras

CONTEXT: 

In recent years, recurrent droughts in the Dry Corridor communities of Honduras (CSH) have left more than 1.3 million people affected in 146 municipalities *. The conditions for the year 2018 were very difficult due to the involvement of a prolonged heatwave that affected the production of the first planting cycle.In 2019, according to estimates made by the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock (SAG), the drought will continue to severely affect the most vulnerable families in 140 municipalities of the CSH, and WFP figures reveal that during the last harvest – the first half of the year – 60% of crops were lost. The Permanent Contingency Commission (Copeco) forecasts the increase of one degree in temperature, which favors forest fires and crop pests.

The climatic variability and the vulnerability of the families located in the CSH, are two factors with a proportional relationship, the greater the presence of negative climatic phenomena also increases the effects on the population and therefore their vulnerability, thus affecting their livelihoods and  the food security of their families.

The government of Honduras since 2015 issued the emergency decree for drought (PCM 069_2016) *, which was ratified and extended until December 31, 2017.

THE PROJECT:

The project design was based on a key process approach to building community resilience. The most vulnerable communities were identified and 15 Local Emergency Committees (CODELs) were organized with the recognition of the Permanent Contingency Commission of Honduras (COPECO) and the Municipal Governments. Once organized, the capacity building processes began, developing various activities such as training in Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) and the Early Warning System (SAT). During this phase, a vulnerability analysis, risk maps, response protocols, and the community action plan based on the identification of vulnerabilities and focused on the actions that communities must carry out to address climate variability and increase the community resilience were developed.

The communities prioritized the most relevant works, among those we can find recharges of small-scale aquifers, rational use of water and intelligent agriculture techniques in water; water capture and distribution systems for human consumption, as well as local options that improve the quality of available water.

Among the most important methodologies that were implemented during the project is the Field Schools (ECA’s) for the adoption of good agricultural practices in community plots, with which the producers were able to interact and organize themselves in work teams to provide to them technical assistance and production in the plots.

Participants were also trained to monitor communities for the purposes of climate variability through monitoring tools that record key socio-economic and agroclimatic data for decision making during agricultural periods, as well as to implement protection measures for families regarding food security in the face of drought.

As part of the drought monitoring tools, the use of the automated tool for the alert system was piloted through an application on the CommCare platform, through cell phones, which feeds on the information collected manually by the members of the CODEL.

The project closed its activities with a simulation exercise where the communities put into practice all the knowledge acquired, as well as the tools developed during the life of the project.

The Project involved members of the communities, leaders, and local associations, municipal authorities in risk reduction activities. The actions were framed within the different national and international strategies for addressing Disaster Risk Reduction such as the SINAGER Law, the National Risk Management Plan of Honduras, as well as aligned with the Sendai Framework for Action and the Central American Policy for Comprehensive Disaster Risk Management.

During the implementation of the project, all activities were carried out under a gender approach where the participation of women within the CODEL community structures was taken into account, reaching a 26% participation in the managerial positions and in the decision-making process.

 In the Communities, women and girls are responsible for guaranteeing the water supply in families, which is why their needs and opinions were taken into account when building demonstration mitigation works such as improvements in water sources, prioritizing to women-led families. 

1,404 women and girls – out of a total of 2,700 people – participated directly in the CODELs and ECAs, representing 52% participation in structures for community resilience and the adoption of good agricultural practices in their homes.

Organization: 15 Local Emergency Committees (CODELs) were organized in the same number of Communities in the municipalities of San Francisco de Coray – in the Department of Valle – and San Isidro and San José in the Department of Choluteca.

Capacity Strengthening: The capacities of the CODELs were strengthened with tools that allow them to manage risks more efficiently and reduce the vulnerabilities of communities to different threats through training and technical support that allowed the construction of Contingency Plans, Resource and Threat Maps, Vulnerability Analysis, Emergency Management Protocols and Seasonal Calendars as well as the use of the Early Drought Warning System (SAT Drought).

Innovation: The Project equipped the CODELs with technological tools and instruments (COMMCARE Platform with Dashboard and Android application) that facilitates the monitoring of hydrometeorological, socioeconomic and Food Security variables (affected by drought) and the generation of alerts automatically, facilitating the CODELs and municipal authorities in decision making, in order to guarantee a quick response and attention to the affected families before they suffer damage.

Good Agricultural Practices: To improve the adaptability and ensure the availability of food in the communities, the capacities of 448 agricultural producers in 15 Agricultural Field Schools (ECAs) were organized and strengthened, training them on good agricultural practices that allowed them to improve variability of food through family gardens and increase yields in basic grain crops. The classroom was a demonstration plot of 400 square meters equipped with a micro irrigation system to implement all the good practices and technologies that agricultural producers learned and are implementing in their plots. For the replication of good practices in their communities it was necessary to provide agricultural inputs such as fertilizers and seeds and the technical support provided by CARE specialists and community leaders.

Mitigation infrastructure: The CODELs, as part of the process of building their contingency plans, and through community assemblies, identified the different drought mitigation actions and prioritized small-scale infrastructure projects in each of their communities.

Alliances: To achieve greater efficiency in the execution of project resources, an alliance was established with the civil society organization “National Advocacy Roundtable for Risk Management of the Southern Region of Honduras,” said Roundtable was part of the project team during the process of capacity building in the subject of risk reduction, SAT, damage assessment, simulation, protocols among others.

Simulation Exercise: The project closed its activities with the completion of a simulation exercise in case of a drought emergency where the communities organized in the CODELs put into practice all the knowledge acquired and validated tools such as the CommCare platform. The information that is uploaded from the Android application to said platform is used at the municipal level to make support decisions for their communities. 

The achievements of these communities in terms of organization and emergency preparedness in the face of droughts have been remarkable. The communities assumed an important leading role in an emergency situation caused by the prolonged heatwave in the first agricultural cycle in the Dry Corridor in 2018 and have shown a great openness to work together with local governments.

The following results correspond to the implementation of the Community Resilience Improvement Project in the Dry Corridor of Honduras in the fifteen previously selected communities.

• The organization of the 15 communities in the project intervention area was 100% achieved.

• A level of awareness was generated in the communities about the complexity of climate vulnerability, where they are located as the main actor to seek solutions and respond in advance.

• The Communities enhanced local knowledge through the complementarity of technological tools such as the Early Drought Warning System (SAT Drought) and the CommCare platform that allowed to handle truthful and updated information on the effects of drought and make decisions in real time. This could be evidenced in the simulation exercise, where communities under a rain absence scenario in the first cycle used the tools developed by the project.

• The involvement of municipal authorities in the use of the SAT – Drought was successful because they have a tool that provides them with evidence to make timely decisions and reduce the impact of  drought on the communities.

• The community leaders recognized the importance of organizing in CODELs and the need for greater articulation with the municipal level to provide a timely and early response to the families of the communities affected by drought (water shortages, food, lack of income, migration, among others).

• The Communities strengthened articulation and management capacities with municipal governments, based on the identification of their needs, becoming agents of their own development.

• Through the Field Schools methodology, the resilience of agricultural producers was improved, and it was found that higher yields in production and better nutrition were obtained with the diversification of vegetable production.

• The communities strengthened their knowledge in good agricultural practices and water management, guaranteeing access for various uses such as consumption and irrigation in small-scale plots, and also improved the quality, availability and variety of food, also contributing to the protection of their livelihoods and therefore the food security of the most vulnerable families.

• Infrastructure projects benefited 452 families. In 13 communities, the construction and improvement of infrastructure were prioritized to improve access and water quality and in the other 2 communities they prioritized projects related to strengthening the infrastructure for the storage of basic grains. Twenty community leaders were trained in the construction of metal silos and storage of basic grains and the provision of material and equipment for the preparation of 32 silos that increased the capacity to store grains in 576 quintals.

Lessons Learned:

– To develop training processes it is very important to start from the knowledge of the communities to motivate them to assume new concepts and methods. We cannot impose our criteria.

– During the training processes it is important to present the reality, even if it is considered obvious, to advance to a higher level of awareness that allows communities to react in a timely and organized manner.

– Assess the capacities of the communities and the potential of their human talent for the use of technologies in drought monitoring and decision making from them.

– Expand the use of technological tools such as CommCare through the involvement of decision makers; Municipalities and COPECO, which together with the community can identify in a timely manner the threats and their possible impact to prevent, prepare and mitigate the risks. 

 

Final Reflections:

– It was a project that provided a lot of learning for both the communities and CARE. The identification and utilization of capacities in the communities increases the level of resilience in any emergency scenario.

– The level of organization demonstrated and the commitment in each of the communities, showed that, with a little help, they may be able to respond in an orderly and correct manner in the event of an emergency.

– Developing the processes from and with the community gives a greater sense of belonging and provides the elements for sustainability, and the development of organizational awareness in each leader so that they take responsibility for managing their own risks, protecting their livelihoods and the food security of their families, in short, improve community resilience.

– For CARE, the development of participatory processes that allow the empowerment of the population and the necessary sustainability as part of the pillars of its mission and vision has always been fundamental; Be process facilitators. The FNS drought Early Warning System has been designed and implemented under these two strategic concepts and therefore, since its inception, all processes have been developed under close coordination with all relevant actors, considering their capabilities and fields of action.

– Given the climate perspectives for the year 2019, it is very important to follow up the consolidated structures during the Project to motivate them to continue monitoring climate variability and the socioeconomic effects that this entails.

– The coverage of the implementation of this type of projects should be extended to the municipal level to articulate and provide a response on a larger scale and a more efficient use of municipal resources.

– The Drought EWS must be articulated between all the structures of the National Risk Management System (SINAGER), or at least develop the capacities of the municipal and community level to obtain better results in its implementation.

– Promote the organization and participation of women in community and municipal processes so that adaptation measures respond to their needs and points of view. 

Graphic Annexes

  • Local Emergency Committee – codel
  • Training for CODEL in Risk Reduction, regarding ACC and EWS
  • Community Drought Risk Management Maps Construction
  • Sworn-in of the CODEL by COPECO
  • Mitigation Works selection
  • Field Schools – eca´s – Good Agricultural practices
  • Comunidad Guayabo, San José, module 4, 5, 6 and post-harvest follow-up
  • Comunidad Los Amates, Coray, module 1 y 2
  • Mitigation works for vulnerability reduction in communities:
  • Training on silos construction for grain storage
  • Protection of water sources and Restoration of piped water systems.