Rural Water Security Program

Rural Water Security Program 
Over the past 25 years, Central American countries have recorded a continuing reduction and increased variability in rainfall in a region stretching from the Guatemalan Highlands to Costa Rica called the Central American Dry Corridor. Nicaragua brings together the key challenges to communities in this region of addressing changes in quantity of water resources due to reduction in rainfall attributed to climate change, and overuse by existing key industrial sectors. 

Many countries like Nicaragua have an historic abundance of rainfall that has traditionally fallen at predictable times of the year, establishing annual farming cycles that depend exclusively on the reliable onset of the rainy season. Because of the previously dependable cycle of rainfall in Nicaragua, catchment and storage of rain was not considered necessary. Our experience in Nicaragua over the last 25 years is that rainfall is less predictable and varied in the quantities that fall at any given time, requiring a wholesale re-thinking of how to achieve food security through smallholder crop irrigation.

Because of changes to the reliability of groundwater, ViviendasLeon has developed a program to improve local wells and secure sufficient quantities of water for irrigation and domestic use. In the first 18 months of the implementation of the program we have experienced the following outcomes:

·       ViviendasLeón is currently working with 32 families on their food security farms.  In 2018 we completed improvements to 16 wells funded by a grant from the International Foundation.  Results from that project and the current project funded by the Capital Group Foundation, have been extraordinary, surpassing our expectations and creating additional beneficial outcomes.

·       Prior to 2018, families were harvesting one crop a year due to lack of well water for irrigation. Today, 16 families are now planting three crop rotations a year, the maximum possible over 12 months, as their wells are producing up to 3200 liters of water a day.

·       Crop diversity has increased to 16 fruit and vegetable varieties from 3 to 4 previously, and families have begun planting citrus trees for the first time due to an increase in water.  Families report eating more citrus, fruits and vegetables that are better quality and in greater quantity than the families that have not had their wells improved, and are hungry less often.

·       Families have begun selling a greater variety and quantity of crops at local markets year round. They also obtain better prices for their products like tomatoes, bell peppers, green beans and squash during the dry season, because they provide those vegetables to local markets when other farmers without improved wells cannot grow them.

·       With water quantity, quality has also improved. Research indicates that water from deeper sources is typically less contaminated, and significant increases in the quantity of water also has a positive impact.  See article here

·       Children report less dehydration and fewer cases of diarrhea and stomach problems. Cooking and hygiene is easier because there is sufficient water to wash vegetables, dishes and bathe more regularly. Finally, economic activity has extended to new sectors including domesticated animals such as chickens, pigs, cows, ducks, and goats that require potable water.

·       Finally, safety on the farms has increased for children and animals who are not at risk of falling in a well, now that they have a waist high curb and cover, protecting children from getting hurt.

Based on the success of these recent projects, we are embarking on a long term plan to provide 40% of the rural families in the entire indigenous region of Sutiaba near Leon, Nicaragua with secure well water and food security farms.  This project will ultimately involve 1,000 (40% of 2,500) families in the region and will have the capacity to transform the local economy, the lives and futures of all families in this community.  The cost for this long-term project will be spread out over 12 years (80 families/yr) at cost of approximate $2,500,000.