Strengthening the resilience of the rural population in south-eastern Haiti to seasonal water shortages
Project title: Strengthening living conditions of vulnerable communities in regions of seasonal water shortage in south-eastern Haiti
Commissioned by: German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ)
Lead executing agency: Ministry of Planning and External Cooperation
Project term: 2016 to 2019
Haiti is one of the countries that is most at risk from natural disasters worldwide. The greatest dangers stem from tropical hurricanes in the south-eastern part of the country, which bring heavy rainfall, causing landslides and damage from erosion. Increasingly, climate change is also affecting the distribution of precipitation throughout the year. The country has experienced irregular and long-lasting dry periods and even droughts, for instance in 2014 and 2015. Besides rainfall, the region's water resources are limited to a few sources, of which only two are able to supply water all year round.
As well as global climate change, the clearing of primary forest and conversion of woodland into farmland, especially on steep slopes, plays a part in reducing the natural renewal of water resources. Since 1920, Haiti’s forest cover has fallen from over 60 per cent to less than 2 per cent. The use of land for farming and horticulture, for instance the cultivation of root crops, exposes the ground to heavy rainfall and consequently leads to erosion, as well as to the reduction of infiltration and the capacity for water retention. The important ecological role played by the forests in the region in temperature regulation and water storage is being diminished, and water sources are running dry more quickly and more frequently.
When there are supply shortages, the price of water rises substantially because of the cost of additional transportation. For small-scale farmers and their families, long dry periods pose a threat to their livelihoods, since they have to use additional financial resources for drinking water – at the same time as expecting lower income as a result of crop failures. Unpurified surface water is not suitable for drinking because of the poor sanitary conditions.
In 2015, during which the El Niño phenomenon was witnessed, the lack of water led to extreme supply shortages for households and to crop failures of between 60 and 80 per cent. The food scarcity forced the population to consume seed stocks, meaning that the production base was then reduced. The result was a loss in earnings. The resilience of the population in south-eastern Haiti to recurring dry periods is nowhere near sufficient.
The resilience of the rural population in south-eastern Haiti to recurring dry periods is improved.
In order to improve the resilience of the rural population in south-eastern Haiti to recurring dry periods and seasonal water shortages, the project is primarily focusing on three areas of activity:
- Improving the availability of water during dry periods
As part of development-oriented and structure-building transitional development assistance, the project is improving the rural population’s resilience to recurring dry periods and, as a result, also contributing to achieving food security and reducing poverty in south-eastern Haiti.
- Constructing containers for storing rainwater, for example cisterns
Measures to increase water storage capacity and to manage the water infrastructure sustainably are directly improving the living conditions of the population. In most households, women and children are responsible for the water supply, so these groups in particular will benefit from the measures.
- Adapting agricultural production systems to climate-related changes
The focus here is on small-scale agriculture, for which there is a need to stabilise production systems in the face of risks relating to climate change. The project is helping farmers adapt to climate change and is disseminating efficient practices to combat desertification, to protect soil fertility and to collect and conserve rainwater. At the same time, this is designed to contribute to preserving natural water resources.
The local authorities and the population concerned have very little, if any, financial leeway. The measures are therefore set to include the financing of equipment and the procurement of work materials, depending on the ongoing needs.
To improve the basic infrastructure and rural access routes, as well as to protect steep slopes from erosion, additional cash-for-work measures are to be implemented with local work brigades. These offer households in particularly badly affected rural areas a form of short-term financial support in the event of supply shortfalls.
Competence building in governmental institutions and in local civil society organisations operating in the water and agriculture sectors is a component of the project. Of key importance is the communication of knowledge about the efficient operation and sustainable management of the infrastructure and about disaster risk management.