Development & Aid, Environment, Headlines, Integration and Development Brazilian-style, Latin America & the Caribbean, Poverty & SDGs, TerraViva United Nations, Water & Sanitation

Water & Sanitation

Community-Based Solutions Alleviate Water Shortages in Central America – In Pictures

Angélica María Posada, teacher and principal of the school in the village of El Guarumal, in the municipality of Sensembra, in the department of Morazán, in eastern El Salvador, poses with some of her primary school students in front of the tank that supplies drinking water to the school and also to 150 families in this and other neighboring villages. Rainwater is collected on the tin roof and channeled into an underground tank. It is then pumped to a station where it is filtered and purified, before flowing into the tank, ready for consumption. Credit Edgardo Ayala

Angélica María Posada, teacher and principal of the school in the village of El Guarumal, in the municipality of Sensembra, in the department of Morazán, in eastern El Salvador, poses with some of her primary school students in front of the tank that supplies drinking water to the school and also to 150 families in this and other neighboring villages. Rainwater is collected on the tin roof and channeled into an underground tank. It is then pumped to a station where it is filtered and purified, before flowing into the tank, ready for consumption. Credit Edgardo Ayala

SAN SALVADOR, Aug 19 2021 (IPS) - Access to water is a constant struggle in Central America, a region with more than 60 million people, many of whom live in rural areas where conditions for good quality water and enough for food production are becoming increasingly difficult.

Climate change has further deepened water scarcity in Central America, especially in the so-called Dry Corridor where some 11 million people live, but instead of sitting back and do nothing, they have sought ways of obtaining water.

Rural communities living within this 1,600-kilometer-long strip of land “harvest” rainwater: first, it is collected in the roof of the houses and then channeled to water storage tanks, or to large ponds to grow fish, irrigate home gardens and produce food.

Local residents of El Guarumal, a hamlet near Sensembra, a municipality in the eastern department of Morazán, in El Salvador, have done exactly that.

Other villages have had access to a piped water supply, but have lacked electricity.

Those communities, settled on the banks of the rivers, have set up then their own community hydroelectric projects, such as the one built in Joya de Talchiga and Potrerillos, hamlets located in eastern El Salvador, as well as those in the Zona Reyna Ecoregion, in the northwestern department of Quiché, Guatemala.

IPS has been following all these efforts in the region for several years, as shown in the images we display now, which reveal the resolution of these poor and rural communities to gain access to increasingly scarce water resources.

An innovative and efficient system for collecting and purifying rain water has been installed in the school of El Guarumal, a hamlet in eastern El Salvador. Teachers report that gastrointestinal ailments have been significantly reduced since the students started to drink purified water. The initiative is part of the Mesoamerica Hunger Free programme, implemented since 2015 by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and financed by the Mexican Agency for International Development Cooperation (Amexcid). Similar projects have been promoted in five other countries out of the nine that make up the programme. Credit: Edgardo Ayala / IPS

 

A system for collecting and purifying rainwater, similar to the one installed in El Guarumal, in eastern El Salvador, was built in Mata Limón, a small town in the province of Monte Plata, north of Santo Domingo, in República Dominicana, one of the six countries that are part of an initiative promoted by FAO and Mexican cooperation. Thanks to this effort, the students can drink purified water, which is stored not in a tank, as in El Salvador, but in smaller containers. Credit: FAO

 

Santos Henríquez, from the village of El Guarumal in El Salvador, checks his net to see if he has caught any tilapia from the reservoir built on his 1.5-hectare land. In addition to aquaculture, this farmer harvests green peppers, tomatoes, cabbages, a local variety of bean called “ejote” and fruits such as mangoes and oranges, among others. “We grow a little bit of everything,” Henríquez, 48, said proudly. Credit: Edgardo Ayala / IPS

 

The reservoir that Santos Henríquez has set up on his parcel of land, in the hills of the hamlet of El Guarumal, in eastern El Salvador, provides him with tilapias to feed himself and his family, and the surplus production, both of fish and vegetables, is sold it in the village of Sensembra, a town located in the so-called Dry Corridor, a 1,600-kilometer-long belt that crosses Central America where water is scarce and food production, a challenge. Credit: Edgardo Ayala / IPS

 

Tilapia farming is one of the activities that provide quality protein to families in El Guarumal, in eastern El Salvador, located in the Central American Dry Corridor. The fish multiply in the reservoirs as fry are born, which means that production is not only enough for family consumption but can also produce a surplus that can be sold in the village or in neighboring areas. Credit: Edgardo Ayala / IPS

 

Some families living in coastal hamlets near San Luis La Herradura have dug ponds for sustainable fishing, which was of great help to local residents during the quarantine period imposed to prevent the spread of covid-19 in this coastal area of southern El Salvador. The pond is regularly filled by the tide. Credit: Edgardo Ayala / IPS

 

Pedro Ramos, Víctor de León, Ofelia Chávez and Daniel Santos (from left to right), from La Colmena, a hamlet in the Salvadoran municipality of Candelaria de la Frontera, in the western department of Santa Ana, show the huge collective reservoir built in their village to irrigate their home gardens and corn crops, as well as to water their livestock. The reservoir, with a capacity of 500,000 litres, is a rectangular pond dug into the ground, 2.5 m deep, 20 m long and 14 m wide, covered by a polyethylene membrane that prevents filtration and retains the water. It was built as part of a climate change adaptation project implemented by FAO. Credit: Edgardo Ayala / IPS

 

Víctor de León serves himself freshly purified water from a seven-litre container fitted with a filter that purifies rainwater collected from the roof, given to his family and to 12 others as part of a project designed to address the effects of climate change in his village, La Colmena, located in the so-called Central American Dry Corridor. The extreme climate, characterized not only by prolonged droughts but also by heavy rains, makes it difficult to produce food and keep alive the few head of cattle that some families own. But rainwater “harvesting” provides water to drink and to fill the two reservoirs built in the community, to irrigate their gardens and water their cows. Credit: Edgardo Ayala / IPS

 

Corina Canjura loads a jug of water that she has just filled from a system of rainwater collection located on the ground next to her house, in the village of Los Corvera in the municipality of Tepetitán, in the central Salvadoran department of San Vicente. Here, 13 families benefited from this project promoted in 2017 by the Global Water Partnership, the Australian cooperation and the Ford Foundation. The rainwater that falls on the roof of Canjura’s house is then channeled through a pipe into a huge polyethylene bag, with a capacity of 25,000 liters. From there, it is manually pumped into a tank with a faucet used collectively by all of the families. “Now we just pump, fill the tank and we have water ready to use,” said the 30-year-old woman to IPS, during a tour around the area in 2018. Credit: Edgardo Ayala / IPS

 

Drip irrigation from rainwater “harvesting” is one of the most efficient and therefore one of the most used in the communities settled in the Central American Dry Corridor. International organizations have supported these families to set up this irrigation system to be able to produce food during the severe climate that hit this area: prolonged droughts and extreme rains. Credit: FAO

 

Women play an important role in the efforts of rural communities in El Salvador to gain access to water and to set up drip irrigation systems to ensure food production, and thus people can cope with the impacts that climate change is having on the territory. IPS has witnessed how women have played a leading role in the search for food security in villages and towns across the country. Credit: FAO

 

Dennis Alejo is a Salvadoran who was deported while trying to cross into the United States from Mexico. Once in his country, he began growing tomatoes for a living in his town, Berlín, in the department of Usulután, in eastern El Salvador. Producing food in regions of Central America is becoming increasingly difficult with the impacts of climate change, and access to water is vital to prevent crops from drying up. Credit: Edgardo Ayala / IPS

 

Several villages located near San Luis Talpa, a municipality in the central department of La Paz, in El Salvador, have for years denounced the burning and logging of the forest in that area by the sugar industry in its quest to expand sugar cane fields. In this photograph, Judge Samuel Lizama, of the Environmental Court of San Salvador, verifies in June 2016 the damage in a deforested area in the Santo Tomás Cooperative, in that municipality. Credit: Edgardo Ayala / IPS

 

A woman in the hamlet of Las Monjas, in the municipality of San Luis Talpa, in central El Salvador, tries to draw some water from her well, which is increasingly running dry because groundwater in the area is scarce due to intensive sprinkler irrigation used by the sugar industry in a 209-hectare sugar cane field that surrounds the village of 800 people. The study Situation of water resources in Central America, published by Global Water Partnership, already warned in 2018 that of the total water available, only 30.6 percent goes for human consumption, while 70 percent is distributed in irrigation (50.6 percent), industrial (3.7 percent), thermoelectric power generation (13 percent), aquaculture (1.8 percent) and hotel (0.02 percent). Credit: Edgardo Ayala / IPS

 

Over the years, IPS has run stories of communities affected by the country’s sugar industry, which blocks streams to build small dams to irrigate their sugar cane crops with irrigation systems. This has impacted the flow of many rivers in the country, as shown in this image by activist Silvia Ramírez, in the hamlet of San Fernando, near San Marcos Lempa, in eastern El Salvador. Credit: Edgardo Ayala / IPS

 

According to official figures published in 2020, 89.7% of Salvadoran households have direct access to a piped water supply, a definition including faucets inside or outside the home, a neighboring sink or communal faucet. This data shows that 5.4% of homes are supplied by wells, and the remaining 4.8%, obtain water from other sources, including: springs, rivers and streams; water truck, ox cart or waterpipe; protected and unprotected springs; rainwater harvesting; and other means. Credit: Edgardo Ayala / IPS

 

Nearly 5% of the Salvadoran population relies on rivers or springs to meet their needs of water, and that´s why it is still common to see families washing clothes or doing the dishes in streams and creeks, like this woman and her children, submerged waist-deep in the Aguas Calientes river, part of the Lempa river basin, near San Marcos Lempa, in the department of Usulután, El Salvador. Credit: Edgardo Ayala / IPS

 

Juan Benítez, president of the Nuevos Horizontes Association of Joya de Talchiga, rests on the edge of the dike built as part of the El Calambre mini-hydroelectric dam. The 40 plus families in the village have had electricity since 2012, thanks to the project they built themselves, in the mountains of eastern El Salvador. The small dike dams the water in a segment of the river, and part of the flow is directed through underground pipes to the engine house, 900 metres below, inside which a turbine makes a 58-kW generator roar. Credit: Edgardo Ayala

 

Carolina Martínez and her children stand in front of their house, lit inside by a light bulb, in the village of Joya de Talchiga in the eastern Salvadoran department of Morazán. The 36-year-old teacher is one of the beneficiaries of the community hydroelectric project, which since 2012 has provided electricity to more than 40 local families. The small hydroelectric plant was built by local residents in exchange for becoming beneficiaries of the service. The total cost of the mini-dam was over 192,000 dollars, 34,000 of which were contributed by the community with the many hours of work that the local residents put in, which were assigned a monetary value. Credit: Edgardo Ayala

 

Local residents of Potrerillos, a hamlet located in northeastern El Salvador, check the turbine and generator of the community mini-hydroelectric plant installed by the families of the village, which supplies them with cheap and sustainable energy. The mini power plant, with a capacity of 34 kilowatts (kW), harnesses the waters of the Carolina River to move a turbine that activates a generator to produce enough electricity for 40 beneficiary families, not only in Potrerillos, but also in another nearby community: Los Lobos, in the neighbouring municipality of San Antonio del Mosco. The initiative was carried out with the assistance of the Basic Sanitation, Health Education and Alternative Energies (Sabes) association. Credit: Edgardo Ayala

 

The powerhouse installed on the banks of the Carolina River, whose water puts in motion the mini-hydroelectric plant built in the Potrerillos hamlet, near the municipality of Carolina, in the eastern department of San Miguel. The mini power plant, with a capacity of 34 kilowatts (kW), produce enough electricity for 40 beneficiary families that had to work hard to get their village electrified, after being marginalised by the private electricity distribution companies in El Salvador. Credit: Edgardo Ayala / IPS

 

A man shows the 27-cubic-meter tank of the La Taña community hydropower system, one of four installed in this remote mountainous region populated mostly by indigenous people in the northwestern department of Quiché, Guatemala. This village followed the example of the first project in the area, the 31 de Mayo power plant, called Light of the Heroes and Martyrs of the Resistance, consists of a turbine that generates 75 kW and is powered by the waters of the Putul River, channeled by a two-kilometer concrete channel into a 40-cubic-meter tank. Credit: Edgardo Ayala

 
Republish | | Print |

Related Tags