Micro-dams Create Bountiful Oases for Haitian Farmers

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01 May 2013 | Roger Hamilton

Haitian farmers are beginning to harvest bumper crops of fruits and vegetables in eroded gullies thanks to the innovative use of humble concrete and rock dams. 50 micro-dams have been built in the Ennery-Quinte watershed, northern Haiti as part of an agricultural intensification program financed by the IDB with a US$27.1 million grant. 150 micro-dams are scheduled for completion by 2013. According to IDB’s 2012 Sustainability Report, “micro-dams can turn wasteland into productive garden plots” providing a low-cost measure for adapting to future climate change.

In Ennery-Quinte, farmers have stripped the land bare of vegetation, allowing storm runoff to course down hillsides and carry away what little soil remains. Climate change is expected to increase the frequency and intensity of storms, which would impoverish the land and farmers even further. Built in selected spots in the gullies, micro-dams slow rainwater flow creating temporary silt-laden ponds. Once the ponds evaporate, the silt remains, leaving soil more productive.

This solution exemplifies the Bank’s commitment to support sustainable development in Latin America and the Caribbean. Pushing these efforts further, the Bank launched recently the Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services Program to help maintain ecosystem services while driving economic growth. In agricultural projects, the Program is working to identify the economic value of activities like micro-dams to improve decision-making.

Improving management

Farmers using improved soils created by micro-dams produce high-value vegetables. “In each micro-dam there are up to two or three farmers working on it benefiting farmers’ families and an estimate of ten other neighboring families” says Bruno Jacquet, Port-au Prince based rural development specialist. Below the dam, many farmers dig retention basins to store runoff captured by the micro-dams. Water from these ponds often remains for several weeks, and can be used for livestock and to meet household needs. Other farmers build wells to extract water from newly recharged aquifers.

Jacquet stresses the importance that micro-dams have in the household. “Families [mainly women and children] do not have to walk two or three hours to get water; they have access to water near their homes.” As a result, women have more time to sell fresh produce contributing to family’s income.

Micro-dams make up part of the overall strategy for better management of the Ennery-Quinte watershed. IDB is training farmers, law enforcement and judicial officials, civil society representatives, and others to serve on water management committees to coordinate additional soil and water conservation measures.

 

The blog was originally posted on IDB: Let's Talk Climate Change. To read the original blog, click here.