Feed the Future activities are working to reduce poverty and malnutrition in rural Honduras. The challenges associated with developing income generating production systems for traditional subsistence farmers to move their families above the poverty line are compounded further by unpredictable and extreme climatic conditions. Irregular and erratic rainfall has led to drought conditions and increases in crop pests, causing productivity declines and total or partial crop losses for a wide range of crops. Subsistence level farmers, with monocrop and traditional rain-fed production systems, are especially susceptible to crop and income losses.
ACCESS to Markets is introducing agricultural practices and technologies that provide adaptation and mitigation measures to increase productivity, profitability, and risk reduction over the short and long term, while at the same time have positive effects of the environment, biodiversity, and future adaptability. Results to date have shown that the use of good agricultural practices, technology, income generation, and climate mitigation are all linked. Incomes are increased and risks can be mitigated by the adoption of basic production practices, technology, and diversified crops and income sources. Farmers whose incomes are increasing are more open to adopting practices that reduce the climate risks and contribute to reduction of greenhouse gases.
The use of basic production practices is necessary for a climate-smart agriculture system to function. Practices and technologies that have been applied in Honduras include land preparation, contoured beds, drainage systems, application of organic material, mulching, soil pH adjustment, erosion barriers, pest and disease scouting, crop selection, rotation and diversification, drip irrigation, diluted fertilizer applications, pruning systems, and postharvest handling methods. Grower groups with new small-scale irrigation systems have formed to protect, manage, and reforest water sources.
Crop and income source diversification is key to risk reduction. Feed the Future-assisted growers have increased their yields from basic grains to cover home consumption and freed up land to work with small areas of higher value crops. In the example below, the family moved from relying solely on coffee income and corn production to developing income sources generating $3,720 during a one year period from 1.4 hectares, while producing basic grains for sales and home consumption.
Families take at least two years to move from subsistence to the results shown in the table to the left. Over time, the farmers expand the area under high-value crop production, improve the application of practices and technologies, and obtain further increases in the yields of basic grains and coffee. This family has reduced their susceptibility not only to the climate, but also to pest and market conditions. With confidence in the new production systems and increased incomes, growers and communities are able to move from a day-to-day existence to long- term planning that includes investments in their health and in protecting valuable natural resources such as water, soil, and forests.