The Effect of Irrigation on Resilience and Incomes
2016 was a difficult year for Eulalio Benítez of Lempira, Honduras. His words sum it up best: “The land dried up and my coffee beans did not grow well because the rains came late.” Without modern farming tools and techniques, Eulalio was particularly susceptible to changes in climate.
Irrigation helps reduce the vulnerability of smallholder farmers, but only when combined with the use of good production practices and planting of high-value crops, which generate significantly more income that can help move families above the poverty line.
With technical assistance provided by ACS-USAID, which also helped him install drip irrigation on his land, Eulalio saw drastic increases in yield in the next planting cycle: 500 percent more maize and 600 percent more bean crops harvested.
With reliable access to water, Eulalio has been able to rotate his crop production to generate year-round income. He’s now growing tomato (112 percent profitability), turmeric (150 percent), and chili (125 percent).
"With just a little land, I produce a lot. Thanks to irrigation and technical assistance, I [now] use correct distances, raised beds, fertigation, and follow the recommended practices,” he said proudly.
ACS-USAID has also introduced Eulalio to the benefits of soil analysis; by understanding the makeup of his land, he is able to provide the crops with the nutrients they need to flourish. "Before I threw 18-46-0 and urea on the coffee, but now I apply what the crop needs,” he explained.
Eulalio credits irrigation and crop diversification with helping his family prosper even during the coffee price crisis, during which coffee prices were slashed nearly in half. “I generate more income, my children go to school and are better fed; before it was difficult to earn money.”
Eulalio has developed a strong, trusting relationship with ACS-USAID technicians, saying he will plant anything they bring him. His community is also working with the project on a community-wide irrigation system so they too can plant throughout the year.
“Without irrigation you cannot harvest anything, you can only depend on the rains for corn and beans.”