Honduras: Modern irrigation project boosts farmers’ competitiveness

30 Jul 2012

imageAlexis Cabrera, a former UNDP consultant who provided technical assistance to the project, holds a bitter melon. The project directly benefits hundreds of families who have received training in maintaining and marketing crops. (Photo: UNDP Honduras)

By Ana Elsy Mendoza

Rural families in central Honduras have seen their production capacity increase drastically following the creation of a new infrastructure and irrigation project.

With a US$8.96 million investment, the ‘Modernization of Irrigation in Micro River Basins of the West Comayagua Valley’ project was led by the Government of Honduras’ Agriculture and Livestock Department, with support from the Central American Bank for Economic Integration and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

The project—and the new infrastructure provided—benefits 340 producer families directly. Moreover, nearly 1,300 families have also been trained in new techniques to cultivate and sell beans, rice, maize, onion, yucca, aubergines and mangos, among other crops.

“This project not only focused on irrigation, [but it has also] established business plans and provided technical assistance and training. In addition, it links the production to national and international markets in a more comprehensive vision of agricultural development,” said Jacobo Regalado, Department of Agriculture and Livestock Minister.

The irrigation system, which was over 50 years old with a low conduction capacity and serious filtration problems, was replaced by state-of-the-art technology. The new irrigation system consists of a 21 km-long main canal, with 12 secondary and various tertiary canals. Dams were constructed, and filter units and control valves were installed.

The success of the engineering project also enabled rural communities to receive legal status, assume responsibilities and manage each irrigation system. Producers were also granted land titles, and received training on coordination, production and marketing techniques.

“The modernization of the system enables [us] to irrigate 10 times more than before with the same amount of water. Also, the project was successful in coordinating producers’ marketing efforts,” said Vicente Núñez, a rural community representative.

Traditionally, farmers in the area have grown vegetables and orchard crops, but had not benefitted from bloc negotiations to purchase raw materials and sell their production. Today, the organizations operate collectively, and more than 90 percent of farmers place their production in national and international markets. In addition, by maximizing crop yields, beneficiary families are hiring one to five people per hectare. Furthermore, women and youth have been playing a key role in managing this initiative.

“[This] was the first national initiative to modernize irrigation, under a new implementation approach and administration scheme. [It is] a project that focuses its actions on people. An adequate organizational structure guaranteed the transparency and efficient use of resources, generating savings of more than 5.6 percent (US$400,000),. These savings were used to buy and install equipment and construct additional infrastructure, with the aim  to increase agricultural production,” said UNDP Resident Representative José Manuel Hermida.

To expand the initiative’s success, the Department of Agriculture and Livestock Minister announced the upcoming launch of a National Programme for the Promotion of Irrigated Agriculture, which will initially benefit more than 4,500 families directly, covering nearly 14,000 hectares in more than 150 micro, small, medium and large irrigation systems.   As part of this project, valley irrigation systems will be constructed, also benefiting three important valleys and two additional districts.