One of the 5 winning contributions to the GWP #YouthLed Projects global contest was a capacity building project for the rural sector in the Canton of Hojancha, Costa Rica. Eloy Mendez is 25 years old and from the province of Guanacaste. He is a business manager and teacher, and has been the director and coordinator of projects of UNAFOR since 2014. Here is his story.
In the province of Guanacaste, Costa Rica, the National Agroforestry Union (UNAFOR) is working with agricultural producers in implementing development projects that allow producers to improve their quality of life in rural areas.
Today, our province faces one of the biggest challenges: climate change. The increasing effects of climate change, together with “El Niño”, has resulted in severe droughts – the dry season has become longer year-by-year and temperatures are higher than previous years. With climate change, the loss of livestock and crops as well as abandoned farms for lack of water is increasing. This generating large economic losses for the agricultural and livestock sector.
In this context, UNAFOR identifies the needs of agricultural producers so that they focus on mitigating the effects of climate change.
Added to this, we have seen that one of the most vulnerable groups – youth – does not perceive a future in agricultural because if they add up the challenges of climate change along with flimsy markets, the struggle to overcome the difficulties is all uphill.
We can’t remain indifferent and that is why we are implementing a project for the application of technologies to adapt to climate change in agricultural farms. The “Adaptation Fund” channels resources for three years in three different districts for the application of adaptive technologies in 100 farms. This project received the support of Global Water Partnership through the allocation of extra resources as well as the dissemination of what we do and what we have achieved.
The project includes:
- Plots with crop diversification
- Construction of natural barriers
- Establishment of new fodder and protein banks
- Construction of feeding modules for livestock
- Establishment of water storage technologies
- Installation of drinking troughs
- Protection and reforestation of water sources
- Construction of water transport systems to tanks, pools and irrigation systems.
We promote the development of model farms that integrate the different technologies for the optimal use of available resources – an intelligent production system – and we provide the technical advice and required equipment.
Each farm needs to use an optimum amount of water through storage systems or wells that allow them to access available water. The water is transported from where it is stored in reservoirs (for example, geomembrane reservoirs) or PVC tanks.
Once the water is stored, it can be redistributed to water troughs built with natural barriers for an appropriate rotation system of livestock. The natural barriers can also be used as extra food and they generate microclimates that avoid overheating of the cattle herd. This water is also used in irrigation systems for agricultural crops and short grasses for cattle feed in the dry season (cane, sorghum, cratylia, Cameroon, hen). Through feed modules that have appropriate roofs and feeders, livestock have the necessary infrastructure and food to keep them without problems during the dry season.
As a final result, the producer has the tools to produce permanently during the dry season, without being affected by the drought, thanks to the intelligent use of water. Our proposal is also aimed at ensuring that the generational change in rural areas is attractive and profitable for youth, promoting family farms as a real opportunity and a way to make a living.
Lastly, as an organization that represents farmers, we want to share what we have learned and our principles:
- Organizations should focus on the real and immediate needs of the sector they represent.
- Projects should have a direct impact on the beneficiaries. It is important to avoid wasting resources in extensive training plans or consultancies.
- Organizations should not be seen as a competition for governmental agencies, rather as entities that support and want to help increase the good work of our institutions.
- We live in a world with a crisis of leadership. Organizations should spaces for youth to take relevant roles in decision-making, and we should generate these spaces.
- We should strongly voice our concerns and inquiries to our leaders regarding water and future water management plans. It is our duty to be informed and to take action in the matter.
A final word of thanks to Global Water Partnership for providing this space to share our experience.