Honduran Armed Forces Build Reservoirs to Help Civilians

Honduran Armed Forces Build Reservoirs to Help Civilians

By Dialogo
December 14, 2015

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The Honduran Armed Forces' First Battalion of Engineers is constructing hundreds of water reservoirs to assist civilians in a drought-stricken area known as the “Dry Corridor,” which includes 132 towns in 14 departments throughout the country's southern, western, and central zones.

Nationally, Honduras is suffering greatly from the effects of climate change – so much so it tops Germanwatch’s 2015 Global Climate Risk Index, a list of nations most vulnerable to climate change.

In particular, climate change is negatively impacting the country's agricultural and forestry production, according to Engineering Colonel José Hilario Leiva Rivera, Commander of the Honduran Armed Forces’ First Battalion of Engineers. Farmers and others who work in agriculture maintain a delicate system dependent upon rain, but their production has been hindered, and they've suffered economic losses because the rain cycle has been affected by climate change.

“For Honduras, this project of constructing water collection systems represents a positive investment in its people and will grant independence to farmers since farming depends on the rains and is thus among the most vulnerable to climate change,” Col. Leiva said. “The reservoirs or water collection systems are bound to be quite useful during the dry season, seeing that most have a capacity of 30,000-60,000 cubic meters of water.”

About 95 percent of Honduran crops rely solely on climate conditions whereas only 5 percent are irrigated, according to data from the Irrigation Systems Directorate of the Honduran Secretary of Agriculture and Livestock (SAG).

Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández instructed the Engineer Battalion to construct reservoirs in 13 different departments because “the phenomenon of climate change has severely changed precipitation patterns,” he said in a press statement.

“We have to change our attitudes. We can no longer plant crops on the same dates that we always have. To this end, work will need to be done on projects dealing with sustainable development and, more than anything else, proper management and conservation of water,” the president added.

Armed Forces coordinate with local officials


Ensuring that farmers can plant and harvest crops is crucial to the country's food supply, according to engineer Fabio Salgado, a SAG specialist. The Armed Forces are coordinating with local government officials to make the reservoir project a success.

After the SAG reviewed it, the Armed Forces and the mayor finalized each agreement and workers started building reservoirs under the direction of the Engineer Battalion, which includes a construction team of seven frontmen and 10 specialists.

“Those close to where the reservoirs are built will now have the additional responsibility of caring for the area surrounding the reservoir, which includes reforestation, the planting of grass that is used for retention around the perimeter of the drainage system," Salgado said. “The SAG then constructs drip irrigation systems and trains people on how to use them so that no water is wasted.”

Among the groups caring for the forestry in its region is United to Grow, which is in the town of Ocotal, in Olancho department, and works to fight illegal logging and prevent forest fires. Thanks to the reservoir the Armed Forces built, farmers can now irrigate 14 hectares of land that are used to grow tomatoes, bell peppers, corn, cucumbers, beans, pumpkins, eggplants, squash, and other crops.

The working relationship among the communities, the SAG, and the Armed Forces is very strong.

“The landowners upon whose lands the reservoirs are constructed have signed agreements charging them with the responsibility of distributing and providing water to others in their communities.”

The agreements would remain in effect if owners sell their land.

“A community that has good agricultural output won’t think of abandoning the source of their livelihood. In addition to this, they will also have cheaper food and a greater variety of products to consume because they will have water they can irrigate their crops with."

Ambitious goals


The Armed Forces is working hard to provide water and the ability to grow agricultural crops to multiple communities. The Engineer Battalion is planning to finish construction on six reservoirs every 21 days in the communities that need them the most, with the goal of installing 500 reservoirs in each department that's facing a drought, according to Col. Leiva.

Two machine operators, two assistants, and one person in charge of security is supporting each work site.

In addition to the water reservoir venture, the Engineering Battalion is also participating in other development projects throughout Honduras, including the construction of public aerodromes and secondary highways, such as the one running between Tegucigalpa and Cerro La Mole.

The Engineering Battalion has also been charged with building a community 19 kilometers from Tegucigalpa in the department of Francisco Morazán, which is where the Honduran Air Force’s radars are located, and with constructing a runway and perimeter roads on the Caribbean Cisne Islands, some 250 kilometers northwest of mainland Honduras.

To make their work across the country more efficient, Armed Forces authorities conducted a study to determine how to expand the battalion’s units in four strategic points throughout the country.

“Three hundred thirty-five million lempiras (US$15.07 million) are needed to grow the size of the battalion, which is in charge of this water reservoir project and of providing appropriate responses to other situations that arise as a result of climate change,” Col. Leiva said.


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