Organizing to Protect Water at its Source
By Betsy Agle
It is now apparent that the huge issue facing rural Honduran communities is water. There has been a shortage of rain and unpredictability about when rain comes. A great deal of the available water has been contaminated by upstream usage of chemical herbicides.
A high rate of deforestation has contributed to a sharp reduction in the amount of water available for households and agriculture.
The new strategic focus is to identify an area which will have legal protection from illegal logging and allow village access to the mountain’s aquifers. The map above provides a way to visualize the relationship between the area to be protected (marked by the circular yellow line), some of the SVH villages (marked with red dots to the left) and finally to the town of Chinda (marked with yellow dot to the far left). On this map the natural water flow is from right to left.
Protection of this this area depends on accomplishing the following 4 objectives:
Educate town councils and (patronatos) water management boards (juntas de agua) on their roles and responsibilities regarding water. Involvement needs to occur within each community and between communities in the watershed.
Work through elected officials and NGOs to make communities aware of their legal rights to access water in Las Nieves watershed.
Develop a municipal reforestation plan, specifically by creating a huge municipal tree nursery in Chinda and planting the seedlings in the high mountain area to be protected. To carry out this plan will require support not only elected officials, town councils and water management boards, but also from health committees, women’s groups, parents associations, school children, and others.
Create a Las Nieves Forest Preserve protected under Honduran law.
SVH is an important player at the grassroots level. Roy and Idania are working directly with the water management boards and indirectly with the town councils in all the SVH communities. They are also actively encouraging an alliance between communities. They have independently developed close connections with Mirian Lopez, the active and visionary mayor of Chinda, and they play a leadership role in the coalition of non-profit organizations to promote the vision of the Las Nieves Forest Preserve.
Edwin Escoto, Director of Vecinos Honduras, has given his total support for this project. He notes that “one of [Vecinos Honduras] strategies is to establish alliances with municipal governments … to carry out joint actions. I personally believe that the mayor of Chinda can play a leading role in supporting the communities in their struggle to achieve the declaration of the Forest Reserve area in the mountain of Las Nieves. … the alliance with other institutions present in the area will also be necessary.”