March 22, 2015

Celebrating past watershed project successes and looking toward the future

Marissa Sherman, EcoAgriculture Partners

Water resource preservation and agricultural development are greatly interconnected. Both healthy communities and resilient livelihoods often hinge on proper water resource management. World Water Day 2015 is the perfect opportunity to shed some light on projects that the Landscapes for People, Food and Nature Initiative has been working on to restore and preserve watersheds.

Restoring watersheds in Ethiopia

The Tigray region in the northern part of Ethiopia suffers from food insecurity, driven by land degradation, low agricultural productivity, chronic shortage of water for water supply and agricultural production, and high sensitivity to climate variability.

But, implementing a landscape approach in the region has been a success. An integrated, landscape-based intervention provided substantial benefits to the region; including:

  • created new water sources and improved existing ones, which helped with irrigation development
  • improved the moisture of soils and improved productivity of rain-fed agriculture, which enhanced sustainable intensification
  • decreased land degradation and associated on-site soil erosion and off-site sedimentation
  • created an environment which is resilient to rainfall variability
Groundwater well in Tigray, Ethiopia

New groundwater created due to natural resources management interventions at upstream areas, Tigray, Northern Ethiopia. Photo by Kifle Wolderearagay.

This example in Ethiopia shows that large-scale landscape restoration initiatives, which include watershed restoration and management, can fulfill their promises of improved food production, ecosystem conservation, and sustainable livelihoods.

Reversing the degradation of watersheds in Guatemala

In September of last year, the study “Integrated landscape management for agriculture, rural livelihoods, and ecosystem conservation: An assessment of experience from Latin America and the Caribbean” was published in the journal Landscape and Urban Planning. This continental review of integrated landscape initiatives in Latin America helps to support the ideas and frameworks set up by the LPFN Initiative.

One of the landscapes documented in this study is the Tacaná project in San Marcos, Guatemala. This integrated landscape initiative aimed to reverse environmental degradation, especially the degradation of the watersheds, along a watershed in the border region between Guatemala and Mexico. Restoring watersheds in this region is important for the availability of a clean drinking water supply, but also as an irrigation source for agricultural and livestock needs. Also, restoring watersheds decreases the risks of devastating floods.

The project area covers the border zone of Mexico and Guatemala. Guatemala is on the left. Photo by Fernando Reyes.

The project area covers the border zone of Mexico and Guatemala. Guatemala is on the left in this photo. Photo by Fernando Reyes.

Through the integrated management of water resources, soils and other ecosystems, the region is better equipped to deal with threats such as climate change and natural disasters.

Looking toward the future

In both Guatemala and Ethiopia, working across sectors and with multiple stakeholders was the only way to successfully execute these watershed management projects.

We look forward to working on more watershed restoration , management, and preservation projects in the future. In the meantime, happy World Water Day 2015!

Read more

Can large-scale landscape restoration initiatives fulfill their promises: a resounding “YES” from northern Ethiopia

Guatemala-Mexico Tacaná Project

Marissa Sherman is a communications intern at EcoAgriculture Partners. She studies sustainable agriculture at the University of Maryland, College Park. She cares about all things sustainable food-related, but focuses on farm-based education initiatives and how the private sector can make sustainability the norm.
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