Improved Water Management and Capacity Building for Climate Change in Cape Verde's Longueira and Covoada
As climate change continues to be one of the existential threats to humanity, local communities in Small Island Developing States (SIDS) often experience acceleration and/or intensification of its impacts due to their small land area, susceptibility to natural disasters, geographical isolation, limited natural resources and sensitive ecosystems.
In Cape Verde, the Santiago Island is the nation's largest island, is home to 50% of the nations’ population and is the most important agriculture center. The São Lourenço dos Órgãos municipality is located in the center of Santiago Island where the local communities of Longueira and Covoada live inside Serra do Pico de Antónia Natural Park area. These communities are highly dependent on livestock and rain-fed small scale farming of carrots, cabbages, cassavas, corn, beans, potatoes, sweet potatoes and tomatoes for their livelihoods. Over the years, they have been noticing increased incidences of droughts as well as variable rainfall, yet torrential when they come. As a result, their water access from an upland spring and community well have been unreliable and agricultural lands have been damaged with severe soil erosion. Moreover, their unsustainable agricultural activities such as using exorbitant amounts of irrigation water causes floods and top soil loss and yet, the high costs of micro-irrigation systems limit their potential to cope. Water insecurity, agricultural unreliability and health hazards pervaded the area. As such, the communities approached the GEF Small Grants Programme (SGP) for support.
The project’s objective was to strengthen the communities’ resilience to the impacts of climate change and its variability through awareness-raising and capacity building activities in water security and natural resource management. Building on local knowledge and using a participatory approach, awareness-raising workshops were held on climate change, its short-term and long-term impacts on the communities, how they can cope in a sustainable way and how national policies can be influenced by their actions.
The project activities for water security included the installation and maintenance of micro-irrigation systems, construction of a 50 m3 water tank of in Longueira and rehabilitation of a community water well in Covada. These activities improved availability and quality or irrigation and potable water, especially during incidences of floods and droughts. The water management initiatives supported agricultural activities which included the identification of drought-tolerant crops, especially those with high market value. In turn, these have led to food and water security, as well as income generating options.
The installation of micro-irrigation systems on farmers’ lands have restored .44 hectares of land, enabled water conservation and have decreased water stress on community wells and springs. The use of organic fertilizer and planting of additional varieties of drought-tolerant species such as melons, garlic and small-scale sugar plantations have resulted to improved cover cropping, increased tree cover and soil restoration. Moreover, replacing the communities’ unsustainable traditional agricultural practices, which required using too much water, with drip irrigation have decreased the loss of fertile topsoil.
The awareness-raising and capacity building activities have improved the communities’ understanding of climate risks and on sustainable adaptation practices in natural resource management. Increased access to water from conservation tanks and use of micro-irrigation systems have enabled them to farm during drought periods. As a result, the average household monthly income had increases ranging from 258% to 1115%. While the male farmers’ monthly incomes increased from US$ 89 to US$ 319 (+258%), the average income of the women farmers soared from US$ 26 to $US 315 (+1115%), including two women with no previous stable income and now earning approximately US$ 135 per month.
This CBA project has shown that, with support, empowered and motivated community members can find sustainable ways to adapt to climate risks that conserve their habitats while simultaneously improving their livelihoods. As stated by Adilson Reis, President of the CBO, “It´s clear that climate change is impacting this community, and project activities have enabled farmers to practice sustainable irrigation”. He goes even further to say that “I do see new practices have been generating resources to families and it is clear that there is impact on food security, and farmers’ income, especially the ones led by women.”