SAN SALVADOR, May 22 (IPS) — Chronic water shortages make life increasingly difficult for the more than 10.5 million people who live in the Central American Dry Corridor, an arid strip that covers 35 percent of that region.
In the Dry Corridor, the lack of water complicates not only basic hygiene and household activities like bathing, washing clothes or dishes, but also agriculture and food production.
“This is a very difficult place to live, due to the lack of water,” said Marlene Carballo, a 23-year-old Salvadoran farmer from the Jocote Dulce canton, a rural settlement in the Chinameca municipality, in the eastern El Salvador department of San Miguel.
The municipality is one of the 144 in the country that is located in the Dry Corridor, where more than 73 percent of the rural population lives in poverty and 7.1 million suffer from severe food insecurity, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).
But poor rural settlements have not stood idly by.
The scarcity of water has prompted community leaders, especially women, who suffer the brunt of the shortage, to organize themselves in rural associations to promote water projects.
In the various villages in Jocote Dulce, rainwater harvesting projects, reforestation and support for the development of small poultry farms have arrived, with the backing of local and international organizations, and funding from European countries.
Rainwater harvesting is based on systems such as the one installed in Carballo’s house: when it rains, the water that falls on the roof runs through a pipe to a huge waterproof bag in the yard, which functions as a catchment tank that can hold up to 80,000 liters.
Other mechanisms also include plastic-lined rectangular-shaped holes dug in the ground.
The harvested water is used to irrigate family gardens, provide water to livestock used in food production such as cows, oxen and horses, and even for aquaculture.
Similar projects have been carried out in the rest of the Central American countries that form part of the Dry Corridor.
In Guatemala, for example, FAO and other organizations have benefited 5,416 families in 80 rural settlements in two departments of the country.