Actions to mitigate drought effects in agriculture and reduce disaster risk in the state of Puebla
Organization: Central de Servicios para el Desarrollo de Puebla, A.C.
Location: Pahuatlán y Molcaxac, Puebla, Mexico
Other Organizations Involved: Technical Agriculture Center (Centro de Bachillerato Tecnológico Agropecuario—CBTA) no. 305, located in the county seat of Molcaxac, Puebla; the “Las Margaritas” experimental field of the National Institute for Forestry, Farming and Livestock Research (Instituto Nacional de Investigaciones Forestales, Agrícolas y Pecuarias—INIFAP), in Hueytamalco, Puebla; participating farmers; local authorities and the risk prevention committees of seven communities (Ahíla, Tapayula, Pahuatlán, Xolotla, Acalapa, Linda Vista, Cuauneutla) in the municipality of Pahuatlán de Valle, Puebla; the Young Peasant Professionals Collective (Colectivo de Jóvenes Profesionistas Campesinos, A.C.), and the residents of the project’s planned target communities.
As in other parts of the world, farmers throughout Mexico constantly face scarce or erratic patterns of precipitation, as well as increasingly severe and prolonged periods of drought, which affect optimal crop yields. That translates into lost harvests and thus has economic impacts. Furthermore, heavy rains may provoke landslides in hilly areas, as well as flooding from swollen rivers and streams—events which may lead to changes in the physical environment and resources, material losses and deaths. The Northern Sierra region of Puebla is no exception, as it has suffered numerous extreme weather events associated with climate change.
Concerned by the increasing likelihood and frequency of extreme climate event-related disasters, the citizens of seven communities in the municipality of Pahuatlán de Valle, Puebla, have founded disaster risk prevention committees and elaborated plans to reduce such risks, with the support of various institutions, including the Banamex Social Fund, Ayuda en Acción México, A.C., Oxfam México, World Vision and the Young Peasant Professionals Collective.
The objective of this grant project is two-fold: to contribute to reducing the risks of disasters from landslides and the flooding of rivers and streams, and to lessen the impact of droughts on corn production in the Northern Sierra of Puebla, Mexico, through reforestation activities and the implementation of drought mitigation technologies. Moreover, these proposed project activities will be consistent with the risk management plans that have already been drawn up as well as with a participatory approach, supported by training and technical and advisory assistance.
The project proposes to achieve the following goals in the municipality of Pahuatlán, Puebla:
- To designate six experimental corn fields that will be used in assessing different techniques for mitigating the effects of drought.
- To reforest 21 hectares by planting two varieties of bamboo (500 plants per hectare).
- To establish bamboo plantations along the banks of rivers and streams over a total length of kilometers with three rows of bamboo plants, 4 meters apart, in which individual plants are spaced every 5 meters.
- To install a bamboo nursery to produce 10,000 plants per year to reforest hillsides and the banks of rivers and streams.
- To carry out 11 training events covering drought effect-mitigation technologies and the propagation, sowing and management of bamboo plants.
- To conduct four agricultural extension events on measures to mitigate the effects of drought and reduce disaster-related risks.
- To print 2,000 pamphlets in support of these outreach activities.
- To effect 48 technical advice and assistance visits.
The project consists of two parts: one is focused on helping smallholder farmers in participating communities prepare for droughts that impact agriculture, particularly corn production. The focus of the second part is to avert landslides in hilly areas and flooding along rivers and streams in Puebla’s Northern Sierra.
Corn production is a high value economic activity in Puebla. Although the CIMMYT has disseminated information on “conservation farming,” which conserves moisture and improves the soil, there exist other practices and technologies for mitigating the effects of droughts, including, inter alia, vertical tillage to improve water infiltration, use of inputs that retain moisture (mushrooms, bacteria and soil improvers) and selection of hydric stress tolerant seed varieties (where hydric stress encompasses both drought conditions and flooding). The idea is to integrate a mitigation model initially adapted to corn production, but which has the potential to impact other crops.
The project’s second part consists of reforestation activities in seven communities in the municipality of Pahuatlán, Puebla, with the object of reducing the risks of disaster from landslides or watercourses overflowing their banks. The idea is to consolidate hillsides and riverbanks by planting bamboo, a plant which grows rapidly, has enormously extensive root systems, is easy to propagate—without requiring any resowing—and has great commercial potential. The delivery of training in bamboo propagation, sowing and maintenance techniques, along with the creation of a local bamboo plant nursery, will serve to ensure the project’s sustainability and maintain reforestation efforts in the region. The sustainable exploitation of bamboo, sown for local community public uses or domestic construction purposes, is also under consideration for a future phase of the project.
Specifically, the project includes the following main activities:
- Training workshops on drought-adapted varieties of corn and practices.
- Identification and introduction of cornfields (planted with both conventional and drought-resistant varieties of corn).
- Follow-up visits to cornfields with participating beneficiaries and risk prevention committees.
- Evaluation of the production results in different cornfields.
- Training in bamboo propagation, sowing and maintenance.
- Reforestation planting of bamboo in selected areas: hillsides to avoid landslides and along riverbanks to avoid erosion and flooding.
- Creation of a bamboo plant nursery.
- Advisory and technical assistance visits.
- Reporting and dissemination of the project’s results.
- Implementation and dissemination of a technological package to mitigate the effects of droughts on corn production.
- Consolidation of hillsides via the planting of bamboo (21 hectares of contiguous reforestation) and areas adjacent to rivers and streams (along 4 kilometers of riverbanks) in the municipality of Pahuatlán.
- A nursery is established (production: 10,000 plants per year) to reforest hillsides and the banks of rivers and streams with bamboo plants.
- 220 beneficiaries are trained: 80 in technologies to mitigate the effects of drought on corn production and 140 on bamboo propagation, sowing and maintenance.
- 500 citizens receive information on measures to mitigate the effects of droughts and reduce the risks of disasters.
- Technical accompaniment and coordination.