Hydroponics and greenhouses: a hope for Honduras
Hydroponics and greenhouses: a hope for Honduras
"When 70% of my crop was destroyed, I was forced to look for other horizons. A future in agriculture seemed too uncertain at the time," says Honduran farmer Felix Zelaya.
Felix's story is not an isolated one. In recent years, between 70 and 80 percent of the crops of basic grains such as maize and beans have been lost in Central America. Climate change is one of the main drivers of rural migration.
Farmers and investors see the risks in agriculture increasing and prefer to be safe. But a growing population and a limited labour market as is the case in Honduras rarely leads to increased prosperity.
"I had to stay. This is the village where I grew up: my mother, wife and children live here. Farmer Félix Zelaya wants to live in the countryside, cultivate his own land and make a living from farming. Thanks to hydroponics, he is once again looking to the future with hope.
The need to transform agriculture is urgent. Climate change is already causing damage in Honduras. "Here we are at an altitude of 1600 metres," says Felix, "we used to wear coats and hats at this time of year. Now I'm sitting here with my T-shirt".
The cultivation of vegetables has a high capacity for creating jobs and the potential to generate income for the rural population. It also represents a huge potential for reducing food and nutrition vulnerability. In Honduras alone, there are around 18,000 producing families, 89 percent of which are small-scale producers, cultivating less than 5 hectares of land.
The transformation towards more sustainable, resilient and inclusive systems aims at developing this potential. Therefore Rikolto, through the programme "Sustainable and Resilient Agro-Food Systems" (SAS), supports the cities - regions in implementing policies and practices that contribute to this transformation.
One of the needs of producing families is access to productive technologies that allow them to strengthen their resilience to the threats of climate change.
For 2019 and 2020, Rikolto, with funding from the European Union through Eurosan Occidente and the Government of Honduras through UTSAN, is promoting the initiative "Technology and dialogue of knowledge to promote food and nutritional security in Honduras", through which 18 hydroponic systems will be installed in greenhouses to increase the production of healthy vegetables within family agriculture.
This mode of production already shows that in the coming years it could respond to the consequences of a changing climate and be able to feed the growing urban population.
Challenges to increasing food security in the face of climate change
In Honduras - and the rest of the world - farmers are limited in their ability to cope with the imminent consequences of climate change:
- There is limited access to technology and productive infrastructure for mitigating the effects of climate change;
- Problems of soil degradation and water availability;
- High incidence of soil and crop pests and diseases;
- While the population, is in the following situation in terms of food consumption:
In the Honduran population, there is a 25.90% prevalence of anaemia in children under 5 years of age
58% of foods are carbohydrates for children and adolescents
1.40% prevalence of acute malnutrition in children under 5
20.2% prevalence of overweight or obese adults, youth and children
Previously there were no environmentally friendly pesticides. Applying harmful pesticides not only hurts the consumer, but also ourselves and the people who quietly walk around their crops. Juan Gómez, 24-year-old farmer, Chiligatoro, Honduras
Strategy: Innovate through hydroponics
Faced with this situation, one of the viable alternatives is to provide producing families with technology such as hydroponics, through their associative companies. Under this production system, farming families will be mitigating the impacts of climate change and will be more efficient by reducing water use by 70%, while at the same time contributing to the conservation of the environment. To this end, the initiative includes:
The provision of technology to producing families through the installation of 18 hydroponic systems, under protected structures for the production of vegetables.
With the installation of the systems, the process of capacity building will begin for producing families, with an emphasis on young men and women, through field schools (FFS) on the farms where the systems will be installed.
In alliance with the municipality, a communication campaign will be implemented aimed at mothers and young people in urban and rural areas to generate knowledge about how they should feed their families and gradually incorporate vegetables and fruit into their eating habits. This activity includes the preparation of a recipe book and the organisation of theatre workshops in study centres for children and adolescents.
Where are the innovative families?
The action includes the 500 families producing vegetables (87 led by women) of the six farmers' companies that make up the Consorcio Agrocomercial de Honduras. Therefore, the hydroponic greenhouses will be located in the organization La Meseta located in the municipality of Guinope and Agridan in Danlí, department of El Paraíso, Proviasa in the Central District, district of Francisco Morazán, Vegetales Lencas in Marcala, district of La Paz, ECARAI in Intibucá, district of Intibucá and Tropical Yojoa in Santa Cruz de Yojoa, district of Cortés.
Recipes inspired by family hydroponics
Diet and lifestyle changes in recent years have affected traditional food culture and the health of millions of people.
That’s why, in September, Rikolto, with funds from the European Union, Eurosan Occidente project, and the Government of Honduras through UTSAN, presented the rainbow recipe book: ingredients of family hydroponics, as part of the "Technology and knowledge dialogue to promote food and nutritional security in Honduras" grant.
The guide recipe book was developed on the basis of the last strategic objective. The preparation of the food was validated with mothers of the Consortium's partner companies despite the limitations due to the Covid, and will continue to be socialised as part of the grant, through virtual means. In addition, the recipes are prepared using the 6 crops that the families are growing: chard, cucumber, endive lettuce, sweet pepper, spinach, and tomato. The recipe book can guide families to use the food they are growing, but are not always including in their own diets, and also to communicate the benefits of those crops.
- Duration of the action: 14 months
- The target group consists of 500 producer families organized in 6 associative companies that are part of the Consorcio Agrocomercial de Honduras. These organisations traditionally plant vegetables on less than one hectare of land, and depend on 79% to 100% of their production activity for vegetables, which generates a net annual income of between 370.99 dollars and 766.16 dollars per family.
This is only the beginning. After learning and trying this hydroponic greenhouse I will put another one in and give more jobs to the people in my community
- The action aims to reach an average of 5,000 people, who represent the final beneficiaries in the municipalities where the intervention will take place.
There is greater production of quality vegetables and fruit, thus increasing the income of producing families.
100 young people (30 women and 70 men) have acquired knowledge for the use of hydroponic technology and good agricultural practices in this type of system.
727 producing families and 5,000 urban and rural inhabitants have learned new ways of preparing vegetables and fruits through multimedia channels.