Water & Coastal Management in Honduras
During the planning of the master thesis my goal was to return to Honduras and study how the livelihoods of high risk coastal communities are affected by hurricanes and tropical storms. My work focused on communities on the north coast and the PBS scholarship enabled me to do so. The field work and close interactions with the indigenous Garífuna people, made me realize firsthand the problems and needs of the communities. The results of study revealed a series of processes that hinder the resilience, or coping capacity of the communities from tropical storms. Many of the communities are not only losing traditional subsistence agriculture to re-occurring events, but are losing a significant amount of their population due to the high migration to the Unites States. Also, many internal conflicts in their community governance system cause separations, leading to differences in the way they overcome problems caused by storms. Even though people are affected, populations still persist to live in risk areas with lack of access to safe water, areas prone to continual coastal erosion and flooding where waterborne diseases are part of their everyday life. Health centers usually can’t tolerate the influx of large quantities of people, and the floods are expected; yet there is minimal response from the central government.
Seeing this and many more injustices really changed me. Trying to seek a way to help, I continued to face the reality of the corrupt system my country is intertwined in. To my relief, I found a solution; we were awarded with the first piloting community adaptation project to climate change by The United Nations Development Program and the Swiss Agency for Development. By studying the current risks and needs, coastal managers can better understand how future risks from climate change may worsen the impacts. Currently, 4 of the communities I initially worked on my thesis have been awarded with the community adaptation project!
I have been working closely with community members, organizing and empowering them to become the leading force behind the projects. It has not been easy, but the task entails the direct involvement of the community and just to know we have gotten this far, I know that this is a meaningful action. We hope to implement the adaptation projects in mid 2011, some of these include restoring and protecting natural sand dune barriers and mangroves, maintaining natural and artificial draining areas to decrease flooding, and ensuring environmental education among communities.