‘DLO SE LAVI’
There are 2.6 billion small-scale farmers in the world. Together they produce a third of
the world’s food. To do this, farming families, like those you will meet, need water. Water
is the key ingredient that farmers need to grow crops to feed their families and to sell to
make a living.
Yet, limited and unreliable access to water is the biggest challenge facing all of the small-
scale farmers that Progressio works with across the world.
In April 2013, Lis Wallace, Progressio’s Policy Officer on Environment, and Fran Afonso,
photographer, visited farming families in Gens de Nantes and Lamine in the north east of
Haiti. They learned how Progressio is working with local partner organisation Solidarite
Fwontalye to make the most of the limited water resources available to farmers.
The people they met repeatedly explained: ‘dlo se lavi’ which in Creole means ‘water is
life’. Water is important not just for drinking and washing, but also for growing crops so
that there is enough food to eat and so farmers can sell their produce and make a living.
water is life
Previous slide: Jeannie and Luginas, 14 and 3, from Lamine, Haiti
In Gens de Nantes, farmers
agreed: ‘Water for agriculture is
our priority because if we
can grow crops then we can sell
the surplus and buy bottled water
to drink, but without water for
agriculture, we have no food,
water or income.’
Good water management is essential, especially
when water is scarce. All water users should be
empowered to plan for and manage the sustainable
use of the water that they depend on for their lives
One farmer explained: ‘People feel responsible for
the water that they depend on. Training sessions
about how to use water more efficiently have been
very useful. These local solutions need to be
matched by planning and support from the national
level. We would like to have more irrigation projects
but haven’t been able to get funding despite offering
our labour for free.’
Previous slide: Hands up for water for agriculture
The Farmers’ Association meets in Gens de Nantes, Haiti
Angedala and Johnsy, 10 and 12, carry produce that wouldn’t have been able to grow without water
Gens de Nantes, Haiti
70% of farmers in developing countries are women. In Gens de
Nantes, as elsewhere in the world, women are water managers, food
producers and drivers of livelihoods. As such, their participation in
decision-making about how water is used is vital.
Climate variability affects the amount of water available and in north
east Haiti this contributes to an existing scarcity of actual water
sources. So girls and women have to walk further to collect water to
meet household needs, putting them under ever-increasing pressure
and physical strain.
than half of
grown in the
Oranus, 42, and Christemene, 38, Gens de Nantes, Haiti
In Gens de Nantes, wellbeing depends on the distance
between home and the nearest water source
Oranus, 42, and Christemene, 38, (previous slide) live
with their four children. Their home is a ten minute walk
away from the nearest river. It may not sound far, but
that is the distance between thriving and surviving.
‘The distance between the crops and the river
has a big impact on whether the crops thrive or
survive. The peanuts growing directly next to the
river are thriving, whilst the same crops growing
only a five minute walk away are struggling to
survive in the dry soil,’ explains Oranus.
‘Water is life, because without it we can’t do anything.’
‘Water is life and without it we can’t grow anything,’ says Mimose, 45
Mimose, 45, and husband Elismar, 51
Mimose, 45, and husband Elismar, 51, (both pictured
previous slide) grow pineapples, sweet potatoes,
yukka, cabbages, beans and plantain on a plot of land
next to their home. Agriculture is their main source of
income, but unpredictable rainfall means crops are
struggling and they currently have to buy in food to
feed their family.
‘Water is life and without it we can’t grow anything,’
says Mimose, 45. ‘We believe we could grow more
food for our family if we were able to collect and store
the rain that does fall and if we could find a way of
getting water from the river to irrigate our land.
‘We are concerned that things will only get worse
without leadership and intervention. With the help of
Solidarite Fwontalye we have improved our farming
techniques but the important thing for us now is to
improve our access to water.’
‘Generally we use rain water for agriculture, and the
river for everything else, but there’s no water
downstream where we live so we have to walk to the
source, which is an hour away,’ Elismar explains.
Placide, 69, wants water storage solutions that will meet future water needs
‘Over the years the amount of water in the rivers has
reduced due to deforestation, soil degradation and
climate change,’ says Placide (previous slide). ‘Before,
agriculture was more productive and we were able to
sell surplus crops at market but we can’t grow as much
anymore as there is less rain. Both the quality and
quantity of water has decreased so we are concerned
that it will continue to get worse in the future.
‘Water is fundamental to everything: agriculture and
keeping livestock, cooking, cleaning, drinking and
washing. We only have access to water from two
rivers. There are no pumps or cisterns in this
community. We would like a pump to access the
ground water, and a tank to store it.’
Placide, 69, and Marie-Jocelyne, 57
Progressio’s ‘people powered development’ works.
For Placide, 69, Marie-Jocelyn, 57, (both previous
slide) and son Kesnel, 20, the result is a rich variety of
crops, including cocoa, plantains, red peppers, sweet
potatoes, peas and potatoes. This is possible because
of better water resource management.
Kesnel and his family presented their concerns about
the lack of irrigation and the contamination of local
water resources to the local authorities and local radio
stations. But until Solidarite Fwontalye started working
with them, no one was doing anything about the
‘With the help of Solidarite Fwontalye, we are learning
different farming techniques and how to be more
productive and sustainable with the resources that we
have. In order to cope with extremes of floods and
droughts, we have built a water-retaining wall to limit
the damage of tropical storms and we have planted
trees and restored ravines in order to protect against
soil erosion and landslides,’ says Kesnel.
Progressio Development Worker Gabriel Petit-Homme
‘We need more money and political will to invest in rain water capture and storage
systems, and more irrigation systems,’ explains Gabriel Petit-Homme, one of
Progressio’s Development Workers in Haiti (previous slide).
80% of land used globally for agriculture is rain fed. By 2020, as a result of
changing climate and rainfall variability, crop yields from rain-dependent agriculture
could be down by 50%. Yet, by 2050 the world’s water resources will have to
support agricultural systems that can feed and create livelihoods for an additional
2.7 billion people.
The link between water and agriculture often does not get the political attention
and priority that it deserves. Consequently, there is not enough funding available
for small-scale irrigation and rainwater capture and storage systems.
National governments and international donors must prioritise investment in
infrastructure to improve smallholder farmers’ access to water.
Governments should direct significant resources towards promoting sustainable
water resource management, providing training for rainwater harvesting and
supporting water conservation, so that even during periods of drought crops can
grow and families can feed themselves.
So what can be done?