Fednor, a farmer, is preparing what will soon be the main source of food for his family – a rice field. In Joque, in the province of Les Cayes, rice growing is the most common agricultural activity. The rice fields extend along each side of the road and provide a living for the majority of households in the area.
There’s no machinery here; everything is done by hand. Fednor is up to his knees in mud. Equipped with an old spade, he’s digging the rice field and hopes to see a crop growing soon that will enable him to feed his family and earn a little money.
He’s surrounded by other busy members of the community. Men and women are all working together on building a project that will change their lives. A break is arranged to meet the community and get an idea of what they’re doing.
“Without water there’s no crop. Rainfall is erratic in this area. When a period of drought set in it was impossible to harvest our rice. We went through some pretty rough times,” Fednor explains. “To get a grip on the situation, we tried to dam the water source you can see with straw. That helped us for a while, but bad weather destroyed everything. That’s why we asked Caritas for help.”
With funding from Caritas Spain, a system for retaining the water source and channelling it to the rice fields was built. Over the last two months, ten teams of 20 people took it in turns to complete construction of the water retention ponds and the first part of the irrigation channels. Today, the community has rallied together to complete the 500 metres of channels. This project will enable continuous irrigation of 50 hectares of rice field, a great step forward for Fednor and his friends and neighbours.
“We’re all standing together for this project,” he explains. “Some families’ rice fields are already being served by the new irrigation system. However, to complete construction of the canals that reach the farthest fields, we have to keep the dam shut. Besides, this project should benefit everyone in the community equally. We started the work together. We’ll finish sooner if everyone lends a hand, and then we’ll be able to prepare our fields and sow our rice. That’s how we work together here. By being united we’ll manage, by taking care of each other.”
The project will be completed at the beginning of next year and dozens of families in Joque will be able to improve their crops and their living conditions. The works come within the scope of a local Caritas programme to upgrade infrastructures. This programme is aimed at enabling local people to cope with the vagaries of the weather and natural disasters, as well as to combat desertification of the region and soil erosion effectively.