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Food and water security of communities in the shared basin of the Goascorán River

IUCN @ Paul Aragón
Published: 02 May 2019
Last edited: 02 May 2019
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Adaptation to climate change is a challenge that several communities have decided to address in the Goascorán River basin (2,345 km2), which is shared between Honduras and El Salvador.

In particular, they seek greater food and water security as the decreasing availability of water is endangering local livelihoods. To do this, 3 axes of work were combined: strengthening capacities and knowledge through an "action learning" approach; increasing the resilience of livelihoods and ecosystems by applying EbA measures; and revitalizing watershed governance mechanisms. In this way, the vulnerabilities of the communities were examined; EbA measures were jointly prioritized and implemented in the field; the knowledge and organizational, governance and management capacities of local groups were strengthened; actions on both sides of the border were articulated through Microbasin Committees; and the advocacy and up-scaling of EbA, as a response to climate change, was promoted.


Central America
Scale of implementation
Forest ecosystems
Freshwater ecosystems
River, stream
Temperate deciduous forest
Erosion prevention
Habitat fragmentation and degradation
Sustainable livelihoods
Water provision and management
Other theme
Connectivity /transboundary conservation
Ecosystem services
Food security
Forest Management
Indigenous People
Legal & policy frameworks
Science and Research
Watershed management
Sustainable development goals
SDG 2 – Zero hunger
SDG 6 – Clean water and sanitation
SDG 13 – Climate action
SDG 15 – Life on land
Aichi targets
Target 7: Sustainable agriculture, aquaculture and forestry
Target 10: Ecosystems vulnerable to climate change
Target 14: Ecosystem services
Target 15: Ecosystem restoration and resilience
Target 19: Sharing information and knowledge


Goascorán, Valle Department, Honduras | La Unión Department, El Salvador


  • There are forests in water recharge areas degraded by agricultural activities, which increase erosion and the tendency for migratory agriculture.
  • Communities are vulnerable to recurrent droughts, high temperatures, torrential rains and strong winds, which exasperate soil erosion and cause crop losses, infrastructural damages and food scarcity. Other challenges are deforestation, contamination of water sources with agrochemicals, and weak institutional presence.
  • The basin’s bi-national nature implies cooperation and collaboration challenges between Honduras and El Salvador. Only in Honduras is there a legal framework that supports the institutionality for watershed management, although many governance structures still need to be consolidated.
  • There is little knowledge among decision-makers about the benefits of ecosystems for adaptation, which is evident in municipal management.


  • Farmers, community leaders, women and youth (>500 families from 10 communities)
  • Water boards; producer associations; community development associations; schools
  • Municipalities; commonwealths of municipalities; central government

How do the building blocks interact?

The solution in the shared basin of the Goascorán River is presented through 3 Building Blocks (BB): The "action learning" approach (BB1) combines field-work, monitoring, exchange of experiences, participation, dialogue, alliances and ecosystemic vision in order to improve governance for climate change adaptation (BB3) and implement EbA measures (BB2). With these 3 BB, there are improvements in forest cover, soils and river water flows (BB2), as well as progress in binational governance (BB3) and in the adaptive capacity of local communities (BB1). Another result is the institutionalization and up-scaling of EbA (BB2 and 3), with diagnoses and EbA measures (e.g. establishment of nurseries and reforestation) integrated into policy and management instruments at the microbasin (Lituy Committee), municipal (13 plans), departmental (La Union) and national levels (Honduras). At the community level, a collective learning process ensues, resulting in self-motivated and more organized communities (BB1), which ultimately translates into social capital. Several sustainable development objectives are also met by articulating this social capital with natural capital (forests, soils and water) for greater socio-environmental resilience.


  • Protection and restoration of 31 ha of forests degraded by agricultural activities in the upper and middle parts of the Lituy microbasin.
  • Construction of forest nurseries for the protection of springs in the upper and middle areas of the Lituy microbasin.
  • Soil conservation works and productive diversification with the introduction of agroforestry systems in Lituy, as EbA measures.
  • Increased water security for >5,000 families in the Lituy and Honduritas microbasins, through the restoration of water springs.
  • Forest surveillance reduces the pressure caused by illegal logging and forest fires.
  • Local organizations promote EbA measures, both at the community and municipal levels, and encourage responsible decision-making for natural resources.
  • Creation and strengthening of the Microbasin Committees of the Honduritas River (El Salvador) and the Lituy River (Honduras, now formally part of the Apane River Microbasin), through participatory processes.
  • Greater knowledge regarding the advantages of the EbA as well as management and advocacy capacities of municipalities and their commonwealths.
  • Policy influencing and up-scaling of the EbA approach with its incorporation into policy and management instruments at various levels: basin, municipal and national.



Mrs. Santos Eugenia Villatoro, President of the Honduritas River Microbasin Committee, El Escalón hamlet (El Salvador):


"... In the Goascorán River basin, specifically in the Honduritas River Microbasin, we have seen significant changes in communities and families, given that when the project started at the end of 2015, we did not know what actions could be taken within the microbasin and nowadays we have put into practice measures to adapt to climate change, such as: the protection and restoration of forests in water source areas, as well as the strengthening of capacities in issues related to good agricultural practices such as: soil conservation works with live and inert barriers that help avoid the erosion of soils by runoff due to heavy rains, especially in lands with steep slopes; agroforestry systems that associate fruit plants with basic grains such as corn and beans, improving the landscape of communities and reducing heat waves. In addition, we have seen that the river has maintained its flow in recent years, all of which comes down to families having achieved food security, and also consuming better quality water, which is reflected in people’s health. "


Mr. Alejandro Ventura, Teupe community producer:


"I remember the first time I joined the development of the AVE project (year 2016) as a producer and project beneficiary. Once aware of the process, I started doing practical work on my plot. Technical assistance is paramount; I strengthened my knowledge through training on soil conservation, which I implemented as alternatives to avoid the dragging of soil by runoff, especially in hillside areas, managing to diversify the farm, in which today I have built infrastructure (for water harvesting and a low pressure drip irrigation system). [I am] adapting to the adverse effects of climate change, such as recurrent droughts, since I can harvest all year round, thus improving my family's food security. I also got involved in reforestation campaigns to protect the Ciénega, a water producing area in the upper watershed."

Contributed by

Marta Pérez de Madrid

Other contributors

Fundación Vida