Progressio and mobile phone company Digicel have launched a strategic partnership to help improve the way in which poor communities are able to respond to climate change in Honduras.

Tackling climate change and its effects is a pressing issue in Central America. In the last four months alone, Hondurans have battled an intense drought, followed by floods caused by tropical storm Agatha. Various hurricanes and tropical storms are likely to affect the region over the coming months.

According to the UN Development Programme, Honduras is more vulnerable to hurricanes than any other country in the world. As such, there is an urgent need for innovative, coordinated ways to engage new actors, such as the private sector, in Progressio’s work with vulnerable communities on the ground in Honduras to help them to combat climate change.

“Climate change is a matter of serious concern in Honduras which means we all must step up and play our part so that rural communities that are most affected by extreme weather can cope with its effects and are helped to become less vulnerable,” said Xiomara Ventura, Progressio’s Regional Manager for Central America, at the launch of the Digicel-Progressio partnership on 22 July in the Honduran capital, Tegucigalpa.

She hailed Digicel’s “valuable collaboration and its interest in achieving a sustainable environment”, saying that the investment would allow Progressio to scale up existing climate change adaptation projects and develop new ones. The partnership with Digicel includes a US$140,000 donation that will be used to further strengthen the technical support Progressio provides to poor and vulnerable communities in Marcala, Western Honduras.

In Marcala, Progressio development workers have helped 100 families living on a dollar a day to tackle droughts and overcome their dependency on rainfall, which climate change is making more and more unpredictable. They have also trained small-scale farmers to build a drip irrigation system and advised them how to use water more efficiently so as to ensure adequate water for their crops and livelihoods.

Bernardina Vásquez and her husband are just one of the families which has benefited. With their new irrigation system and diversified plots they now earn a regular income from selling their wide range of vegetables at the local market. Bernardina now wastes far less water and has gone ‘organic’, using agroecological techniques that are environmentally-friendly instead of agro-chemicals which can harm the soil and natural water resources.

Small-scale farmers like Bernardina and her neighbours have also learnt how to plant trees to help preserve the rivers and how to produce native seeds which are resistant to temperature shifts. They have received training on how to deal with floods, prevent landslides and protect their crops by building vegetation barriers that slow the downhill movement of rainwater and prevent soil erosion.

While preparing to tackle the effects of climate change is vital, helping to slow its progress is also key. Digicel has encouraged its staff members to join a ‘green group’ that will do its bit to offset emissions from deforestation by planting trees in deforestated areas of Marcala.

Protecting the environment by curbing greenhouse gas emissions also starts with small, day-to-day changes. Progressio has stressed the importance of ‘environmental coherence’ in the home and in the workplace among Digicel staff, and urged them to rethink lifestyles and consumption choices.

Digicel will also help produce a documentary which aims to raise awareness of the impacts of climate change in Honduras, including practical tips for ordinary people on how they can help to combat it.

Progressio and Digicel will operate their joint environmental projects under a new slogan: “Digicel-Progressio: Protecting the environment together.”

Photo: Progressio's Xiomara Ventura (right) talks to the media alongside Digicel's General Manager, Ghada Gebara, during the launch of the partnership in the Honduran capital, Tegucigalpa.