Water Smart Agriculture for Productivity and Resilience of Rainfed Smallholder Farms in Mesoamerica: EVIDENCE FROM THE FIELD
ASA Climate Resilience Brief_1015_2022From 2016 – 2021, over 3000 farmers in El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Oaxaca, Mexico partnered with CRS’ Water Smart Agriculture Program for Mesoamerica (WSA) to plant side-by-side demonstrations comparing water-smart innovations to conventional practices in the region’s main agricultural systems – maize, beans, coffee agroforestry, and pastures. WSA soil management practices such as plant residue retention on the soil surface (mulch management), minimal to zero tillage, and cover cropping to keep soil permanently covered protect soil and work in synergy with integrated soil fertility and plant nutrient management to increase rainwater productivity – the volume of crop produced per the amount of rainfall. In WSA innovation plots, improvements in soil health and fertility have led to consistently higher yields, soil water retention and rainwater productivity, especially during drought. The evidence shows that Mesoamerican smallholder farmers can significantly improve the productivity and climate resilience of their rainfed agricultural systems by applying appropriate water-smart agriculture practices.