Blog A Rainy Community Success: The Observer Networks in Choluteca and El Paraíso, Honduras: What began as a funded development project has grown into a network of passionate rain observers

Authors: Oscar Martínez, Irma Ayes y Elsi Herrera.

In many parts of the world, weather forecasting is a valuable resource, whether for farmers who depend on rainfall for their crops, or for communities that must prepare for possible flooding. In Honduras, a community-based initiative funded by the European Union and implemented by the Bioversity International Alliance - CIAT, in collaboration with the World Food Programme (WFP), generated a unique perspective to help people better understand rainfall behavior. This project seeks to empower local communities by providing them with the tools to understand and anticipate rainfall behavior through the installation of rain gauges in 60 communities in the departments of Choluteca and El Paraíso.

A rain gauge, a community and a revolution

In an effort to strengthen resilience to climate change in rural communities in Choluteca and El Paraíso - Honduras, the Bioversity International - CIAT Alliance supported the installation of rain gauges in these regions as a first step to strengthen decision-making and preventive actions in the face of climate variations. Rain gauges are simple but effective instruments that measure the amount of rain that falls in a specific area and time, a device that although modest, is very powerful and that thanks to the interest of the communities, has gained great value by understanding its use and the valuable information it provides to make preventive decisions. In this way, what began as an educational exercise, became something much bigger: a process of empowering local communities to understand the climate in their territories and anticipate actions to a highly variant climate.

From project to community movement

Once the rain gauges were installed, community members were trained on how to use them. This was not only an educational exercise, but a practical way to involve communities in climate data collection and democratize information.

When the project ended, the magic began. Those in charge of the rain gauges, instead of abandoning them, realized the importance of continuing to collect data. Thus was born a passionate group of rain observers in the communities of Choluteca and El Paraíso, who share daily and monthly records of rainfall in their territories through WhatsApp groups, strengthening local understanding of the climate and providing valuable information to make decisions at the community level.

Also, people who were not part of the project became aware of this initiative and saw how local knowledge and rainfall data collection could benefit their own communities. Soon, they approached the observer group to request information and explore the possibility of having a rain gauge in their communities.

This expansion demonstrates the power of information, local knowledge, and scaling across communities. Observing weather conditions and collecting data can become an invaluable tool for decision making and adapting to a changing climate.

Benefits of a community of observers

The rainfall observer network has proven to be immensely beneficial. Its contributions extend to:

1. Better agricultural planning: farmers can now make informed decisions about when to plant and harvest based on rainfall data. This has led to more successful harvests and greater food security.
2. Complement to official forecasts: Data provided by rainfall observers at the local level provides detailed area information that augments national forecasts, making weather warnings more accurate.
3. Disaster resilience: Understanding local weather patterns enables better preparedness and response to extreme weather events, such as floods and droughts.
4. Community empowerment: Participation has strengthened the social fabric. In addition, they are actively contributing to risk management, not only agricultural but also relevant to flood and landslide risks in their territories.

What began as an initiative to install rain gauges for educational purposes has evolved into an inspiring story of community empowerment. The network of rain observers in Choluteca and El Paraíso - Honduras, is a testament to the power of providing communities with the resources and knowledge needed to understand and adapt to the changing climate, and how through empowerment, knowledge continues to be shared to other communities and generations, strengthening more and more territories on how to act in the face of incessant climate variations. This exercise represents a model for future community development projects in Honduras and around the world, as is the case of the CGIAR Initiative AgriLAC Resiliente, which expects to continue supporting these community exercises in 2024 in the framework of supporting the development of agroclimatic services in Honduras.