Ag Illustrated is a quarterly publication of the Auburn University College of Agriculture.

Katie Jackson
Leigh Hinton
Jamie Creamer


Teresa Rodriguez

3 Comer Hall
Auburn University
Auburn, AL

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In late 1999 Christian Children's Fund of Brazil (CCF) contacted the Auburn University International Center for Aquaculture and Aquatic Environments (ICAAE) to explore the possibility of a partnership to address water issues in Brazil. That contact has already resulted in great strides toward better health for some Brazilians.

CCF has been active for many years in Brazil supporting community development that targets child welfare, especially health and education. CCF's initial contact resulted in a joint funded project and agreement between CCF and ICAAE to improve survival and health of children through development of safe drinking water sources, to increase quantity of water for human consumption, to improve food production strategies and to enhance community self-reliance for water and food needs through new knowledge and skills.

The project is being implemented in the "Drought Polygon," an environmentally challenging area of Brazil. The Drought Polygon is one of the largest semi-arid areas in the world. Its geographical extent is 868,000 square kilometers, and its population is 18 million. Approximately 98 percent of the 42,000 children and 11,000 families within the project's targeted communities live below the poverty line, earning less than one U.S. dollar per day.

The project area is rural and semi-arid, with severe degradation of its natural resource base. Existing agricultural practices are eroding the soil and stripping it of its fertility. The terrain's high hills and steep slopes compound the problem by further reducing water infiltration and increasing runoff. During the brief and intense rainy season (October to January), much soil is eroded from the fragile and unprotected land, with highly negative impacts on water quantity and quality, agricultural production, food security and environmental quality. The dry season is long and hard, with virtually no rainfall.

Auburn University through the ICAAE is providing technical assistance, and CCF is providing project management and counterpart technical personnel. Bryan Duncan, ICAAE director, is coordinating Auburn technical support to the project. The Auburn team consists of Bill Deutsch, CoAg professor of fisheries and allied aquacultures and a water quality specialist; Kyung Yoo, a CoAg soil and water engineer; Dennis Shannon, CoAg tropical agronomist; and Len Lovshin, CoAg aquaculturist. The first Auburn students to be involved were two senior engineering students who traveled to Brazil in June 2004 with Yoo to provide assistance, and to enrich their education at Auburn through an international experience.

Clean and safe water to drink is critically important to improve child health and reduce infant mortality. Deutsch provides leadership for this project component, for which the models are Alabama Water Watch, and its international component, Global Water Watch (a worldwide network of community-based water monitoring groups assisted by Auburn University and active in Brazil, Thailand, Ecuador and the Philippines).

Because the environment is semi-arid, sufficient water for multiple uses is in critically short supply. Yoo leads this effort to design and construct roof-top water catchment and storage systems to capture water during the rainy season for human consumption, and watershed ponds to capture and store rainy season runoff.

Soil erosion control and soil fertility enhancement are important for protection of water quality and for farming activities that contribute to family livelihood. Shannon and Yoo are providing guidance for these interventions. Shannon has introduced alley cropping and no-till cultivation on sloped farm lands to improve agricultural productivity. Lovshin is providing assistance with aquaculture activities.

The impacts hoped for are that child survival will be improved; children and their families will be healthier; more income will be available to poor families, improving the quality of their lives; community members will have new knowledge and skills for solving problems created by degraded natural resources, and for restoring and protecting those resources; school-age youth will receive educational experiences strongly oriented to improving their participation in solving these problems; and new policies will be created and applied to local levels to restore and protect water and related natural resources.

There is much interest around the world to initiate integrated projects at the small watershed level similar to this effort in Brazil. The entry point for these projects has been community-based water monitoring that seeks to educate local citizens about the environmental resources upon which they depend, and to give them the skills required to monitor the quality of their water, which reflects environmental quality. Through its international partners, the ICAAE may soon expand its Global Water Watch program to include community-based water monitoring initiatives in China, Vietnam, Indonesia and the Ukraine.

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