Rural communities of Nicaragua unite for water

Cristina Martínez, her children and Abelina Pérez live in El Chagüite. Today they no longer worrying about having clean wáter to drink. Photo: Glomara Iglesias/UNDP Nicaragua.
The El Chagüite community is characterized by its organized and enthusiastic people who support all local sustainable development initiatives. Photo: Glomara Iglesias/UNDP Nicaragua.
Maize is the staple food of the community of El Chagüite and access to water allows for a good harvest. Photo: Glomara Iglesias/UNDP Nicaragua.
The project supported the implementation of a hydrological study, construction of a well and the installation of an extraction engine. Photo: Glomara Iglesias/UNDP Nicaragua.

Cristina Martínez López lives with her husband and five children in La Chagüite, Nicaragua, which has no safe source of drinking water.

“Life is more difficult when the communities lack access to water. It is exasperating that you have to walk every day in order to find water for drinking, cooking and washing your clothes,” says Christina.


  • 6,100 people have benefitted from the implementation of climate change adaptation measures in three prioritized micro-basins.
  • Eleven protection works have been constructed against extreme climate events, including: bridges, rainwater drainage systems, and riverbed protection walls.
  • Over 2,000 people have been trained in risk management, resilience, causes of climate change, and adaptation measures.

Located 300 km north of Managua, the capital of Nicaragua, La Chagüite is a poor farming community whose residents walk, cycle or horse ride on dry and dusty roads. Between October and November, the trees provide some shade, but during the remaining months, the sun is harsh and the temperature rises to 38°C.

In this village, there are small reserves of water unfit for consumption. However, Cristina says that they have had to drink it due to shortages.

To address this problem and have access to safe water, the community organized a Water Committee and requested support from the project “Territorial approach to climate change in Las Segovias”. Funded by the Swiss Cooperation in Central America, it is implemented by the UNDP in coordination with local municipalities, the Ministry of the Environment and Natural Resources (MARENA), and the organization Action Against Hunger.

The project, which began in December 2011, is being implemented in three territorial departments of Nicaragua: Estelí, Madriz and Nueva Segovia, with a budget of US$3.38 million. The objective is to contribute to poverty reduction by increasing the resilience of vulnerable populations and their livelihoods against climate change.

Solving the problem of water scarcity was a priority for the Chagüite community. After several search attempts, they finally identified an aquifer with multiple underground channels. The project supported the implementation of a hydrological study, the construction of a well, installation of an extraction engine and reforestation. Discussions were carried out on water system management and environmental protection, and legal advice was given to the Water Committee.

Approximately 6,100 people have benefitted from the implementation of climate change adaptation measures in three prioritized micro-basins: projects for water harvesting, agroforestry systems, seed banks and community aqueducts, and capacity building. Eleven flood protection works were constructed, such as bridges, rainwater drainage systems and riverbank protection walls.

To strengthen local capacity, over 2,000 people - including farmers, technical institutions and municipal authorities, university professors, journalists and religious leaders - were trained in risk management, resilience, causes of climate change, and adaptation measures. The method used in the training is "learning by doing", empowering the community to understand the issues and be invested in the processes. The local investment contributes to longer term environmental sustainability and the project has become a reference to be replicated in other areas.

“This is a good example of the benefits that we can provide to the communities in extreme poverty,” says Douglas Benavidez, Project Coordinator. “This can specifically be observed in communities such as El Chagüite and in families like Cristina’s, who today are using a safe water system and have acquired skills in watershed management and promoting resilience."

The project’s multi-level approach incorporates engagement from additional sectors outside of the community. Local governments and municipal associations worked on developing climate change adaptation strategies and its integration into the processes of territorial planning. The universities in the area supported the process by including the subject matter in the curriculum. The project also has a communication strategy that promotes behavioural change and teaches people about climate change adaptation and resilience.

Today, the population of El Chagüite are happy and satisfied with their system. Not only do they no longer waste time looking for water, but they also can focus on preserving this important resource.

"When a community comes together and each person becomes socially committed, living conditions improve, because they become actors of their own development," says Cristina.

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