The UN Annual Report on the Water Development in the World with title “Partnerships and Cooperation for Water” published at the World
Water Conference today in New York, cites as a positive example the
catchment of rainwater in the Brazilian Northeast.
Box 4.3 Smart rainwater management and drought resilience in rural semi-arid communities: A case study of Northeast Brazil
The smart rainwater management in Northeast Brazil was triggered by a drought between 1979 and 1983, which killed nearly one million people. Since the late 1970s, the Governmental Agricultural Research Center for the Semi-arid Region (EMBRAPA Semi-Arid) conducts research on rainwater harvesting systems. In 1990, the Regional Institute of Small Appropriate Agriculture and Animal Husbandry (IRPAA) and other non-governmental organizations started undertaking research and dissemination of rainwater harvesting technologies, as part of the model 'Living in Harmony with the Semi-Arid Climate’. Over the course of the 1990s, it became necessary to create the institutional basis to implement larger programmes, so the government funded the Brazilian Rainwater Catchment and Management Association in July 1999, bringing together researchers and users of rainwater technologies.In the same year, non-governmental organizations founded the Semi-Arid Network (ASA), which brought together more than 2000 grassroots organizations, including non-governmental organizations, farmers’ unions, cooperatives, associations and church communities. The ASA launched the campaign under the slogan 'No family without safe drinking water’ and proposed the One Million Cisterns Programme (P1MC), to be implemented by civil society in a decentralized way (at the community, municipal, micro-regional, state and semi-arid regional levels). The P1MC was complemented by the Programme One Piece of Land and Two Types of Waters (P1+2), calling for every rural family to have: (1) a piece of land large enough to produce food, raise livestock, and ensure a sustainable life; and (2) two types of water storage, one for drinking and another for agricultural production.The rainwater management programmes, executed principally by ASA with governmental financing, are a success story. The community went from 1 million dead people to 1 million cisterns. In the drought of 1979 to 1983, about 1 million people in the Northeast died of starvation, that is, hunger or thirst. In the drought that lasted from 2012 to 2017, there were no records of deaths by starvation, no large migrations, no emergencies and much less looting in the cities of the hinterland.The One Million Cisterns Programme received the Future Policy Award 2017 during the 13thConference of the Parties of the UN Convention to Combat Desertification in Ordos, China, because it “is a participative, bottom-up way to provide water for consumption, for producing food and raising livestock in Brazil’s drought-prone semi-arid region using simple rainwater collection technology. It empowers millions of the region’s poorest people to be in control of their own needs, to generate income and enhance their food security”.Source: Text excerpted and adapted from Gleason Espíndola et al. (2020, pp. 210–211, 215–216).
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