Water Resources Professional Project Reports

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The rural hillside farmers of Honduras live extremely rudimentary lifestyles with little to no outside income. They choose available parcels of land for their cultivation needs and clear the land using slash and burn techniques. The combination of the steep slopes and the lack of erosion control equates to significant soil loss. The agricultural production determines to the quality of life for the hillside families. Typical erosion control measures, such as terraces, are exceedingly labor intensive for the rural hillside farmers. The average family lives on a section of land until the soil is no longer productive (between two and five years). This paper characterizes quality of life as having enough harvest to feed the family and additional crop remaining to sell for cash to purchase additional food, medicine and clothing. Once the current worked parcel of land is exhausted, the family must find another plot for its farming activities. This project implemented an erosion control strategy, using three criteria, on a study site in a readily available part of the land, which is currently used in typical, everyday farming practices. This study addressed the erosion control problems of the rural hillside farmers in Honduras by demonstrating feasible and appropriate erosion control techniques to the farmers. Through the combination of grass screens and trenches located on the down-slope side of thescreens, erosion rates seemed to decrease from 0.06 to 0.04 cubic meters of erosion per year. Due to the short duration, limited plot size and possible sources of error, much futurework is needed to substantiate these numbers.

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Tropical ecosystem, Slash and burn (swidden), Deforestation, International Erosion Control Association, Weed rolls, Grass screens, Soil sieve analysis, Trench sediment collection, Modified Universal Soil Loss Equation


A Professional Project Report Submitted in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements For the Degree of Master Of Water Resources, Policy/Management Option, Water Resources Program, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, New Mexico, August 2004.