Addressing drought through revival of a historic reservoir: Barnes Hill Community, Antigua and Barbuda

Leonard Philip, Barnes Hill Community Development Organization

The people of Barnes Hill community are working together to restore their community reservoir, which was built in the 1890s to provide the village with fresh water in times of drought but had fallen into disuse and disrepair. Water shortages during a recent four-year drought led to serious impacts, not only on plants and animals but also on human health and sanitation. The village nurse documented illnesses at the clinic that were directly related to a lack of water for basic needs. The drought and the need for water brought the people together to seek solutions, and in 2015 this led to the formation of the Barnes Hill Community Development Organization.

Since the project began, the villagers have cleared out the mud and debris that had accumulated in the reservoir over many years, and have controlled invasive species, including coralita vines (Antigonon leptopus). Most of the original structure for the reservoir was still present and villagers are repairing the walls and other features, and will add a new roof. There is also a plan is to build a second reservoir, because the community has grown significantly since the original reservoir was built and it is not large enough now to supply the whole community during severe droughts. This expansion has been made possible because of a gift of land, which means that the site has grown from two to seven acres.

The restored reservoir
The restored reservoir

The BHCDO is also working more broadly to develop the area as a heritage site, with green spaces and historical trails. The vision is to revive and restore the community’s culture, environment and identity, and to build new sources of sustainable livelihoods, especially for women, through community-based tourism. A natural resource inventory is ongoing, archival information is being matched with features found on the site, and older members of the community are sharing their knowledge and experiences with youths to better connect them with the past. The BHCDO has written to the Cabinet proposing the creation of a new cultural and heritage site, which would provide legal protection for the site, and which would continue to be managed by the community.

Birds at Barnes Hill. Credit: Timothy Payne
Birds at Barnes Hill. Credit: Timothy Payne

The effective management of this site rests on strong partnerships based on the passion, commitment and connectedness of the people involved. This initiative has motivated other community groups to mount actions and find community solutions, based on respect for our local biodiversity and heritage and a vision of living in harmony with our natural environment.

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