Innovation of the Week: Water Harvesting

Irrigation ditches in Awash River Basin (Doni), Oromiya in Ethiopia (photo credit: ILRI)

Irrigation ditches in Awash River Basin (Doni), Oromiya in Ethiopia (photo credit: ILRI)

It’s not a good season for rain, according to one of the contacts Danielle will meet during her visit to Ethiopia. This is the third year in a row where drought has hurt livestock and crop production. And Ethiopia is not the only country in sub-Saharan Africa suffering from lack of rainfall. Our guest blogger Brendan Buzzard has written extensively about the consequences of the drought in Kenya, as well.

On Thursday, Oxfam International called for donors and the Ethiopian government to look beyond quick fixes to combating hunger and climate change and to look towards solutions that are sustainable for farmers on the ground and for the environment. In other words, the same kind of solutions that Nourishing the Planet is setting out to emphasize.

One of these solutions being implemented in countries all over sub-Saharan Africa is rain water harvesting. In Sudan, IFAD introduced a water harvesting technique that uses chisel ploughs to create trenches and dust shields in the dry, hard soil to store rainwater. Where before the rain would run over the surface of the ground, mostly unabsorbed by the solid, clay-like dirt, stored in these trenches it slowly soaks into the soil. Farmers can also lower or raise the sides of the ditches or release the water all together by removing the sides of a ditch, allowing them to better manage and control irrigation.

Using this technique farmers were able to increase their productivity, reduce dependence on weather for their water supply, and reduce the average cultivation area, lessening deforestation and damage to the surrounding environment. Similar water harvesting techniques are being implemented in other countries such as spate irrigation in Eritrea, and engaging the government in water preservation in Rwanda.

Survey ButtonOne of our goals for Nourishing the Planet is to continue to collect these stories of hope, gathering a list of some of the most innovative agricultural techniques that help nourish people, protect the environment, and improve livelihoods. If you’d like to highlight other innovations, we encourage you to fill out our survey, adding your knowledge to our growing library of great projects taking place around the world.  Stay tuned for more information about these innovations, and others, as we gather more survey results and hear back from Danielle and her project visits on the ground.

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