Water harvesting with an innovative ‘sand’ dam


Photo credit: IFAD

Said is a farmer in Dhubato, Somaliland, he is married with 10 children. As part of an IFAD-supported project an innovative water management solution was put in place, and now the construction of sand water storage dams guarantees a steady supply of water. ©IFAD/Marco Salustro


How an innovative ‘sand’ dam is causing a rush for water in Somalia

Drought and failed rains caused by the El Nino weather phenomenon have sparked a dramatic rise in the number of people going hungry in northern Somalia.

Self-declared independent Somaliland along the Gulf of Aden has been especially hard hit.

However, in the sub-regions of Maaroodi-Jeex and Awdal, in the arid and semi-arid region of Somaliland, an innovative water management solution is helping small farmers stay in business despite the changing weather patterns.

Inhabitants who previously left to look for work opportunities are flocking back to the area to return to farming, which they now see as profitable.

Even people from other communities in the area are lured by the promise of rapid returns on investment. After years of war, drought, political instability and famine, the construction of sand water storage dams, as part of the programme known as the North-Western Integrated Community Development Programme (NWICDP), supported by IFAD and funded by the OPEC Fund for International Development (OFID) and the Belgian Fund for Food Security (BFFS), guarantees a steady supply of water.

“Water scarcity during the dry season is a major problem afflicting millions of Somali households, particularly agro-pastoral and nomadic poor people,” said Samir Bejaoui, Programme Analyst for IFAD’s Near East, North Africa and Europe Division.

“This innovative solution has improved access to drinking and irrigation water, increased crop and livestock production as well as farmers’ income.”

Although the project was completed in March 2015, the substantial benefits of the dams and associated shallow wells – along with other project investments to improve agriculture and livestock productivity, the quality of rural health and sanitation facilities – have triggered socio-economic change that is likely to be sustained in the future.

Read the full story: IFAD

Water and sanitation challenges in Africa

Photo credit: SciDevNet

Addressing Africa’s water and sanitation challenges

The World Bank Group’s Water and Sanitation Program (WSP) was one of the key players at the congress, contextualising innovations and smart solutions in successful synergies.

(Alberto Leny)

Author Image

Alberto Leny
in Nairobi, Kenya

Water and sanitation challenges that confront Africa are not new on the continent.

Thus, the 18th African Water Association (AfWA) International Congress and Exhibition that took place in Kenya last week (22-25 February) raised my curiosity with the theme “sustainable access to water and sanitation in Africa”.

Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta officially opened the conference and noted that the world faces severe water stress, with Africa being the worst affected. He, however, indicated that not all is gloom as there has been significant progress under the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) that saw 6.6 billion people gain access to improved sources of water.

I attended key sessions as more than 1,200 delegates from 41 African countries deliberated on efforts being made to attain the targets set in theSustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that succeeded the MDGs.

At the opening symposium that brought together the water and sanitation community in Africa and the world — researchers, academics, managers of water utilities, policymakers, young professionals in the sector and donors — I pondered how they would go about meeting the ambitious targets.

Hamanth Kassan, the AfWA president, urged delegates to take stock of the current situation and come up with innovative ways of improving sustainable access to water and sanitation in Africa that will feed into the SDGs.

Read the full article: SciDevNet

Why are many people so careless about water harvesting and water stockage in the soil?


Photo credit: * Drums – rain harvesting – Photo Vc Lim – 543009_339426419459768_100001772389418_778512_1937205101_n.jpg


Managing groundwater – Gestion de la nappe aquifère


Originally published at:




Le nombre de forages construits dans des régions arides grandit continuellement et provoque une baisse considérable de la nappe aquifère. Il est donc nécessaire d’appliquer une gestion efficace de cette nappe afin de ne pas créer des grands problèmes de tout genre. Nous recommandons donc de se concentrer aussi sur la collecte de l’eau de pluie et sur le stockage de la pluie dans la zone de l’enracinement des plantes (20-30 cm), p.ex. avec le conditionneur de sol TerraCottem.


I have been reading today (2007-03-08) an interesting article on “Managing groundwater for dry season irrigation”, written by I.M. FAISAL, S. PARVEEN and M.R. KABIR. Should you look for the full text, please find it on “id21 natural resources highlights – water – 2006“, an annual publication of the Institute of Development Studies – University of Sussex, Brighton, UK, to which you can easily subscribe.

The article mentioned above tells us first:

Using groundwater for dry season irrigation has been the preferred strategy of the Bangladesh govenment for many years. For example, the privatisation of irrigation in the 1990s led to huge growth in the number of shallow tube-wells. However, groundwater must be managed carefully: there is not enough information available on national groundwater resources to understand or predict long-term environmental impacts of continued use“.

Having noticed myself the dramatic fall of the groundwater level over the years 1975-2005 in many African Sahel countries, I could not agree more with the statement above. Most probably, this fall is not only caused by the well-known continuous drought in that region, but also to the ever growing number of wells and pumps. It would be wise to ring the alarm bell for any proliferation of the well-intended “humanitarian” projects to drill more and deeper wells to “bring water to people and animals“. On the contrary, it would be wiser to take better care ofwater harvesting and to look for more efficient water use, like these authors say.  The authors also tell us: “Most water projects in Bangladesh have a narrow focus, such as flood control, drainage or irrigation. Social, economic and environmental factors are largely ignored and there is little monitoring or evaluation. The Barind Multipurpose Development Project (BMDP) consciously tries to overcome these problems to meet the challenges of creating the physical and social infrastructure necessary for groundwater irrigation in a semi-arid area. For example, the project encourages maximum use of carefully spaced deep tube-wells (DTWs), which minimises water wastage.


The BMDP also constantly monitors quality and quantity of groundwater and aquifer levels. Thousands of poorly maintained rainwater collection tanks have been renovated.


Several positive features of this approach are mentioned:

° Water use groups, consisting of users from many different social groups and institutions, give feedback to BMDP managers to improve project performance.-

° A large reforestation campaign and distribution of medicinal plant seedlings are examples of the project’s environmental improvement activities.

According to the authors several problems are encountered, the most significant being when hand wells, used to collect drinking water, began to dry up in DTW target areas. It has highlighted a need to integrate the planning of irrigation projects with drinking water supplies. This phenomenon is also widespread in semi-arid areas in Africa, and probably on other continents too.

It brings me to the following question:

Why are many people so careless about water harvesting and water stockage in the soil?

Rainwater that comes free from the sky runs off, infiltrates deep or evaporates without any human action to stop this. Oh yes, we will construct dams (or even little dikes – diguettes) and we will install expensive tube-wells and pumps. In other words, first we do nothing and then we spend a lot of energy (and money) to bring the water back where it belongs, i.e. in the rooting zone of the cultivated fields.

It would be more logic and more efficient to collect that free rainwater mechanically (in drums or bigger reservoirs/tanks) or chemically (with water stocking substances that can easily be mixed with the soil, let us say 20-30 cm/ 1 foot deep).

Ever heard about the TerraCottem soil conditioner developed at my laboratory at the University of Ghent, Belgium? Please have a look at the websitehttp://www.terracottem.com and learn something about efficient use of rainwater.

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Family garden of the Saharawis refugees in the Sahara desert (S. W. Algeria) – (UNICEF project 2005-2007)- Photo WVC P1000375 copy 1.jpg


Vegetable garden in the Sahara desert (Smara refugee camp, Algeria). Soil is pure desert sand without any amendment. Drip irrigation every day. Very poor production.

Jardin de légumes au Sahara (camp des réfugiés à Smara, Algérie). Le sol est du sable du désert pur sans aucun amendement. Irrigation goutte-à-goutte tous les jours. Production très pauvre.

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Photo WVC P1000372 copy 1.jpg – Family garden in the refugee camps in S.X. Algeria ( Sahara desert)

Neighbour’s garden in the same Smara refugee camp. Desert sand mixed with 50 g of TerraCottem soil conditioner/25 cm deep. Drip irrigation every two days. Magnificent production.

Le jardin du voisin dans le même camp de Smara. Sable du désert mélangé avec 50 g de conditionneur de sol TerraCottem/25 cm de profondeur. Irrigation goutte-à-goutte tous les 2 jours. Production magnifique.



Instead of letting all the rainwater become groundwater, let us use it for keeping our fields moistened for a longer period. And don’t miss that important information: TerraCottem soil conditioner is only applied one single time ! It stays active in the soil for many years.

You don’t believe it? Give it a try !

Closing the 21st century hunger gap


by Prof. Dr. Willem Van  Cotthem

Ghent University – Belgium

Originally published at:


I have been reading with great interest Malin FALKENMARK’s article, of which the coordinates and abstract are given below:

Water Resour Manage (2007) 21:3–18 – DOI 10.1007/s11269-006-9037-z


Shift in thinking to address the 21st century hunger gap

Moving focus from blue to green water management

Malin Falkenmark

Springer Science + Business Media B.V. 2006

Facts are facts but perceptions guide approaches



The present water policy debate is dominated by the 30 yr old mission to secure water supply and sanitation to all people. The water needed to produce a nutritionally acceptable diet for one person is however 70 times as large as the amount needed for domestic water supply. The food security dilemma is largest in arid climate regions, a situation constituting a formidable challenge. It is suggested that an additional 5 600 km3 /yr of consumptive water use will be needed to produce an adequate amount of food by 2050 – i.e almost a doubling of today’s consumptive use of 6800 km3 /yr. Past misinterpretations and conceptual deficiencies show the importance of a shift in thinking. Combining the scale of the challenge and the time scale of the efforts to feed humanity and eradicate hunger leads to an impression of great urgency. This urgency strengthens the call for international research both for supporting agricultural upgrading, and for much better handling of issues of environmental sustainability. What stands out is the need of a new generation of water professionals, able to handle complexity and able to incorporate water implications of land use and of ecosystem health in integrated water resources management. It will for those reasons be essential and urgent to upgrade the educational system to producing this new generation.



I agree fully with the author that the food security dilemma constitutes a dramatic challenge, in particular in the drylands. Eradicating famine and hunger is indeed very urgent and focused research is needed to address the universal problem of shortness of fresh water for agricultural upgrading.

A “new generation” of “water professionals” should be “able to handle complexity and able to incorporate water implications of land use and of ecosystem health in integrated water resources management“.


The dry soil conditioner TerraCottem, a granular compound to be mixed with the topsoil, able to absorb a considerable quantity of water and the mineral elements dissolved in it.


However, I really do believe that in an integrated water resources management, those water professionals should take into account the existence of technologies or methods to reduce, in a considerable and sustainable way, water consumption for agricultural and horticultural purposes. Indeed, we have already many opportunities to apply at larger scale the TerraCottem-method, we developed at the University of Ghent (Belgium). With this technology we can save some 50 % of the normal volume of irrigation water and still double food production with less fertilizer.


Visit of a Boumerdès delegation to the TerraCottem-treated kitchen garden in the SOS Children’s Village International of Draria (Algiers, Algeria)

(Photo WVC 2006-12-BOUMERDES-10.jpg)

The method has already shown its merits for sustainable rural development in many drylands. Small scale demonstration projects show undeniably that this TerraCottem-method should be applied universally. Saving 50 % of water in agriculture and doubling food production would certainly solve a lot of problems in arid climate regions, don’t you think ?

As seeing is believing, do not hesitate to visit TerraCottem’s website to learn more about this interesting technology (www.terracottem.com).


To provide farmers with training and support to implement soil-saving techniques

Photo credit: Google

Farmer Kuria Samuel practices drip irrigation in the Tana River Basin, Kenya.


Africa’s first Water Fund

By Stephanie Malyon, the International Center for Tropical Agriculture’s (CIAT) Communication Specialist for Africa, based in Nairobi, Kenya.

Originally published on the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) blog on March 20, 2015.

Tackling rising threats to food security, water and energy supplies

Every rainy season Jane Kabugi’s home comes under attack. The torrential rain so desperately needed downstream to fuel Kenya’s rising electricity demands – and Nairobi’s water requirements – has literally been tearing her home and farm apart.

Jane Kabugi and her farm“Our soil is very soft. So when it rains, the rain tends to take the soil away,” says Jane Kabugi on her farm. Photo: Stephanie Malyon

“There was a time when this house of mine was almost gone; it was starting to crack. An engineer came and said ‘if you want to save your house you need to make a strong hold so that the soil can be held’,” she said.

Like 90 per cent of the one million farmers in Kenya’s Tana region, northwest of Nairobi, Jane’s land sits on a steep hillside with a 75 percent incline. She explains: “Our soil is very soft. So when it rains, the rain tends to take the soil away. If I put manure it takes it, if I put fertiliser it takes it.”

Far from just affecting farmer homes and livelihoods in one of Kenya’s most agriculturally productive areas, the knock-on effect downstream is threatening water and energy supplies. As torrents carry precious top soil away from farms into the watershed, the Tana River, which drives half of Kenya’s hydropower-generated electricity and provides 95 per cent of Nairobi’s water, becomes choked with sediment.

Today (20 March 2015), in a first for Africa, The Nature Conservancy (TNC) and partners* including the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), launched a landmark initiative aimed at supporting farmers and upstream users, like Jane, to curb the soil erosion that leads to reduced water and heavy cleaning costs.

The Tana-Nairobi Water Fund is a public-private scheme uniting big business, utilities, conservation groups, government, researchers and farmers. It aims to increase farm productivity upstream, while improving water supply and cutting costs of hydropower and clean water for users downstream, and is designed to generate US$21.5 million in long-term benefits to Kenyan citizens, including farmers and businesses.

The Tana-Nairobi Water Fund is a public-private scheme uniting big business, utilities, conservation groups, government, researchers and farmers.

Groundwater recharge occurs disproportionately from heavy rainfalls

Photo credit: Nature World News

Tropical groundwater resources may be more resilient to climate change than previously thought. Pictured here is an artesian well in central semi-arid Tanzania. (Photo : Jasechko, S & Taylor, R.G)

Tropical Groundwater Resources Benefit From Fewer, But More Intense Rainfall

By Samantha Mathewson

Tropical groundwater resources may be able to stand up to the challenges imposed by climate change, researchers from the University College London (UCL) and the University of Calgary report in a new study. Generally speaking, global warming leads to fewer but more intense rainfalls. However, this precipitation pattern seems to adequately recharge vital sources of freshwater.

Groundwater is an invaluable source of freshwater across the tropics, providing safe drinking water and a source of agricultural irrigation. It follows then, the replenishment of these sources is vital for sustaining the livelihoods and ecosystems that depend on the availability of freshwater.

For their study, researchers assessed the chemical signatures in precipitation and groundwater at 15 sites spread out across the tropics. This allowed them to compare the stable isotopes of hydrogen and oxygen found in these water molecules, from which they can interpret how heavy rainfalls impact groundwater recharge in surrounding areas. In terms of their study, heavy rainfall was defined as those exceeding the 50th percentile of local rainfall intensity. Therefore, their results suggest that groundwater recharge occurs disproportionately from heavy rainfalls, but the processes that carry intensive rainfall to groundwater systems and enhance the resilience of tropical groundwater storage as global temperatures rise remains unknown.

Read the full story: Nature World News

To identify areas where water use produces poor crops

Photo credit: FAO

All countries in North Africa and the Near East suffer from severe water scarcity, raising significant challenges for agriculture that are expected to be compounded by climate change.


Netherlands donates $7 million to improve water management in Near East and Africa

Remote sensing satellite imagery will help to identify areas where water use produces poor crops

The Netherlands and FAO are expanding their collaboration in the area of water management with a $7 million donation by the Dutch government to support the use of remote sensing technology in helping water-scarcecountries in the Near East and Africa monitor and improve the way they use water for crop production.

The additional donation brings the total budget up to $10 million for the Dutch-funded project that uses satellite data to find land areas where water use is not translating into optimal agricultural production, identify the source of the problem and recommend different planting and irrigation techniques.

“The project uses some of the most advanced technologies and takes into account the ecosystems and the equitable use of water resources,” FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva said at an event marking the extended agreement at FAO headquarters in Rome.

He highlighted the importance of the project on the eve of the UN climate conference in Paris, noting the added stress that climate change places on farmers in the way they manage limited water resources.

“We all know that water is becoming scarce while at the same time it is crucial to producing enough good food for a growing number of people,” said Permanent Representative of the Netherlands to FAO Gerda Verburg.

“With this innovative remote sense approach to improving water productivity we give farmers a concrete tool to take decisions about the best use of water and what kind of crops to grow — but also about the growing season so that they can target their investments,” she added.

The data tools created under the project, which will be freely available to governments and farmers alike, also aim to help policymakers in taking evidence-based policy decisions.

Some 70 percent of all freshwater withdrawn worldwide is used for agriculture – a figure that rises to as much as 95 percent in certain developing countries, posing major challenges to the sustainability of food production.

Growing scarcity of and competition for water also threaten to derail poverty alleviation efforts, especially in semi-arid rural areas where access to for this precious resource to grow food and rear livestock is essential for stable livelihoods.

How it works

Read the full article: FAO

Water security in Botswana

Photo credit: UN News Centre

View of plains in Botswana. Photo: World Bank/Curt Carnemark

Drought in Botswana is learning opportunity to achieve water security – UN rights expert

A United Nations human rights expert today urged Botswana to take the current extreme drought in the southern African country as an opportunity to develop a strategy for providing access to safe drinking water and sanitation for all as “a short-cut to prevent illnesses and deaths” in the long run.

“The current drought should not be considered as a sporadic event, but rather as a driver for acquiring water security as a national priority,” said Léo Heller, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Human Right to safe drinking water and sanitation at the end of a nine-day official visit to Botswana.

“A strategic and participatory process, oriented to the provision of water and sanitation for all, will be a short-cut to prevent illnesses and deaths related to water-borne diseases and economic losses,” Mr. Heller said.

Botswana has been going through one of the worst droughts in its history with a significant part of the population facing a severe water shortage.

“Such a measure hits the poor and the vulnerable hardest,” Mr. Heller said, noting that the situation raises serious human rights concerns of water quality, water quantity and related health impacts.

“As water stress in Botswana is predicted to get higher and higher due to the impact of climate change and increasing water demand, the Government must establish measures in order to prevent severe environmental situations from translating into water shortage, affecting people’s standard of living,” he said, adding that access to safe drinking water and sanitation is one of the most important obligations of the human rights framework.

Mr. Heller said he “found an alarming level of highly precarious water supply in these villages – in some cases with no public provision at all” and in some cases with the bush as the only solution to most of the people’s physiological needs.

“I was surprised by still a common practice of open defecation in villages,” he noted.

Read the full article: UN News Centre

When do you start sending barrels ?


Rain collection in a barrel


Every house in the drylands should have a barrel for rain collection. So why don’t people send aid goods in food grade, UV-resistant barrels to their development projects ? Where are all these fine barrels, used in the industry, going to ? Destroyed ? Come on !

Photo credit: Source unknown.

Cheap rain barrels



How To Build a Rain Barrel for CHEAP


Step by step instruction on how to make the cheapest and easiest rain barrel. Learn as I make it in real time. You’ll be able to find a food-grade barrel in your area and make one of these for real cheap. The parts are available at hardware and irrigation stores.

Step 1: Buy a food grade barrel or container.
Step 2: Modify the lid so water can be diverted into the barrel. Include filter, like window screen.
Step 3: Drill a 3/4″ hole near the bottom with a spade bit.
Step 4: Thread a 1/2″ sediment faucet into the barrel. Don’t overtighten.
Step 5: Install an overflow.
Step 6: Add rain water.

Rainbarrels are perfect for urban survival, since water would be THE most challenging resource in a time of crisis. They’re also great for gardens and lawns (though you can’t eat a lawn). Plants prefer harvested rain water over cold, chlorinated hose water. Save money and grow more food by collecting nature’s bounty.

It’s not uncommon for one of these barrels to fill in under 15 minutes. I’ve got four on one downspout and they all fill in a “good” rain. The best way I’ve found to connect them is at the bottom, with additional taps. That way they all fill at the same rate and can all be drained from one outlet.

Some people have made used harvested rain water for include solar showers, flushing toilets, power washers, drinking and cooking, drip irrigation, gardens, green houses (greenhouses), orchards, livestock (cows, horses, goats, pigs), ponds, hot tubs, pools, washing cars, compost tea, and more.

Rain water harvesting in barrels, compost tea, drip irrigation



660 Gallon Rain Barrel & Compost Tea System

This is the last video in my rain barrel system series. The entire system has now been constructed and consists of 12-55 gallon drums to hold 660 gallons of rain water. Four additional containers are below the barrels which will brew compost tea – and then it is pumped back into the rain water barrels to make a 1 part compost tea – to 3 parts water mixture to be delivered to the garden.







rain water catchment


New project will reduce floods and boost irrigation

Photo credit: Google

Women worshiping in holy Ganga river during Sattuani festival in Patna on Tuesday.


Ganga floodwater to be stored underground

(30 Oct, 2015 – Uttar Pradesh, India) A new initiative launched today in Uttar Pradesh could revolutionize flood management while at the same time boost groundwater stocks for dry season irrigation. Located in Jiwai Jadid village, 20 kilometers east of Rampur town, the project will be the first ever to adopt the new approach which is being developed by scientists at the International Water Management Institute (IWMI).

The initiative, called Underground Taming of Floods for irrigation (UTFI), channels surplus surface water from flood‐prone rivers or their distributary canals during the wet season when there is a high flood risk to a modified village pond. Brick structures in the pond allow the water to flow swiftly down below ground, where they infiltrate the local aquifer. This water can then be pumped back up again during the dry season so that farmers can maintain or intensify their crop production.

“This is an exciting concept which has never really been done before and whose benefits go directly to local and wider communities,” said Paul Pavelic, of the International Water Management Institute (IWMI), who leads the research. “Putting this into practice will save on the large funds spent each year on relief and restoration efforts of flood victims and on subsidies for groundwater extraction during the non‐rainy season. We hope our approach would tackle the root causes of the problem rather than the consequences. ”

The Ganga basin suffers from regular floods with the mighty Ganga and its tributaries like Ramganga, Yamuna, Mahananda, Koshi all flooding almost annually. During the rainy season, large volumes of   excess water run off the Himalayan range often causing great damage downstream. On the other hand, some of the same regions face a shortage of water aggravated by year ‐ round agriculture production which is largely dependent on groundwater pumping particularly in dry season when canal water is limited. To deal with this variability, IWMI’s experts have devised a way to selectively capture excess water flows during monsoons and store this in aquifers underground.

The size of the land around the pilot that would receive direct benefit is currently under investigation. With floods being a common occurrence across the Ganga basin, researchers hope that the scaling up of this intervention would help in effectively protecting lives and assets downstream, boosting agricultural productivity and improving resilience to climate shocks at the river basin scale. This will be especially important to help communities deal with climate change which is likely to bring ever more variability in water supply and rainfall.

Read the full Press Release: IWMI

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