Newsflash February 2020

We have prepared a new Newsflash for you full with updates from the network from Yemen, Ethiopia, Pakistan, Kenya and more, including the newest resources and papers published. Feel free to share your feedback, news or ideas with us through info@spate-irrigation.org.

Enjoy the reading!

Pakistan – solar packs for rural equipment

The FBLN is working with RDF, one of our partners in Pakistan, on solar packs for small rural equipment’s such as small grinders (for chickpea powder) and milk churners. We believe this can relief the workload of women and create income opportunities in the areas where households depend on floods.

A locally developed grinder at a mill in Nai Gaj, Pakistan.

Pakistan – proposals through the Asian Development Bank (ADB)

A delegation from ADB recently visited Balochistan area, Pakistan, to assess possibilities for investments in spate irrigation systems. Similar efforts are taking place in Sindh and Punjab where, together with the local authorities, proposals are being developed to invest in spate systems.

The role of drinking water in Flood Based Livelihoods Systems

Water, and more specific drinking water is key for human survival. In most spate irrigation systems, surface water or (open) drinking water ponds are the only source of water, especially in areas where the groundwater aquifers are too deep or containing brackish water. The priority of drinking water is shown by the fact that, within the distribution of the spate flows, the first priority is to fill the ponds. However, when the ponds dry up, the cost of accessing water increases greatly. We have come across specific cases where households have to travel 8 kilometres to fetch water, using a motorbike, at a cost of $1/20 litres jerrycan.

The question we can ask ourselves is, ‘are these also the so called ‘last mile communities’?
Within the setting of the spate systems, there are options to improve both the access to water as well as the quality of the water. One of the treatments used locally is flocculants, which will remove most of the solids. Options focussing more on the quality of the water are water filters or constructing a (shallow) tube well close to the pond and using the subsurface flow as a pathway to clean the water before use.

See also the recent blog ‘the mother of all ponds’ on thewaterchannel.tv for some inspiration.

Boys fetching water from a typical (drinking) water pond in the Bhag Narri spate system, Pakistan

Yemen – Tihama and the changed water distribution

The country of Yemen has a long and ancient history of Spate Irrigation systems. However, due to the current conflict many of the wadis and other infrastructure have been neglected and (partly) lost their function.

Recently a team of the Water and Environment Centre (WEC) of Sana’a University and the FBLN Yemen visited the Wadis in Tihamam with an aim to assess the current situation and to collect information for the development of proposals for Tihama Wadis Spate Irrigation Systems Rehabilitation; To Achieve Food Security, and Poverty Allocation and livelihood rising.

Some of the findings of the visits are:

  • There is a positive mindset to revitalise the spate systems and bring them back to use after 5 years of conflict and neglect. The spate systems can play a major role in the food security in Yemen, as they have in the past.
  • The years of conflict have affected the systems in reduced maintenance, weakening of social structures and the decrease of finances.
  • Sand mining causes serious erosion, which undermines the structures. The frequent movement of trucks leads to damage to the embankments, which effect the flow of water.
  • Due to limited use and maintenance of the canals there is large scale growth of Musquite trees (prosopis).
  • There is a build-up of sediments before control structures
  • There is an increase of rainfall in the area as well as floods. But it is important to adapt the systems in such a way that they can handle the new flow patters and use them to the benefit of the population.
Meetings with farmers in one of the Wadi’s in Yemen
Canals overgrown with prosopis, showing the need for maintenance

More encouraging developments in the Tihama area, Yemen

During the recent work in Tihama in Yemen it became clear that in two of the major wadis – Wadi Mawr and Wadi Zabid – farmers have modified the centuries old system of water distribution and made it more equal by passing down water earlier to recharge the drinking water wells in the tail end sections of the systems. We initiated this discussion in Wadi Zabid quite some time ago, and it so impressive to see this change happening in a time of stress and conflict. The downstream areas being deprived of floods and subsurface flows after the construction of the diversion weir were suffering also from sand dune movement.

Figure 1 This map and the corresponding graphs of the different areas, show the change in Net Primary Production (NPP) in Wadi Mawr in Yemen between 2009 -2018. Upstream the NPP increases and downstream it mainly decreases. Additionally, some dark green patches show an NPP increase of >20%, which generally represent an increase in natural vegetation rather than in agricultural production.
Figure 2 These graphs show the evaporation and net primary production (NPP) from 2009-2018 for an upstream and downstream area in Wadi Mawr, Yemen. There is a clear annual pattern of an evaporation peak followed by an NPP peak, which is typical for spate irrigation systems. In the NPP timeseries for the downstream area a general decreasing trend can be observed.

Pakistan – forming networks of community groups

As part of the work of the FBLN in Pakistan community and farmer groups are being formed. The groups will be used to select which ‘good practices’ to introduce as part of the project but also to organise the farmers and help them get organise to become a partner among other actors within the spate system. Allah Bakhsh and Gulsher Panhwer of our local partners SPO and RDF are much involved in these activities.

Meetings with newly formed community and farmer groups in Pakistan
One of the female community members explaining the set-up of their community, indicating the locations of houses, shops and other important land marks

A blog on the effect of dams on groundwater by Abdul Soomro

A development taking place in many spate systems is the construction of concrete dams across the spates. The aim of the dams is to create a buffer reservoir, which can be used for year round irrigation. However, these dams often have an unintended effect on the subsurface flows in the river beds, leading to a decreased availability of water for downstream communities and often effectively stopping the seasonal spate flows.

The full blog is available through http://www.thewaterchannel.tv/thewaterblog 

Abdul Ghani Soomro of the Pakistan Agricultural Research Council has recently written a blog about this development, describing a specific case from Darawat Dam, Jamshoro, Pakistan.

Darawat Dam, Pakistan
One of the hand dug wells effected by the lowering water table.

Road water harvesting for pasture production in Kenya (ROFIP)

The ROFIP project (Roads for Indigenous Pasture Production) looks into the potential of road water harvesting for improved indigenous pasture production in arid and semi-arid lands (ASALs). The research project recently published a report on the role of soil moisture and the effect of re-seeding and road water harvesting on the growth of pasture.

The full report is available on the Roads for Water website: http://roadsforwater.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/11/Comparative-analysis-soil-moisture-to-grass-biomass-ROFIP-1.pdf
For more information on the project visit: https://www.nwo.nl/en/research-and-results/research-projects/i/32/29032.html.

ROFIP (2) – new paper published

As part of the ROFIP project several papers have been published presenting interesting and exiting findings around the rehabilitation and management of rangelands and the cultivation of fodder grasses. The articles can be accessed through the ResearchGate website. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/336020109_Rainwater_harvesting_from_roads_enhanced_indigenous_pasture_establishment_in_a_typical_African_dryland_environment

A recent webinar on the same topic can be accessed through the waterchannel.tv http://www.thewaterchannel.tv/webinars/597-creating-pastures-in-african-drylands-using-roadwater-harvesting.

Clip of the Sorghum harvest and the ‘Laihar’-practice

January and February are the months of Sorghum harvest in Pakistan. The FBLN Pakistan chapter recently shared a video of the ongoing harvest and a specific practices related to the harvest.

‘Laihar’ means panicle collector who gets their share at the end of the day in shape of one pack of the panicles that they carry on their shoulder during collection. A poor man approached a laihar to give alm and they gave him what they deemed appropriate on the spot. The collectors are also responsible to cut the stems and oile them in the field as part of daily wage that they get at the end of the day.

http://www.thewaterchannel.tv/media-gallery/6794-sorghum-harvest-in-pakistan

Truck loaded with newly havested sorghum, preparing to deliver the harvest to the market

Spate Irrigation as cultural heritage

Karim Nawaz recently attended the ‘International Symposium on Water and Culture –Learning from Water Heritage to Innovate Regional Development’ in Tokyo where he represented MetaMeta and the FBLN in sessions on ‘water as culture and heritage’. The aim of the Symposium is to help our deeper understanding of relations between the people and water by visiting water heritage around the world.

See also the newsitem on the website of GRIPS, the hosting organisation for a newsitem on the symposium http://www.grips.ac.jp/en/news/20200212-6309/

New resources:

Our partners have published several new papers related to the news items presented in this newsflash.

1. MSc-thesis Yemen, evaluating the potential of road rain water harvesting in Yemen, a case study of the Maghrabah Manakah Bab Bahil Road, Sana’a Governorate
http://spate-irrigation.org/a-road-rain-water-harvesting-yemen/

2. Blog – Effect of dam construction on underground flows in Jamshoro, Pakistan
http://www.thewaterchannel.tv/thewaterblog

3. Report – The potential of road water harvesting for improved indigenous pasture production in arid and semi-arid lands (ASALs).
http://roadsforwater.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/11/Comparative-analysis-soil-moisture-to-grass-biomass-ROFIP-1.pdf