Newsflash March 2017

Overcoming dry spells with FBFS

In Malawi, there has been a 4-week dry spell in January which damaged and affected the growth of many crops in the country. Two years ago, several in-situ water harvesting technologies (e.g. conservation agriculture, manure application, water absorption trenches, pit planting and road run-off storage techniques) have been introduced to farmers in Mitundu. What is a better time to assess the effect of these techniques than at the end of a dry spell? Our FBLN Malawi partner the Rainwater Harvesting Association of Malawi (RHAM) in collaboration with the Land Resource Conservation Department of the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development (MOAIWD) organised a field-day showing the benefits of in-situ water harvesting technologies. RHAM, MOAIWD and the farmers have clearly seen the positive effects; crops have been able to survive the dry spell because of these different rain and floodwater harvesting techniques; groundwater recharge improved, evidenced by the revival of some boreholes which had dried up; tree planting also contributed to groundwater recharge as well as nutrient availability, economic development and nutrition; fields that were previously abandoned due to land degradation have been reclaimed and cultivated again; and upstream water harvesting increased water availability in downstream wetlands which made vegetable production and livestock grazing possible again. This field-day clearly showed the benefits of in-situ water harvesting technologies and motivated to continue investing in these. For farmers who have not implemented these technologies, it gave an incentive to do so.

Smart Agricultural Tools

Farmers and agricultural labourers do intensive work, why not try to make it a bit less time consuming and easier? We try to promote the testing and use of smart agricultural tools like the scythe which has been recently tested in Sudan. A video of this has been made which shows that the tool, if improved and adjusted to the local requirements, could be very useful for harvesting Sorghum. The FBLN is developing and promoting smart agricultural tools like the electric milk churner, scythe, oil press, water pads and tree puller. For more information click here 

Rainwater harvesting Manual

Harvested water from roofs can cover up to 17.5% of the water demand in Sana’a, a city in Yemen, where water is scarce. Our FBLN Yemen partner the Water and Environment Centre (WEC) in collaboration with Sana’a University, developed a manual for Rooftop Rainwater Harvesting Systems in Yemen. It shows a.o. different rainwater harvesting components, a hydrological data analysis, design considerations and cost estimation and benefits. Read and/or download the manual here.


Farming on Marshland

The marshlands of Nazirpur upazila in Pirojpur Bangladesh are under as much as eight feet of water for most of the year. It isn’t the sort of environment that makes one think of growing vegetables. Yet local farmers do. Employing an Indonesian technique known as sorjan cropping, and locally called the kandi system, Nazirpur’s marshlands have provided valuable harvests for generations. The farming system requires quite a lot of preparation, primarily in winter which is the only season when much of the land is above water. In these months farmers construct long ridges of soil, of up to six feet wide, to serve as raised beds for crops when the waters rise. It isn’t easy to build the ridges for the lack of suitable soil in marshland areas. The water plants work as natural fertilisers and the farmers use boats to make their way to and from their kandi. Once bed preparation is complete, winter crops including brinjal, cucumber, spinach, bitter gourd, cowpea, banana and papaya are planted. 
A crop such as red spinach will take not more than twenty days to mature on a kandi plot and offers good profit. The only cost is the seed. To protect the crops, vines are planted on frames of sticks along the sides of the kandi to prevent erosion should water levels rise.
It’s not known when the kandi system was first used in the area, but it’s a practice that dates back centuries. This year up to 2,200 hectares of land has been engaged in kandi-method vegetable cultivation. Here you can see a video of the floating farms of Pirojpur.

Bringing in the floods

Martijn van Staveren, a PhD at Wageningen University at the Environmental Policy group, is doing research on flood management policies and seasonal flooding in deltas. Click here for an interesting video where he is comparing flood management policies in Dutch, Bangladeshi and Vietnamese deltas. Visit his blog for more of his interesting findings.

Enhancing flood resilience

Communities adjacent to the Karnali River in the Terai plains (the flat lands that connect Nepal to India), are very vulnerable to floods. It is one of the poorest regions of the country and has faced migration from the mid-hills by landless farmers looking for space to farm. When they arrived, they settled in the flood prone land next to the river, which was one of the only unoccupied areas. This land has great fertile soils for agriculture but receives big flash flood during the monsoon. This blog, explains three examples on how livelihood adaptation as helped the people in the Terai plains to be more resilient to flooding. It discusses raised grain storage, off-farm training and banana farming. Banana has been introduced as a flood tolerant adaptation to regular inundation flood which is more resilient than traditional rice cropping.