Special Newsflash Livelihood Opportunities in FBLS

In an earlier newsflash, you might have read that MetaMeta recently published an overview of “Improved Livelihoods Opportunities in Spate Irrigation”. This catalogue contains an overview of several improvements in the management and utilization of spate irrigation systems based on good practices in different spate irrigation systems in the world.

Improved Livelihood Opportunities in Spate Irrigation

In this special newsflash, a selection of these improvements is being highlighted, accompanied with many photos, videos and other useful resources. The numbers behind the different improvements, match with the numbers in the catalogue.
Enjoy the reading and watching!

Controlled overflow structures (1.4)

In spate irrigation systems, controlled overflow structures help water getting from a fully filled field to the next field in a controlled way. They avoid breaching of the side bunds, gullying and rutting from the water that rushes out of the field. There are several examples of such controlled overflow structures. The pictures below show examples of these controlled overflow structures. The structure in the second picture also includes a basin to catch the sediment. These are examples from spate systems in Pakistan.

Controlled overflow structure
Controlled overflow structure

Road water harvesting (1.9)

Road water harvesting is the practice of harvesting the water runoffs from roads, and making effective use of it. There are several options to apply road water harvesting. The first is to use channels and culverts to spread the water over the land to provide additional water for crops, grasses or trees. Another option is to first collect the water in storage structures, like roadside ponds, in order to use the water at a later moment. Another option is to not use the water for agriculture directly or for surface storage, but to spread it over areas with high infiltration to boost shallow aquifer recharge increasing the local water levels.
On the website roadsforwater.org a lot of resources on the potential of road water harvesting can be found. Also, several videos and case studies about different types and ways of road water harvesting can be found there. On thewaterchannel.tv, a video about road water harvesting in Malawi has been published recently. Practical notes have been written about road water harvesting in Kenya and more specific about water harvesting on road crossings.

Road water harvesting in a pond
Road water harvesting for direct use in agriculture
Road water harvesting in Malawi

Oilseed crops (2.7)

Oilseed crops generally have a lower water requirement then wheat. Also, they perform better than wheat during dry spells. There are a number of oilseeds that have proven to be promising for spate irrigated areas including rapeseed, mustard, canola, sunflower, safflower, sesame, castor and linseed. A practical note has been written about oilseed crops for spate irrigated farming in Pakistan, which is also highly relevant for other spate areas. To actually make use of the oil in the seeds, ideally an oil press is needed. The oil press will be discussed later in this newsflash (3.3). Currently, oilseed crops are sometimes grown as a mix crop with wheat and fodders. There is a growing market for oils from organic seeds, which is applicable to spate irrigated crops as they are by their nature grown in an organic style (see 3.6).

Oilseed crops
Harvesting oilseed crops

Scythe (2.9)

The scythe is used to harvest dry-stem crops and grasses. It reduces long working hours compared to a sickle since it weeds four times faster than a sickle. It is used by twisting the upper body and then cutting up to 30 cm of plants that stand to the right in one sway. In order to use it, some practicing and training is needed, but this investment is more than worth the outcome. The blade of the scythe should be strong and the handle long enough for the thick varieties of sorghum. In this clip you can see how the scythe is being used in Sudan. Also, in there a comparison is made between the scythe method and the traditional method of harvesting. This clip, is about the scythe project in India. It is even more extensive and it also contains farmers responses to the scythe after having used it.


Oil press (3.3)

The oil press is a necessary and very handy tool to extract oil from oilseed crops. It is an electrical machine that extracts oil from different kind of seeds such as rapeseed, mustard and sesame. It processes the seeds to produce a high value oil. Besides that, it reduces potential losses from rodents, birds and molds attacking seeds, because the seeds will have been processed already. The raw seeds are squeezed under high pressure, friction causes it to heat up and the oil seeps through small openings that do not allow seed fiber to pass. This way, a high value oil has been created. In Pakistan, the use of such an oil press is already quite common in rural areas and solar powered options are being developed to be able to use the press in areas without electricity.

Oil press

Market for organic consumption (3.6)

A majority of the crops grown in flood-bases livelihood systems, is free from chemicals and is grown as organic crops. This organic production is recognized for its good quality and better taste. However, due to remoteness of the spate areas, the market for agricultural (organic) products is local. These organic products could be sold either double or more than double of the price in international markets. Connection of organic producers with traders, retailers, wholesalers, processers and certifiers is needed to form the value chain of these organic products. These crops need to be marketed so they grab the attention of these stakeholders. 
For guar, the market for organic consumption has a lot of potential. Guar is the most widely used general purpose thickener and texture modifier in the food industry. For organic products, organic guar is needed. Here definitely lies potential for spate irrigation systems in growing guar as an income generating crop. An extensive practical note has been written about supply and value chains of organic and niche crops in spate ecologies.

Market for organic consumptions

Controlling rodents (3.8)

Rodents are both a threat before harvest as they decrease the potential harvest, as after harvest when storage is not properly arranged. Currently, an estimated 15% of all stored and standing crops are destroyed by rodents globally. It can be concluded, that rodents have an enormous effect on worldwide food security. Biological control of rodents has high potential in rodent control, while using the indigenous knowledge of the local people. Also, this would minimize the side effects of polluting the environment that comes from using rat poison. Very recently, MetaMeta made a clip about ecologically based rodent management in which several methods are shown as well as the production of a plant based rodenticide which can be made through local businesses.


Poultry (4.2)

This video is about the best practices of keeping poultry. Currently, scavenging is the norm, which leads to underweight and diseased chicken. There are simple ways to turn this around – and make a big difference in the production of meat and eggs, and to rural health in general. Key element are vaccinating, small hen house, candling eggs to check their fertility and better hatching. This is where the hatching pan is brought into the picture. In this blog, more about the advantages and possibilities of the hatching pan can be found. The blog also includes a video in which a demonstration is given about how to locally make a hatching pan through an example in Bangladesh.

Hatching pan

Breeding and exchange programs (4.6, 4.7, 4.8)

In spate irrigation systems in for example Eritrea, Ethiopia, Pakistan, Sudan, Yemen, different breeds of goat, sheep and bullocks are common and unique to the spate areas. Each of them has their own qualities, like good meat, high milk yield, temperament and heat and disease tolerance. Breeding and exchanging these breeds between spate areas can increase the production of meat and milk. In this brochure, more information about the specific breeds and their qualities can be found. An extensive practical note has been written about livestock breeds in spate irrigation.


Agroforestry (5.1)

Agriculture using trees has several advantages. Soil fertility can be increased by the use of nutrient fixing trees. Trees can be used to break the wind and to control erosion. Furthermore, water availability can be increased.  Systems that can be implemented are alley cropping, multistrata, silvopasture and woodlots. 

Specific examples of agroforestry are the Acacia Ehrenbergia which serve as input for charcoal production in Yemen and plantations of Acacia Nilotica in Pakistan.

On spate-irrigation.org a lot of practical notes can be found, which also pay attention to agroforestry. Especially this one is worth reading with regard to this topic.

Agroforestry – Multistrata
Agroforestry – Intercropping of melia vaolkensii, neem tree and bananas

Honey production (5.5)

The production of honey is a possibility to have a more diverse and resilient livelihood. High quality honey can give a high profit on the market, and thus be a good source of income, also for women There are several multipurpose trees and shrubs like Selam, Sedr, Ber, Date palm, Karita, Mesquite, Wanza and Poinsettia that can be used for honey production. These trees and shrubs have also other purposes than honey production, like firewood, timber, fruits, fencing, medicinal, charcoal, erosion control and shading. More about the specific possibilities about different trees and their suitability for honey production can be read in the Practical Note on The Use of Trees and Shrubs in Spate Irrigation Areas.

Honey production

Resource Documents on FBLN-website

On the FBLN website, there is a specific section for resource documents, to which has been linked frequently in this newsletter.

This part of the website strives to serve as a platform to disseminate and share our findings, project reports and experiences in different aspects of FBLS; technical, socio-economical, historical as well as policy and legislative aspects. In the resource documents there are photographs (library section) and training modules besides reports, theses (both in library section), videos and other documents.

We hope you enjoyed this newsflash and encourage you to share the good practices in your network!