|PROVISION OF EC-METERS AND ENHANCING SALINITY
ASSESSMENT/MANAGEMENT EXPERTISE IN TSUNAMI-AFFECTED REGIONS
Immediately after the tsunami FAO predicted that salinity would
be an issue in the recovery of tsunami-affected lands. Saline
seawater covered large stretches of coast up to a few kilometers
inlands at places. High toxicity of ground water and osmotic
stress lead to perishing of crops and loss of soil fertility.
Saline sediments aggravate these problems. Without proper leaching
(through watering and drainage) these salinized lands could
be lost for agriculture. FAO Salinity Experts assessed the extent
of the salinity problems in the most-affected regions of the
Indian Ocean (mainly Aceh-Indonesia, Sri Lanka and the Maldives).
Three months after the tsunami these assessments show that in most
regions these problems were large but thanks to high precipitation
in parts of the region and irrigation elsewhere there will be few
long-term effects. Nevertheless, a strong lack of local capacity to
deal with salinity issues was encountered by all FAO-missions, which
is of course partly due to the unique nature of the disaster. As an
early response, FAO procured and distributed over 150 EC-meters to
be used in the assessment and continuous monitoring of salinity levels
on the fields, in wells and groundwater. Trainings were organized
by FAO-experts for agricultural staff to ensure proper use of the
equipment and to build capacity to assess and monitor salinity issues
Continued monitoring will serve three purposes:
|| Timely advice can be provided
to the farmers on soil and water conditions for crop production;
|| Regular and systematic monitoring can identify
those areas where salinity is more persistent than initially
assumed. These areas can than be subject to further investigation.
|| Keeping monitoring records will allow the
‘researcher' to learn of this event to the benefit of the future.
Aceh suffered heavily from salinity problems and land degradation
in general. Because of the magnitude of the disaster and the
combination of damages (salination, sedimentation, debris, erosion,
scouring, and land loss) a land damage classification was developed
specifically for the Indonesian context, salinity being one
of the issues to be assessed. Along with the assessment, FAO
acknowledged the need for major capacity building in dealing
with land rehabilitation in the affected regions. FAO carried
out limited soil testing and land classification exercises in
Aceh in January and February and prepared these initial results
and suggestions in an informal format: FAO field guide:
things to know about the impact of salt water on agricultural
land in Aceh Province”.
| This manuscript provides a brief guide on the
subject of soil contamination by salt as a result of tsunami inundation
of agricultural land in coastal areas of Aceh province. In this and
other ways, FAO, together with UNOCHA, offers its services both as
a source of technical information, and as the mediator for a forum
on the topic. After the initial assessment gave insight in the general
situation regarding salinity, a further comprehensive soil salinity
field survey was carried out in early March by 12 field teams along
the East Coast of Aceh Province, the results of which were presented
at the Regional
Workshop on Salinity in Bangkok (31/3-1/4). At the time of the
survey about one-third of the affected fields in the East Coast had
salinity levels acceptable for cultivation (EC4), and it was expected
that by the end of May this number would increase to about 60%. These
extensive surveys serve two purposes. The first is to have a more
detailed assessment of the impacts and have a detailed land classification.
The second purpose is to enhance local capacity in these field surveys
and salinity assessment and further to base village-based strategies
on basis of these classifications.
In addition to the 6 locally purchased portable EC/pH-meters,
FAO ordered 10 portable EC meters, 10 soil salinity meters and
one standard lab EC meter. Calibration of the direct soil salinity
meters requires some time and effort in order to be able to
convert the direct reading into standard ECe readings. Instruments
will need to be calibrated before distribution to the districts.
Agricultural Instructors will receive training on the use of
these meters. During the FAO-expert mission in March a first
step was made to bridge the gap in knowledge of and ability
to deal with salinity issues. More than hundred Agricultural
Instructors, Assistant Directors Agriculture and Agricultural
Officers of the affected districts have been trained in three
separate training session in the use of salinity equipment,
field procedures for soil and water testing, interpretation
of results and advice to farmers on the use of saline soil and
water for crop production.
| All of the district offices are still suffering
from a lack of transport and funds to undertake monitoring activities.
Funds are needed in the coming months of salinity monitoring and traveling
to the farmers to advice them on the status of soil and water salinity.
The Workshop Training Manual was worked out to serve agricultural
staff in the field. The training manual incorporates all information
required by the Agricultural Instructors to monitor soil and water
salinity and properly advice the farmers on salinity issues. In the
longer term, a support-system and central database system needs to
be set-up. Agricultural/horticultural Research Institutes could collaborate
with line departments of the government in supporting the Agricultural
Instructors in their field programs. Salinity expertise could in future
also be used to undertake studies and develop programs for inland
salinity that occurs in various parts of the dry coastal zones especially
in areas where displaced people have been resettled on marginal lands.
A FAO-consultant provided a 1-day training in soil salinity
measurement to the staff of the Hanimaadhoo Agricultural Centre
in the Northern part of the country in early March. It involved
an introduction into the nature of soil salinity, the harmful
impacts on crops and soils, a demonstration and hands-on practice
of a EC1:1 soil salinity measurement and a discussion on the
interpretation of these measurements.
||Salinity guidelines were developed
for local use. In the wetter South of the Country, in Medhoo
Agricultural Centre the laboratory facilities and the available
salinity measuring equipment was inspected and assessed and
methods of salinity assessment were discussed with the staff.
At the Ministry of Fisheries, Agriculture and Marine Resources
(MFAMR) in the capital Male a presentation on soil salinity
assessment and management was organized for staff of the Agricultural
section. A senior member of the staff accompanied the FAO-consultant
on his field visits and training sessions, resulting in a considerable
knowledge transfer on soil salinity assessment/management. Initially
procured salinity measurement instruments were found to be of
insufficient range (only measuring up to 4 dS/m) and a second
shipment was ordered. The agricultural centers seemed to be
fairly well-equipped, but lacked salinity assessment/management
expertise. As the salinity problems in the Maldives are expected
to fade away naturally, no reclamation interventions were developed.
The lack of expertise in the country has been noticed however,
and receives continued attention from FAO.
With the initial assessments behind us and a regional workshop finished
in late March that concluded that salinity problems ceased to be a
major threat to future agricultural production in the region, the
positive conclusion can be that initial fears have proven to be unfounded.
On the one hand this allows FAO to concentrate on the major challenges
ahead that are still impeding farmers to start cultivation, on the
other hand it allows for incorporation of salinity assessment and
monitoring in a more comprehensive approach towards salinity and soil-
and water quality. The first steps of equipping and capacity building
have been made in all countries and it is the intention to further
consolidate this approach.