FSN Forum

DISCUSSION No. 151   •   FSN Forum digest No. 1353

Addressing water scarcity in agriculture: how can indigenous or traditional practices help?

until 03 July 2018

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Dear Members,

We would like to share with you the latest comments received for the online discussion "Addressing water scarcity in agriculture: how can indigenous or traditional practices help?".

We also like to thank participants for already sharing so many interesting insights into indigenous practices used in their countries.

Please take advantage of the remaining week of this online discussion to keep telling us about effective traditional practices that help alleviate water scarcity. This, and your thoughts on how to best label such practices will help us further improve the Compendium of Community and Indigenous Strategies for Climate Change Adaptation.

Please see the full introduction to this online discussion inEnglishFrench or Spanish on the FSN Forum website.

As always, you can take part in the exchange by posting your comment directly online in either EnglishFrench or Spanish or by sending an email to FSN-moderator@fao.org.

We look forward to keep receiving your comments,

Your FSN Forum team


iconRuhiza Jean Boroto, FAO, Italy

Earlier this month of June 2018, I was fortunate to spend a few days visiting the Cuvelai, Okavango and Zambezi river basins in the north of Namibia to explore opportunities for rainwater and floodwater harvesting. I also met with members of several communities who are essentially pastoralists.

On the question of how the communities coped in the past with water scarcity during the dry season, the answer was that  there was (and still is) a practice of  preparing hand dug wells along the banks of the river channels, in anticipation of the floods. When the flood came with the river overflowing, these wells were used to trap the flood water. This water would then be stored in the wells after the floods receded and the river eventually ran dry. The water would then be used for the livestock.

This traditional practice is somehow now improved with the current practice of  modern earth dams for which the government of Namibia has a standard design, to minimise seepage, evaporation losses and sedimentation. 

In addition, the experience shared by Liliana Castillo by the Zenu tribe in north Coast of Colombia is quite similar to what communities do or experience along the Zambezi River do in Namibia, with similar conditions - excess water during the rainy season and  deficit during the dry one. They also harvest flood water in natural streams (as opposed to the network of canals in north Colombia)  that are perpendicular to the main stem, allowing water to reach areas that are quite far away from the main river. This water is then used during the dry season for livestock and agriculture.

Man-made interventions (mostly road infrastructure) are suspected to have interfered with this natural course of flood water. The communities recommended that future designs of such infrastructure takes into consideration this natural movement of water during floods and if possible,  further facilitate the process for areas that are naturally prone to receive such excess flood water, which will be used for productive uses, improving food security.

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iconShahid Zia, RBDC, Pakistan

Shahid suggests that there is need for adapting the farming systems to the changing conditions caused by climate change by including crops that need less water and can tolerate medium to long term droughts. In addition, he sees a need for rebuilding the soils' water holding capacity and for redesigning irrigation methods.

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iconDebarati Chakraborty, University of Kalyani, India

Debarati introduces us to the use of vetiver grass (Chrysopogon zizanioides), a native Indian grass, for addressing water scarcity.

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iconTalal Darwish, National Center for Remote Sensing-CNRS, Lebanon

Talal informs us about different water conservation techniques employed in Yemen, Lebanon, Syria and the Gulf countries.

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iconLiliana Castillo, Colombia

Liliana tells us about a technique employed by the Zenu tribe in northern Colombia to take advantage of water excess during the rainy season, and reduce water scarcity during the dry season.

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iconDyana Sari, Unversity of Tribhuwana Tunggadewi, Indonesia

Dyana highlights the importance of trees for water conservation.

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iconAbdou-Raman Mamoudou, Université de Maroua, Cameroon

Andou-Raman focuses on resilience practices applied in northern Cameroon:

  • conservation of rainwater through pools of water (called Okolore' in the locale language)
  • boreholes to draw water from the subsoil for irrigation
  • eradication of trees that require too much water
  • switching to o crops that do not require much water

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iconHalimatou Baldeh, Food Safety and Quality Authority of the Gambia, Gambia

Halimatou shares her experience from The Gambia were local irrigation systems were successfully used to grow rice.

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iconErvé Marcel Ouedraogo, UEMOA, Burkina Faso

Ervé inform us that native farmers largely prefer simple watering cans, small containers on small areas to produce the best agricultural yields.

The same situation is also found in drip irrigation but with less efficiency as the surfaces are generally larger than those used by market gardeners.

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