FSN Forum

DISCUSSION No. 151   •   FSN Forum digest No. 1354

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

Deadline extended until 06 July 2018

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Dear Members,

We thank you for your very insightful contributions to the online discussion "Addressing water scarcity in agriculture: how can indigenous or traditional practices help?". Below we share with you the latest of your comments as well as some feedback by Patrick Bahal'okwibale, co-facilitator of the discussion.

Your comments are a confirmation of the worth of knowledge embedded in local, traditional or indigenous practices.

Furthermore, your contributions are also testimonies of the potential of indigenous knowledge systems to offset the effects of climate and address the increasing water scarcity.

To give you some additional time to share your insights we have extended the deadline until Friday, 6th July.

In case you have already contributed, we invite you to read through the contributions of other members, taking advantage of the coming days to further enrich this exchange.

Please see the full introduction to this online discussion in English, French or Spanish on the FSN Forum website.

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

We look forward to keep receiving your comments,

Your FSN Forum team

Patrick Bahal'okwibale, co-facilitator of the discussion

Dear Colleagues,

The contributions you have been providing are so impressive. As I was reading through them, I am realizing how much valuable knowledge is embedded in local, traditional or indigenous practices. The most promising is that your contributions represent testimonies that the practices could offer such huge opportunities for adaptation to climate change and address the increasing water scarcity.

I have also experienced a traditional practice of sensing the environment to predict an imminent rain: if it feels warm, it will likely rain. Similarly, if a sunny day feels so cool, one should not expect any rain. Every time I check this, it reveals true to me. While I learned this long ago from my grandparents, I have never had the chance to see published evidence that explains this phenomenon. However, I later realized that the same sensations are experienced when an air conditioner is set to increase humidity in the environment: the sensation of heat on the skin could thus be greatly influenced by air humidity. With regards to the indigenous early warning practice, the sensation of heat (or cool) was thus simply a reflection of increasing air moisture leading to a forecasted rainfall (or decreasing air moisture leading to the forecast of absence of rains). 

I am surely not the only one to have been impressed by such traditional effective practices, yet poorly documented in scientific journals. It would thus be opportune if contributions could also address such a barrier.

At this stage, we would be happy if members could read through others' contributions and check if they have additional references that support any of the member's submission. We would really love to receive any such links before the closing of the forum.

Many thanks in advance!


Read the contribution online


icon Cecilia Akita, FAO, Ghana

Cecilia informs us about certain rivers in Ghana being held a deities, a practice that helps keeping water bodies protected and well managed.

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iconVivian Onyango, FAO, Italy

Vivian focuses on traditional water management systems used by pastoralists.
To prevent degradation of both water and pastures, communal management is often employed to guide movement across the landscape in accessing water and pasture resources. Under such communal governance systems, decisions on when to construct new wells, who is responsible and who has access are negotiated by the entire community.

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iconEileen Omosa, We Grow Ideas, Canada

Eileen tells us about “community forests", which were common in many parts of Africa. Access to these particular forests came with clear roles, benefits and responsibilities: who could access which forest, when, what forest products to harvest (fruits, firewood, timber, herbs), and how much.

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iconRob Blakemore, VermEcology, Japan

Rob highlights the role of earthworms in increasing soil water storage and infiltrability.

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iconGerhard Flachowsky, Federal Research Institute for Animal Health, Germany

Gerhard stresses the importance of having a long term programme to overcome water scarcity.
He sees the need for more research activities and political willingness to move towards a sustainable utilization of naturally limited and non-renewable resources such as water, fuel, arable land, etc..

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iconVijay Vallabh Barthwal, India

Vijay introduces various types of rainwater storage such as the traditional Taanka system. He also suggests improving these indigenous practices to allow them to become more efficient.

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iconAndrew Isingoma, Rwanda Agriculture Board, Rwanda

Andrew describes a series of practices that impact water availability such as livestock rearing, water harvesting and storing, forest, wetlands and fisheries management, and weather forecasting systems.

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iconMithare Prasad, Shuats Up, India

Mithare gives a detailed insight into traditional Indian water management systems together with some concrete proposals on how to address water scarcity issues.

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iconBongani Ncube, Cape Peninsula University of Technology, South Africa

Bongani argues that more debate is needed on how we define indigenous knowledge, as the current definition portrays indigenous knowledge as an attribute of less technologically advanced societies.
She also suggests focusing more on exploring the transferability of indigenous knowledge from one cultural and geographic context to another. 

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