learning to ask better questions

November 14, 2023

Nurturing Growth: Low-Tech Water Harvesting Solutions for Small Farmers in Sub-Saharan Africa

We face many challenges in addressing how we grow food to put on our table. One of the biggest issues is the farm productivity gap: simply, farmland…

We face many challenges in addressing how we grow food to put on our table. One of the biggest issues is the farm productivity gap: simply, farmland is not as productive as it could be. Developed countries have adopted high-tech solutions like satellite guided data collection, integrated farm management systems, GPS controlled tractors, and smart irrigation technologies to increase farmland productivity. 

While high-tech solutions have boosted yields in developed nations, these advanced systems remain out of reach for most small-scale farmers in Africa. Across sub-Saharan Africa, small-scale farmers face immense challenges in closing the productivity gap due to intermittent access to water. Either they get too much water during rainy season causing erosion of topsoil or too little water during the dry season leading to stunted crops and loss of productivity. 

Rather than high-tech solutions, these farmers need simple, low-cost techniques to capture any rains to replenish precious soil moisture. Effective land treatment is key for water harvesting and increasing soil moisture. Let’s delve into a series of landscaping techniques that small farmers in sub-Saharan Africa can leverage to collect rainwater runoff, prevent erosion, and elevate soil moisture levels.

Dams: Constructing dams presents an effective means of capturing and storing rainwater. By creating reservoirs strategically, small farmers can harness stored water to maintain optimal soil moisture levels. 

Bunds: Implementing bunds involves constructing embankments or barriers along contours. This method effectively controls runoff, preventing soil erosion, and facilitates water retention. 

Terraces: Building terraces on slopes provides a practical solution to slow down water runoff. This allows water to be absorbed by the soil, reducing erosion, and contributing to enhanced soil moisture. 

Contour Ridges: Forming contour ridges involves creating raised lines along the natural contours of the land. Acting as barriers to water runoff, contour ridges aid in moisture retention in the soil

Decreasing farming productivity gap doesn’t solely rest on high-tech solutions. Small farmers in sub-Saharan Africa can adopt and implement low-tech land treatment techniques as practical strategies to effectively address challenges related to water scarcity, erosion, and inadequate soil moisture. This not only cultivates resilience within the farming community but also paves the way for sustainable agricultural growth in the heart of sub-Saharan Africa.

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