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Harvesting rainwater for farming

In arid and desert regions rainwater harvesting has been practiced by ancient populations using sustainable water resources. Methods of such desert farming include forming terraces in secondary and tertiary wadis, building desert farms with runoff water flooding from large catchment areas, constructing canal systems and micro catchments. As desertification continuously reduces the arable land available on our globe, as water increasingly becomes a rare resource, and as large populations suffer hunger, techniques allowing fully sustainable desert farming using runoff-rainwater should become a valuable option, not for profit but for supporting people in local communities.

The applicability of this approach depends on geo-morphological and soil conditions but is possible in many arid regions of the world. The importance of rainwater fed agriculture varies regionally but produces most food for poor communities in developing countries. Most countries in the world depend primarily on rainwater fed agriculture for their grain food. Despite large strides made in improving productivity and environmental conditions in many developing countries, a great number of poor families in Africa and Asia still face poverty, hunger, food insecurity and malnutrition where rainwater fed agriculture is the main agricultural activity. These problems are exacerbated by adverse biophysical growing conditions and the poor socioeconomic infrastructure in many areas in the semi-arid tropics.

 Rainwater harvesting

An old technology is gaining popularity in a new way. Rain water harvesting is enjoying a renaissance of sorts in the world, but it traces its history to biblical times. Extensive rain water harvesting apparatus existed 4000 years ago in the Palestine and Greece. In ancient Rome, residences were built with individual cisterns and paved courtyards to capture rain water to augment water from city's aqueducts. Undoubtedly a number of factors contribute to the amount of water harvested e.g. the frequency and the quantity of rainfall, catchments characteristics, water demands and the quantum of runoff, and above all speed and ease with which the rainwater percolates through the subsoil to recharge the ground water.

In rooftop harvesting, the roof becomes the catchments, and the rainwater is collected from the roof of the house or building. It can either be stored in a tank or diverted to artificial recharge system. This method is less expensive and very effective and if implemented properly helps in augmenting the ground water level of the area. As the rooftop is the main catchment area, the amount and quality of rainwater collected depends on the area and type of roofing material. Reasonably pure rainwater can be collected from roofs constructed with galvanized corrugated iron, aluminium or asbestos cement sheets, tiles and slates, although thatched roofs tied with bamboo gutters and laid in proper slopes can produce almost the same amount of runoff less expensively.

 Rainwater harvesting

Rainwater harvesting using ground or land surface catchment areas is less complex way of collecting rainwater. It involves improving runoff capacity of the land surface through various techniques including collection of runoff with drain pipes and storage of collected water. Compared to rooftop catchment techniques, ground catchment techniques provide more opportunity for collecting water from a larger surface area. By retaining the flows of small creeks and streams in small storage reservoirs on surface or underground created by low cost dams, this technology can meet water demands during dry periods. There is a possibility of high rates of water loss due to infiltration into the ground, and, because of the often marginal quality of the water collected, this technique is mainly suitable for storing water for agricultural purposes.

Rainwater stored using this technology may be transferred between fields by overflowing successive plots and may be collected in the lowest fields in a given area. In some region, rainwater is harvested from lands situated at higher elevations and conveyed to storage ponds through culverts. In this region, because farm lands are situated at lower elevations than the storage ponds, stored rainwater may also be used for irrigating farm fields during the dry season. The specific location of the catchment area and its elevation relative to the fields to be irrigated are important factors in determining the potential for using these types of rainwater harvesting technologies.

 Rainwater harvesting

Pacu Jaya

Pacu Jaya

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