Success with traditional water conservation techniques
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CTA. 1995. Success with traditional water conservation techniques. Spore 57. CTA, Wageningen, The Netherlands.
Permanent link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/10568/47076
A silent revolution is taking place on Burkina Faso's Central Plateau. Thousands of planting pockets or zai, stone lines, permeable stone dams and straw mulch are transforming crop production as farmers see the benefits of using traditional farming...
A silent revolution is taking place on Burkina Faso's Central Plateau. Thousands of planting pockets or zai, stone lines, permeable stone dams and straw mulch are transforming crop production as farmers see the benefits of using traditional farming techniques. Researchers from the Club du Sahel have found that in years of low rainfall farmers are getting significant increases in yields, sometimes in excess of 80%, from fields that have stone lines, which control rainfall runoff. Some of this increase can be attributed to more water soaking into the soil but farmers are also applying extra nutrients. However, it is also apparent that soil structure is improved through the action of termites and other soil organisms that are attracted to the improved environment of the treated fields. Farmers are getting even better yields when they dig small pockets, or zai, over the land treated with stone lines. Zai can vary in size, but are usually about the size of a dinner plate; they are as deep as they are wide and are placed some 80cm apart. The pockets collect rainfall runoff, and farmers add a handful of compost to them before planting sorghum. Land with stone lines and zai can yield up to 1000kg / hectare of sorghum in a normal rainfall year. In one area, trees are being established successfully by planting seeds straight into the zai instead of growing seedlings in a nursery and then transplanting them. Another technique for water conservation is the use of permeable stone dams, built across gullies, that hold back soil and water that would normally be lost. In Rissiam, over 100 such dams have been built, providing excellent growing conditions in the former gullies behind the dams. Farmers are also getting good results by using straw or cut grass as a mulch. It was a traditional practice that went out Of fashion, but is now becoming popular again. These soil and water conservation activities are not only increasing yields: farmers are seeing trees that were dying now being revived and wells which had dried up having water in them once again. Compost making has increased considerably and many farmers now see advantages to enclosing small livestock, both to provide a source of manure and to stop them damaging stone lines as they graze. A constraint now is the lack of transport to move the compost out to the fields, as carrying large quantities by head load is impossible. These techniques are spreading extensively from farmer to farmer as they adapt, experiment and innovate to suit their needs and abilities. Club du Sahel 2 rue André Pascal 75755 Paris FRANCE