Government support for upland rainwater harvesting
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CTA. 2007. Government support for upland rainwater harvesting. Rural Radio Resource Pack 07/1. Wageningen, The Netherlands: CTA.
Permanent link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/10568/57183
Contour bunds or ridges are used to protect soils from erosion and conserve moisture in the soil.
Cue: Soil erosion and siltation of land are two problems that often go hand in hand. In The Gambia, for example, lowland rice fields frequently suffer from siltation, as erosion in upland areas washes soil particles down into the rivers that irrigate the rice fields. Solving the problem facing the rice farmers is only possible by finding a solution to the upland problem of erosion. For this reason, the government in The Gambia has launched an 8 year Participatory Integrated Watershed Management Project, known as PIWAMP. This is promoting soil and water conservation in entire river watersheds, including both the upland and lowland areas. For the upland areas, the priority is to build field structures which can increase infiltration of water and reduce erosion. To find out more about how this is being implemented on the ground, Ismaila Senghore spoke Mr Kebba Manka, head of the engineering section of the government?s Soil and Water Management Unit. Ismaila began by asking Mr Manka the implication of managing soil and water across a whole watershed. IN: ?We want to work both in the uplands ?? OUT: ??land degradation and all other implications.? DUR?N: 7?20? BACK ANNOUNCEMENT: Mr Kebba Manka, of The Gambia?s Soil and Water Management Unit, emphasising the key role of soil and water conservation in raising productivity and reducing deforestation. The interview comes from a radio resource pack produced by CTA. Transcript Manka We want to work both in the uplands and the lowlands. In the uplands you apply techniques that will keep the soil where it belongs and then conserve also some of the moisture. Because the activities you employ to conserve soil also conserve water. In short, we are trying to protect the rice fields from the activities that are carried out in the uplands. Because activities in the uplands, they result in soil erosion and soil erosion causes deposition of silt sedimentation in the lowlands. That is why we are trying to work in the uplands to protect the rice fields as well. Senghore Now Mr Manka, what are the key technologies that you are promoting? Which ones would you really want to point out? Manka There are various techniques and what you apply depends on the nature of the area you are dealing with. But basically in The Gambia here we are dealing with what we call contour bunds. These are ridges that we insert across the slope in any given field, 50-60 metres apart sometimes, and this will help to prevent soil erosion. The basic techniques you apply in the upland are the contour bunds and diversion. Diversion is also another bund but then it is a big bund that is put in a location just at the beginning of the slope so that it will divert some of the water that would have entered the field and caused erosion. Then you divert it and let it go into another area where it will not cause erosion, where you will have prepared already a safe outlet. Senghore Now what is the role of the beneficiary farming communities in the development and use of the structures you helped establish? Manka Right now we are talking about the Participatory Integrated Watershed Management. That ?participatory? means that the farmers themselves have a role to play. Our activities are what we call ?demand driven?. Farmers see a problem developing and then we have agricultural agents in the area and they give them forms to fill and they bring these forms to us and we visit the site and this happens every year. We get a lot of requests for assistance from all over the country, but every year you can only do so much. So we go out and then do a reconnaissance survey and select sites that we can handle for the given year. And wherever we go, the projects that we work with, that are sponsoring this programme, would provide material that is unavailable locally. Like if they need cement or something like skilled labour, the project would provide it. And then the farmers are responsible for providing local material. Like if you need sand or gravel or if you need something like local manual labour, the farmers would have to commit themselves to participate in that area so that they will have a sense of ownership of the programme. Because they own the land, they own the crops they are growing there. So if it fails, they fail, and if it succeeds they succeed. So that if the project leaves, they will maintain these structures because they will have seen the benefits of the structures, they will have realised the importance of these structures in their farmland. So they will be an integral part of the farming system. Senghore How far are farmers adopting the practices that you are pushing? Manka The upland conservation techniques are adopted very slowly. They cost more than what we do in the lowlands. Because in the upland we normally have to use the service of heavy equipment to raise the bund because the ground is very hard and it is a little bit more expensive and it is not easy for the farmers to raise the bund by hand in that area. This is the situation. I mean the area we have covered is very limited. Like, in every division we have maybe worked in two or three villages that have benefited effectively from upland conservation. But with the advent of PIWAMP [Participatory Integrated Watershed Management Project] now, which is an eight year programme, hopefully we will cover more and more sites every year. Senghore Now would you say - given the situation that these projects and structures that you established are very capital intensive and labour intensive - would you say farmers will be in any way able to continue developing such structures even when you pull out and when your projects phase out? Manka Well, to develop them from scratch it may not be very easy without an outside support, for them to do this work very effectively. But once it is established and they have made an effort to maintain them, they are very easy to maintain. Because for the bunds, if you grow Vetiver grass, this grass is drought resistant, animals do not eat it and its root system is very fibrous and can hold the soil together and once it establishes on the bund, the bund can be stable and resistant to erosion almost indefinitely. Senghore How would you rate the potential of structure programmes to boost our agricultural productivity? Manka Agriculture is here to stay and the main ingredients are water and soil and they are all limited. So if you are to farm and you want to get something out of your farm you have to farm properly. These techniques, once integrated in your farming system would definitely maintain the yields or increase the yields. Because if you have, let?s say during the rains, if you do not have enough rainfall but you have this structure in your field, the little rainfall that falls could be trapped in the field and that will serve the crop, even when there is a short period of lack of rainfall. And also if you apply a fertiliser it will not be taken away by the runoff and your crops will benefit from that. Whatever you put in your field, if you do not manage the land properly it can be washed away by water, and then the crops will lose it and then your yields will drop. So these structures that you put in the fields, they are to enhance productivity, maintain the soil fertility level and then by preserving moisture and preserving your input like the fertiliser you put in there, whether it is manure or artificial fertiliser, all will stay where they are. If farmers understand and accept this, it should be an integral part of their farming system. There are some countries like, if I am right, in Kenya there is a legislation, that if you are not going to comply with the recommended policy you are not allowed to use the land. We have now a legislation for the forest, we have forest legislation; this should also be applied to soil and water management. Farming should be done in a manner that will protect the natural resources like soil and water. If it cannot be legislated it should be strongly recommended that governments should do all they can to protect the natural resources. These are very limited and water is scarce, land is scarce, populations are increasing. So forests are being encroached and we are having also some repercussions. So if you can apply conservation practices we do not have to cut down more and more forest for agriculture. We can use what is already being cultivated intensively without having to clear bigger areas, which will cause more and more erosion and cause more and more loss of vegetative cover, which can cause desertification, land degradation and all other implications. End of track