In-field Rainwater Harvesting Project

Situation analysis rural Limpopo

Research carried out by the Nova Institute confirms that the lack of food security is an important inhibitor of quality of life in low income rural communities in the Limpopo province.

The in-field rainwater harvesting technique

Household based food production remains an important source of food for vast numbers of rural South Africans. This type of agriculture is however generally inefficient and vulnerable to crop failure and poor production.

Technical methods are available that could make it possible for rural people to provide staple food security and sufficient nutrition for themselves, even in dry areas. Income generation and even wealth generation are also possible. However, to be effective these technical methods must become a common practice in thousands of communities.

This is where Nova would be able to make a contribution, by engaging one community over a sufficient period of time to make it possible for the technical methods to become daily practice in that community. If that succeeds, the practice can be transferred to similar communities.

The in-field rainwater harvesting technique is an example of a method that is available for people in rural communities.

Women from a rural communities

In-field rainwater harvesting technique

In-field rainwater harvesting technique

The in-field rainwater harvesting (IRWH) technique was developed by the Agriculture Re-search Council's Institute for Soil, Climate and Water (ISCW) in an attempt to improve yields of dry land crops in South Africa. The technique is specifically suited to smallholder farmers who farm on soils with high clay content.

A sketch of the in-field rainwater harvesting technique />

The technique consists of a hard, flat, two meter wide runoff strip that runs perpendicular to the slope from where runoff water is collected in a micro basin. The result is that water is concentrated in the basins and infiltrated deeper into the soil. The crops are planted in two lines next to the basins. Dry land yields are between 30% and 50% higher than conventional tillage.

The picture below shows maize planted according to the IRWH technique in Molati, Limpopo.

Maize planted according to the IRWH technique in Letsitele, Limpopo

In 2014 Nova launched a fresh initiative in partnership with ICCO (Kerk in Actie) in this same area. This particular initiative aims at enhancing rural livelihoods through payment for ecosystem services (PES). After almost two years into the project Nova more than 1000 households have bought and planted fruit trees, as part of the project to demonstrate viable methods of selling water benefit certificates in order to fund the protection of eco system services in these rural communities. One of the main methods has been the production of biomass through woodland restoration and small scale orchards. These initiatives have only been possible through the employment and skills development of fieldworkers recruited from these very same communities.

Nova is developing a methodology with the Gold Standard office in Geneva to generate water benefit certificates from the preservation of green water.