Title: Household water harvesting structures in Geba catchment
Authors: Wondumagegnehu, Fekadu
Tsegay, Alemtsehay
Ashebir, Dereje
Tekie, Hailemariam
Gebre, Adisu
Kiros, Mewael
Geerts, Sam
Raes, Dirk
Nyssen, Jan
Deckers, Jozef A.
Issue Date: 2007
Series Title: Tigray Livelihood Papers vol:5
Abstract: The Giba catchment, located in the eastern, southern and central zones of Tigray, covers about 5180 km2 and has a semi-arid climatic condition with erratic and torrential rainfall that often lasts for 2- 3 months, end June to beginning of September. The short rainy season coupled with high rainfall variability between seasons has exposed the catchment to recurrent drought. In addition, the small land size that rarely exceeds 0.5 ha per family has aggravated the problem of food security as the yield obtained from small plot size is hardly sufficient for a family until the next harvest. Though it is possible to alleviate the problem of food security by having more than one harvest per year from the same field, the absence of irrigation water has made this difficult in practice.

In an effort to address the problems of recurrent droughts and to make water available for crop production during the extended dry period, due attention has been given to various water harvesting programs such as micro-dams, river diversion, ponds and hand dug shallow wells. In the beginning, about 20 years ago, a small earth dam-based irrigation has been initiated, but they were few in number. In the past 10 years, however, more attention has been given to these micro-dams based irrigation and an institute, SAERT (Sustainable Agriculture and Environmental Rehabilitation in Tigray), was established to undertake the construction of earth dams with the active participation of the communities. Accordingly about 60 micro-dams with a water holding capacity ranging from 50,000 to 4,000,000 m3 have been built in the region and a significant number of them are found in the Giba catchments. SAERT, however, did not exist for long.

Following the dissolution of the institute, SAERT, a new strategy of water harvesting has come in place. This new strategy, unlike the previous one that gave top priority to water harvesting at community level, gives due emphasis on water harvesting at household level and in the past three years the construction of ponds and water wells has been carried out at household level to provide water for irrigation and domestic use. In the first year 2003 alone, about 30,000 ponds each with a design water holding capacity of 182 to 247 m3 have been built in the region (BOANR, 2004). A similar amount of ponds has been built in the second year and in general over 200,000 ponds have been planned over the next couple of years in the more drought prone areas of Tigray (BoWRD and REST, 2003). Though the exact numbers are not known, thousands of ponds have been dug in the Giba catchments. Similarly many hand dug shallow wells have been made and their number is increasing in the valley bottoms and in places with shallow water tables.

The water harvesting structures, particularly the ponds, have been built with the intention of providing supplementary irrigation for the main season crops after the main season rain ceases, -which often occurs by the time crops are in flowering. The main purpose of the hand dug shallow wells however is to grow vegetables like tomatoes, onion, cabbage etc. and to allow for crop cultivation twice or more in a year.

These water harvesting schemes are expected to bring a change on household welfare in terms of improving nutrition both in quality and quantity in the short run and in the long run it is considered as way out from extreme poverty through investment on farm land from the income generated by the water harvesting program.
ISBN: 978-90-8826-022-3
Publication status: published
KU Leuven publication type: ABa
Appears in Collections:Division Soil and Water Management

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