Notes to broadcasters
It is undeniable that water is essential to life on Earth. Without water, nothing can survive. As rainfall decreases, desertification spreads.
Much of East Africa is facing uncertain times; the changing climate means that rainfall patterns are becoming more unpredictable. Rainy seasons are becoming shorter, and often more intense; heavy rains can damage houses and crops, and then several days can pass before the next rain shower passes through. Drought is becoming more common, and crops and animals are increasingly water-stressed.
Farmers need to plan ahead. Before rain falls, farmers should consider how best to use the water that falls on their land. When farmers have systems that efficiently collect and use rainfall, it can mean the difference between good harvests and food insecurity.
The following script is based on interviews with farmers and agricultural experts in Tanzania. The interviews were conducted with practitioners of water conservation around Arusha and Shinyanga. The script offers advice on how best to plan water-efficient gardens and farming systems.
You could use this script as inspiration to research and write a script on a similar topic in your area. Or you might choose to produce this script on your station, using voice actors to represent the speakers. If so, please make sure to tell your audience at the beginning of the program that the voices are those of actors, not the original people involved in the interviews.
If you choose to use this script as inspiration for creating your own program, you could talk to farmers who use water-efficient gardening in your area, and the experts who advise them. You might ask them:
Have rainfall patterns changed in recent years? If so, how?
Have changing rainfall patterns affected their farming practices?
Do farmers collect rainwater? What methods do they use?
How do farmers ensure that they use water efficiently?
How can farmers find the materials they need to collect water when it rains?
Estimated running time for the script: 20 minutes, with intro and outro music
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Water is essential for life, let alone farming. Every life form on planet Earth depends on it. But rainfall patterns are changing as the climate reacts to global warming and natural events such as El Niño. Some parts of the world are getting too much rain too quickly, which leads to localized flooding.
But here in East Africa, many farmers are experiencing the opposite—increasingly poor and unpredictable rains. Most seriously, this is leading to desertification. Many farmers have considerable problems finding enough water to generate decent yields.
I visited two farmers who are using water-efficient gardening techniques, such as harvesting rainfall, preparing land, and irrigation, and we’ll be hearing from them later. But first, I would like to welcome into the studio (name of expert), an expert in water-efficient farming techniques.
Thanks for coming in today, (insert name here).
You must remember to place some fine mesh at the point where water enters the tank: this will prevent leaves and other unwanted materials on your roof from entering the tank. The tank must also have a removable cover. This cover reduces the chances of contamination, prevents mosquitoes from breeding, and allows easy access when the farmer needs to clean the tank.
How well this technique works depends a lot on the weed populations in the field. But if a farmer can wait until the crop is established before weeding, the crop will shade the soil from the sun and prevent it from drying out too much.
Another technique which is very common in semi-arid areas is direct water harvesting in sorghum and millet fields by digging tied ridges between plant rows or planting pits. The ridges or pits then collect and retain the rainwater for a much longer time.
Then I removed the deeper soil from the second section and placed it on top of the manure in the first section. Basically, I moved the soil from section two to section one, and then repeated this in each section right down the bed. Finally, I added the topsoil that I had removed from the first section to the last section, and the bed was ready to plant.
I have only had the animals for the past few years, and I bought them specifically for the manure. As I said earlier, composted manure improves the structure of my soil and increases its water-holding capacity, which means I can use less water to grow my crops.
I have been told that chicken droppings are an excellent source of potassium and phosphorus, which are essential nutrients for plants. So I protect the tiny seedlings from the chickens until they are well-established. I use chicken wire and palm fronds to keep the birds out of the beds. Once the plants are big enough, the chickens are less interested in them, and the benefits from letting them walk free outweigh the damage they might cause.
I can still use the water that collects in the hollow but, about 20 years ago, I created a more permanent pond and started raising tilapia for sale. I dug the pond wider and deeper—you can see that it is about five metres square and about one and a half metres deep now.
When the rains fall, the water runs down the system of channels you can see, and fills up the pond. I introduce fingerlings every season. Once they grow to about 15 centimetres long, I sell them at the local market. Some people even come here to buy directly from me.
I have only about half of one hectare here. As I harvest the fish, I can use the water in the pond on my garden if it needs it. But, more importantly, I get a ready supply of fertilizer for my garden when I clean out the pond every year. My soil is in much better condition than at any time before I started raising fish, and my yields are increasing every year.
Prepare your seedbeds well with composted manure and other organic matter, because a healthy soil will need less water and stay moist for longer.
If your land allows it, create a pond in which you can raise fish. You’ll make extra money and have a tasty alternative for your cooking pot. A pond also provides a source of irrigation water if it gets too dry when the rains are not falling, and an annual supply of fertile organic fertilizer for your seedbeds.
That’s all for this edition of (insert program name here). Don’t forget to tune in next time—goodbye!
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Contributed by: Paddy Roberts, B.Sc. Agriculture, Arusha, Tanzania.
Reviewed by: Salvatory Kundi, Agricultural Research Institute Ilonga, Kilosa, Morogoro, Tanzania
Interviews: Interviews with five farmers (three females and two males) were conducted in early November, 2015, in villages east of Arusha, Tanzania.
Telephone interviews were conducted in late November, 2015, with Mshamu Kaburu and Elenor Msola, who provided more information about water-efficient gardening in Shinyanga, Tanzania.
M. de Lange. 1997. Promotion of low-cost and water saving technologies for small-scale irrigation. In: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations: Irrigation Technology Transfer in Support of Food Security (Water Reports 1-14) http://www.fao.org/docrep/W7314E/w7314e00.htm#Contents
Rockström, J. & Falkenmark, M., 2015. Agriculture: Increase water harvesting in Africa. Nature, 519 (7543): 281-283. http://www.nature.com/news/agriculture-increase-water-harvesting-in-africa-1.17116
This script was written with the support of the Irish government through Irish Aid.
The ideas, opinions, and comments herein are entirely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent or reflect Irish Aid policy.