FAO - Floodwater harvesting - Case study 2: "Runoff and floodwater farming"

FAO - Floodwater harvesting - Case study 2: "Runoff and floodwater farming"

Runoff/flood farming locally known as Korbe is a practice that involves diversion of water from different sources for growing vegetables, fruit trees and crops of high value on a land prepared known as Korbe.

Runoff and floodwater farming is a traditionally practiced water harvesting system which helps overcome problems of soil moisture and crop failure in a hot, dry area with erratic rainfall and shallow, highly erodible soils: Flood water and runoff from ephemeral rivers, roads and hillsides is captured through temporary stone and earth embankments. A system of hand dug canals – consisting of a main diversion canal and secondary / tertiary canals – conveys and distributes the captured water to the cultivated fields in naturally flat or leveled areas. The total length of the canal system is 200 – 2000 m. The harvested water is used for growing high value crops, vegetables and fruit trees. Irrigated fields are divided into rectangular basins bordered by ridges to maximize water storage and minimize erosion risk.

Runoff and floodwater management requires preparedness for immediate action by the farmers: When a flood is expected in the ephemeral river, farmers rush to the diversion site and start erecting the embankment across the bed of the stream. Similarly, each famer starts to maintain the canal which leads water to his field. A schedule defines the date and time each farmer is allocated his turn to irrigate. When the water reaches the field, it is spread either through flooding or distributed in furrows which are opened and closed using a local tool.

Theratiobetweencatchmentareaandproductionareais10:1–100:1orgreater. While the diversion canals / ditches and basins for tree planting are permanent structures, basins for annual crops are seasonal. Soil fertility is improved by additional measures such as composting and mulching. Maintenance, including repairs to breaks along the canal and water conveying ditches, is needed every season before the onset of rains. 

Contact person(s): Daniel Danano, Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia; ethiocat@ethionet.et 

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