Building on a tradition of rainwater harvesting
should be related to the benefits.
Develop techniques slowly and be prepared to admit mistakes and make
modifications. A flexible approach pays.
Where stone is readily available, use it. Stone bunds may not hold so much water, but
they are durable and simple to build.
Where earth bunds are the choice, small structures with small catchment areas are
the easiest to manage.
Always compact earth bunds (by ramming with sticks/jumping on them) and establish
vegetation on the bunds to improve durability.
Do not forget husbandry. There is little point increasing water availability if the
production system is poor. Soil fertility is especially important.
Rainwater harvesting only forms part of the solution to production in just a section of the
semi-arid areas, but it does have an important role to play. It is much more than a passing
development fashion. Learning from the experience of projects and particularly from the
traditions of the people, will point the way to better systems and better approaches.
A Pacey and A. Cullis, Rainwater Harvesting, Practical Action Publishing, 1986.
J Gould & E Nissen-Peterson Rainwater Catchment Systems for Domestic Supply
Practical Action Publishing 1999
A Cullis & A Pacey Development Dialogue Practical Action Publishing 1992
Shanan and Tadmore, Micro-Catchment Systems, (available from the Centre of
International Agric. Co-op. Min. Agric. Rehovot, Israel).
C. Reij et ai, 'Water Harvesting for Plant Production', (available from World Bank – No
91 in their Technical Paper Series)
W. Critchley and C. Reij, Inventory and Analysis of Water Harvesting for Plant
Production in SSA', (in preparation, will be available through World Bank).
'On a technical note', in OXFAM Arid Lands Unit, no. 1, 1988.
This information has been taken from an article in Appropriate Technology
magazine Volume 16 Number 2, September 1989.
Will Critchley is a freelance consultant in agricultural development specialising in
rainwater harvesting and watershed management. The source of information for
this article has been a consultancy for the World Bank on the Sub-Saharan Water
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