Most of our work is in remote rural areas, in the mountains where people's lives are at the mercy of nature. When it rains enough, plants grow well, animals can eat, food grows well, people can eat, and all is good. However, during periods of dryness, things shrivel up, there's less for all to eat, and people begin to worry.
We may not be able to control the amount of rainfall, but we can control how much is wasted. So, we enable the communities to build more effective, leak proof irrigation systems (with basins, canals, and pipes).
When rain does come, it often causes flooding and dangerous erosion, leading many villagers to decide that building agricultural terraces along the side of their mountain, and guiding the water down a carefully-chosen path, can replace the erosion with a perfect space to grow food.
HOWEVER, installing an irrigation system is no small matter. There is not a standard way to install an irrigation system. Everything depends upon the particular conditions at hand.
Surface, sprinkler or drip irrigation?
Different methods address different types of conditions, and each system has advantages and disadvantages. Assessing the natural conditions, type of crop, type of technology, previous experience with irrigation, required labor inputs and costs and benefits helps determine the suitability of a particular method to the local conditions. The particular soil type, slope, climate, water quality and availability will also impact the choice of an irrigation method.
Often the villages in the High Atlas Mountains have not installed irrigation systems partially due to the cost but also due to the difficult terrain. This excerpt from a field report gives the example of a site where HAF had hired experts to find solutions to irrigate an area where olive trees were about to be planted:
- Because of its rocky, eroded terrain and its geographic situation, this is considered one of the most difficult sites for agricultural development projects.
- A drip irrigation system is being installed in Aarbat village along with 3 wells — 2 in Aarbat and 1 in Aabidat. It took nearly 1.5 months to drill the wells in Aarbat (120m each).
- These drilled wells will ensure sufficient water to irrigate nearly 5,000 olive trees and will contribute to other projects in the future.
- Next, electrical specialists would have to find a way to run electricity to the water pump, but we are currently looking into a solar energy solution instead.
- At Aabidat, the community members have so far planted 1000 olive trees and the rest are about to be planted.
- The drip irrigation system is especially difficult to install here due to the the irregular sloping and rocks covering the ground, so our technical expert will develop a special drip system to work here. This will also be greatly useful for other projects wanting to plant olive trees on similarly difficult-to-manage, damaged terrain.
So, we work to design innovative systems that irrigate crops while reducing erosion.