Training Course on Water Harvesting for Improved Agricultural Production
Reviewed by: Bertrand Habert, PhD, Consultant Scientist, Tokyo, Japan
Review posted 5 August 2005
Review No. 55
Content: This CD-ROM, produced by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), is a collection of over 500 presentation slides showing water harvesting techniques and project planning methods arranged into four separate training modules.
Publication Date: 1 January 2003
Audience: Any organization or person wishing to learn more about water harvesting techniques and successful project planning.
Size: 377 MB
Manual needed: No
How to order:
Order by mail:
FAO Sales and Marketing Group
Viale delle Terme di Caracalla
00100 Rome, Italy
Fax: +39 06 57053360
For further information contact:
Small-scale Irrigation Technology Group
FAO Land and Water Development Division
Viale delle Terme di Caracalla
00100 Rome, Italy
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This CD-ROM training course is an excellent summary of water harvesting methods. It is full of material that synthesizes the many lessons learned from implementing water-harvesting projects worldwide. The content is field-oriented yet manages to maintain scientific rigor. The authors do not claim that water harvesting is the solution to all problems. Instead they review all the difficulties that a water-harvesting project might encounter and convey the need for project planners to understand the interaction between six parameters: climate, hydrology, topography, soil, agronomy, and socio-economics. By incorporating these parameters into a cohesive, four-part learning framework the authors have successfully produced an action-oriented slideshow based on water harvesting experiences, and they have managed to turn these experiences into practical and applicable knowledge. The end result is a didactic view of the complex interactions of water harvesting.
The PowerPoint slides on this CD-ROM are divided into four distinct sections:
Overview: The overview section focuses on the basics yet it defines very clearly the important issues related to water harvesting. The section begins by introducing the concept "How can water harvesting become an additional source of water?" Users are shown various examples of water harvesting starting with the smallest unit or "micro-catchment" methods, then shown bigger "macro-catchment" and floodwater harvesting methods. Examples on how to combine micro-catchment with the bigger water harvesting systems are provided, as is a discussion about appropriate storage systems for harvested water. The material goes on to describe soil structure and other agronomical aspects since each part of a water harvesting structure must have a specific type of soil to function correctly and crops need to be chosen carefully according to the area's rainfall.
Harvesting techniques: This section presents all known water harvesting techniques, and whenever possible tries to explain the essential steps in constructing a bund. Depending on the context, the CD-ROM assists users in deciding whether an engineer is needed to design a bund. The discussion also details whether the work will require human, animal, or mechanical labor and explains the advantages of each work approach. Some interesting explanatory pictures illustrate each of the many different techniques. In one example the images show how inter-row harvesting can be a very efficient method on a flat land.
Project planning and management: The CD-ROM’s authors do not take for granted the fact that a water-harvesting system will necessarily succeed: they take into account, and describe, many examples of failure in the past. Moreover, the authors point out that even if efficient water harvesting stands to double or triple the crop output, there will most likely be local resistance to it. Therefore, this section focuses on the social impact of water-harvesting projects on local communities and advocates that local populations become active partners in such projects. Because hydrology is often competing with the customary law of the area, the authors underscore the advantage of making comparatively small, population-oriented projects built on food and water subsistence. They point out that a project has to be acceptable to all owners involved no matter how viable or practical the project is. With this in mind, the authors recommend a "demonstration training extension" approach that involves local people as opposed to an implementation method done by managers and paid labor that does not include local groups.
Hydrological aspects: Whereas the previous sections dealt mostly with project design, this one considers in depth how to determine and calculate the relevant parameters of a water-harvesting project It also covers topics such as rainfall analysis and surface run-off calculation. Furthermore, the authors discuss the rational calculation of "catchment area/cultivated area" as well as storage capacity and spillway design. This section is clearly aimed at technical experts, yet it remains quite instructive for non-technical users.
Aside from the slideshow, five additional files are provided:
- The "Introduction" has much the same content as the "overview" described above.
- "How to use the slides as training material" gives an example of a possible training session. This lays out a good two-week time schedule for users to complete the entire CD-ROM course material.
- The "Glossary" provides a brief, explicit explanation of all the terms used in the slideshow.
- The "Terminology" file is an index of the key concepts offered in five languages. This file is useful when speakers of different languages have to participate in a shared training session.
- "Summary of related FAO publications and links" provides many links to FAO publications. Most of them are available as books, CD-ROMs, and online publications.
This CD-ROM is more course material than a self-training course in itself. The lack of interactive features does limit the users ability to fully explore potential outcomes of water harvesting projects. Even though water harvesting in arid land is an attractive idea, as workers master run off water in semi-arid and arid areas the soil type inevitably changes, thus changing the vegetation, but how far does the process go? Can it affect the climate, at least locally? How could these local improvements impact on larger scale environmental issues? These and other possible digressions are not addressed in this CD-ROM largely because the slideshow format does not permit it. However, one could assume that in a training workshop using local knowledge and conditions, these issues could be investigated.
The CD-ROM synthesizes a huge quantity of data and experiences. However, for people with little knowledge in hydrology this CD-ROM cannot be used as a "self-training course". The slideshow format makes access to the content too difficult. One example would be that most novice users would find it tedious to explore all the possible geometries of a micro-catchment as described in Section 2. However, in a workshop setting a facilitator could make good use of the material during training sessions to guide a novice through the material and concepts.
It is as simple as a slideshow.
This CD-ROM does not have any interactive features.
The CD-ROM content is not available online. The CD-ROM itself costs $44. It is well worth the price if a competent facilitator is available.
French and Spanish versions are of the same quality as the English one. Specific terms have been used for the key concepts, and the terminology index helps to navigate between the different languages.
The CD-ROM has high sustainability because it is both a course on water harvesting and a tool for building water harvesting projects. Techniques may evolve, but the social impact of project building will remain an everlasting problem. This CD-ROM helps project managers to cope with the social impact challenges.
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