Primetime Farming in Turkey
Posted by Sukru Esin
March 04, 2014
Turkish soaps are extremely popular from Morocco to Pakistan. Broadcast of a new episode often means that shops are shut down and streets are empty.
There is, however, more to the Turkish mediascape: agricultural television, for example.
A slew of projects had been launched across the country to manage poor agricultural management and outdated traditional practices, but with limited effect. In 2010, the Turkish Ministry of Food , Agriculture and Livestock Launched Tarim TV. Since then, ‘success has bred success.’ There are now 4 television stations in Turkey (1 government-owned, 3 private) offering dedicated 24x7 programming on agriculture. They broadcast talk shows and documentaries round the clock on a variety of topics such as livestock, horticulture, staple crops, beekeeping… just to name a few. They provide information to farmers about government schemes, subsidies, weather forecasts et cetera. Most content can also be accessed online where it is archived for later viewing. This makes for a huge, growing repository- one can find almost all there is to know.
Private TV channels also offer ad space. Private companies also help produce field demonstration films and documentaries. This way, an active agri-service sector is able to reach out to farmers all over Turkey.
The Turkish economy is growing rapidly, matched only by that of China. Its agricultural sector is currently ranked eighth in the world. Thanks to growing private and public investment, the agricultural GDP grew from USD 24 billion to USD 63 billion over the decade 2002-2012.
One can see agricultural TV shows playing being watched at tea houses and homes in farming areas. They have also broken through barriers and reached the marginalized, such as farmers in remote areas. This is not to say that just reach translates automatically into influence. There are plenty of farmers who watch these television shows but continue to stick to bad practices and outdated views. Nevertheless, with old ‘training and visit’ mode of agricultural extension long gone, agricultural television in Turkey has been able to bridge many knowledge gaps in Turkey.
Websites of some prominent agricultural television networks Turkey:
Posted by Abraham Abhishek
February 10, 2014
Subsurface dams are groundwater dams. They intercept the natural flow of groundwater and provide storage for water underground.
Sand dams are constructed above the ground, usually on seasonal river beds. They intercept sand and silt carried by the river during periods of high flow, which get deposited in front of the dam. Up to 40% of this deposit could be water stored between the sand particles. This water can be extracted in a number of ways. (Left image courtesy www.samsamwater.org)
In an interview to TheWaterChannel (watch), Erik Nissen-Petersen (ASAL Consultants) highlights limitations of sand dams and the relative advantages of subsurface dams as water harvesting structures for the benefit of rural communities in dry areas. He points out that silt fills up the sand dam reservoirs very quickly, and the height of the spillway has to be increased every time that happens. “Raise the spillway too much, and the river will change its course,” he adds. Thirdly, there is a constant threat of water flowing down the river bed can eroding the foundation of the dam itself. Last, but certainly not the least, sand dams are expensive to construct. Erik has known them to cost up to 40,000 Euros, a very high figure for a solution meant for rural, dryland communities. Moreover, Erik claims that 9 out of 10 sand dams are known to have failed.
On the other hand, subsurface dams do not suffer from these design problems, can be built anywhere and demand much less time and money. And they provide only a little less water than sand dams. “People like sand dams as you can see them and their construction generates employment... the hardware supplier is happy, the engineer is happy... but the farmers are not getting the water they can have.”
In another interview, Simon Maddrell from Excellent Development- an organisation that has championed the use of sand dams in Africa and South Asia- responds to Nissen-Petersen’s reservations against the technology (watch). He says that at the conceptual level, sub-surface dams are in fact sand dams. He argues that sand dams in Kenya take about 4 years to get silted up to their height, as successive rains keep stirring up the deposited silt and wash them over the weir. As for dam foundations getting eroded by river flow and causing rivers to change course, Simon puts it down to bad design that can be avoided simply by taking appropriate precautions.
Further, he claims that only the most expensive sand dams could cost close to 40,000 Euros. The average figure is closer to 10-15,000 Euros, which works out to 10 Euros per beneficiary. And if 9 out of 10 sand dams were actually failing, what explains the large number of farmers building and adopting them?
Simon hastens to add that the issue is not whether it is best to champion sand dams or criticize them. As one moves down the river catchment, the hydrological environment changes along with the needs of the communities. And so does the answer to the question “what is the most appropriate technology here?”
A wealth of information about sand dams, subsurface dams and many other water harvesting technologies/ case studies can be found on www.waterforaridland.com and www.excellentdevelopment.com.
What experiences have you had with sand dams/ subsurface dams? Please share them in the Comments section below.
The War between Sand and Water
Posted by Matthijs Kool and Frank van Steenbergen
February 03, 2014
Here is what a river looks like stripped to the bone, with all sand and gravel removed from it-- a bare rock; where when water comes, it rushes through and the hydraulic connectivity between river and aquifer is destroyed. Where there is no subsurface flow and hardly any base flow. Where floods are unstoppable - not cushioned in the river bed - and create damage rather than 'recharge'.
This river bed is in Kitui, Kenya but it could come from anywhere in the world because sand and gravel mining occur almost everywhere - depleting rivers of their buffer capacity.
A sand rush is taking place worldwide. It is a booming business. Sand is considered to be the new gold. The artificial palm islands in Dubai constructed from sand dredged from the bottom of the Persian Gulf are famous. According to researcher Kiran Pereira, the global usage of sand exceeds 15 billion tonnes annually.
However, what is not well known is that the global sand mining from beaches and rivers is inviting local catastrophes all over the world. For instance in the Maldives, a group of 1200 islands in the Indian ocean, many beaches have disappeared due to extraction of sand for the toursim infrastructure, leaving the rest of the island exposed to severe wave impact.
Depletion of sand from river beds causes the deepening of rivers and estuaries, and the enlargement of river mouths and coastal inlets. The capacity of the river to buffer floods and hold it in its bed load disappears. The hydrological interaction between surface and groundwater gets altered. As a result, wells are no longer recharged and floods are not absorbed in the riverbed. The increased hydraulic gradient becomes steeper and causes groundwater levels to fall and ‘bleed into the river’. The buffer function of the groundwater reserves is impaired and areas become more vulnerable to extreme climate events. In coastal rivers, sand depletion may also lead to saline-water intrusion from the nearby sea as it is easier for water at high tide to travel inland.
Sand is used for many purposes. Look around, and it would be difficult to spot things that do not contain any sand. The electric bulbs in the room, glass on the window, the screen you are looking at, the concrete walls and ceiling... they all contain sand. Most of the sand that is mined is used in manufacturing. As an abrasive, for example, or to make concrete. Although deserts have seemingly inexhaustible reserves of sand, it is too coarse and sharp which makes it unsuitable for use as construction material and in other industrial processes.
We clearly need sand and gravel. There is no alternative for this ‘high volume-low value’ resource and there probably never will be. But we cannot afford sand extraction to destroy our beaches and starve healthy rivers to the bone. Having exported all of their own reserves, countries like Singapore are having to export them from neighbouring countries. A recent report by Global Witness (Shifting Sand: HHHow Singapore’s demand for Cambodian sand threatens ecosystems and undermines good governance) reveals how Singapore's rapid expansion is driving an ecologically and socially devastating sand-dredging industry in Cambodia.
So, what can be done now? There is an urgent need to regulate sand mining and not let it be the preserve of unorganised operators. Sand and gravel mining should be regulated by issuing licenses. It can be placed under the control of a central production board. In Sri Lanka for instance, the Geological Survey & Mines Bureau (GSMB) controls the market, without completely dominating it. By ensuring adequate supplies to the construction sector it keeps the ‘sand mafia’ from controlling prices. For small-scale sand mining, local committees can be formed which manage sustainable harvesting from the riverbed. (For instance, they can ensure that the amount of sand mined is not more than annual replenishments through sedimentation.)
More importantly, we can adopt better sand mining processes. For instance, by creating sand pits at appropriate locations, they can be used as recharge basins that collecting rain water/ runoff. This way they can also be used to recharge local aquifers rather than cause their depletion. Such sand pits can last for long and can be used as potential sites for high value residences or recreation, thus turning a threat into an amenity.
Sand mining pit turned into an urban lake: De IJzeren Vrouw in 's-Hertogenbosch (i.e. Iron Lady lake - fondly named after the dredging machine)
Posted by Frank van Steenbergen, Bakshlal Lashari and Sukru Esin
January 15, 2013
It may be one of the word’s largest clean ups – the annual ‘canal closure’ in the mega irrigation systems in Sindh, Pakistan. Every year for two weeks in January the large irrigation canals are closed. No water is allowed to flow in them during that period. Instead, manual labour and excavators move in to remove the silt that has built up over the course of the year.
An impressive routine has developed: All the labour engaged in the irrigation canals are mobilized at once when the intake gates are shut down. The gates are further reinforced with jute bags and earthen dikes in front of them so that no water flows into these mighty canals. Some of Sindh’s canal are the largest in the world: the single Rohri Canal for instance irrigates 1.3 Million hectares and the Nara Canal 1 Million hectares. They are wider and longer than, for instance, the Suez canal.
Not all canals section are cleaned – this would simply be too much work especially given the resources that are available. The maintenance of the canal systems is chronically underfunded. Farmers are supposed to pay a rather complex irrigation tax in Sindh, based on an assessment of the crop grown in the previous season. This assessment is laborious and the outcomes are usually either disputed or ‘negotiated’. Moreover, the amounts charged per unit land (USD 5-10 per hectare) are too low – so there is no great willingness to collect the meagre sums. Hence the focus is on the ‘hard water canals’: canals that choke rapidly because they are curvy and very flat. And canals that are made ‘in fill’, i.e. constructed on top of the land. If not maintained well, such high canals get breached and flood the land.
Interesting rituals have come into existence. When the sill at the top section of the canal is cleaned of silt, the year is painted on the concrete blocks at the bottom of the canal. This is then covered under water until next year’s cleaning operations. (See picture above).
The mega canals have transformed Sindh Province like no other force. What until 1930 was desert country dependent on annual floods has been a well laid out, perennially irrigated land for decades. However, productivity of this land is lower than all other areas. In many areas, close 65% of the water is just lost to evaporation. The big challenge is water logging. Due to irrigation, groundwater levels have come very close to the surface, saturating the soil so that most crops cannot grow any longer. Besides, the constant evaporation of water transports the salts in it to the surface, creating plots of land with white crusts of salt on the surface that are no longer useable. The soggy and saline land not only loses its productivity but also causes a number of diseases: malaria, kidney problems and liver fluke (for livestock).
This waterlogging is not inevitable. Simply too much water is allowed into these flat areas which simply cannot go away; a situation that naturally turns into massive waterlogging. The telling story in this regard is of the 1998-2002 drought when water supplies were reduced by 20% but crop production went up, not down. The reason is that the waterlogging disappeared over large parts of the Sindh Province. Whereas in ‘normal’ years it extends to 40% of the irrigated land (say 2 Million hectares), in the dry years the water logging dropped to less than 5% of the land: an enormous difference. In other words, the drought was a blessing.
There is so much scope to make better use of the gift of water in Sindh: rationalizing how much water is led into the area is Priority Number One. Large parts of the irrigation area simply receive too much water, and get choked and waterlogged in it. Then there is also a need to improve drainage and at least start unblocking the natural drains that have been disturbed by the building of roads and other infrastructure.
Also, farming can improve. Travelling in Sindh, one spots small islands of hope where farmers are using wise water management techniques-- such as mulching, ridges and green houses-- and achieving high productivity, whereas their neighbours continue to over-irrigate and face waterlogging and salinity. Some farmers have also taken drainage into their own hands: excavating their own drains and sometimes taking over drainage pumping stations that the government owned but was unable to take care of.
The final solution is to live better with the salt. A large part of Sindh Province has saline groundwater. Though difficult, there are options to use saline water productively: growing special crop varieties, using natural salt-tolerant plants, making fishponds, use soil remediants or adding more manure to the land.
Even though Sindh is now low on agricultural yields, it is a land of large promise. With better water management and more innovative farming, Sindh could become an agricultural power house for the food hungry Middle East. The region could also do better in feeding its own population, and that of neighboring countries.