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close this bookAmaranth to Zai Holes, Ideas for Growing Food under Difficult Conditions (ECHO; 1996; 397 pages)
View the documentOther ECHO publications
View the documentAbout this book
View the documentAcknowledgements
Open this folder and view contents1: Basics of agricultural development
Open this folder and view contents2: Vegetables and small fruits in the tropics
Open this folder and view contents3: Staple crops
Open this folder and view contents4: Multipurpose trees
Open this folder and view contents5: Farming systems and gardening techniques
Open this folder and view contents6: Soil health and plant nutrition
Open this folder and view contents7: Water resources
Open this folder and view contents8: Plant protection and pest control
Open this folder and view contents9: Domestic animals
Open this folder and view contents10: Food science
Open this folder and view contents11: Human health care
Open this folder and view contents12: Seeds and germplasm
Open this folder and view contents13: Energy and technologies
Open this folder and view contents14: From farm to market
Open this folder and view contents15: Training and missionary resources
Open this folder and view contents16: Oils
Open this folder and view contents17: Above-ground (urban) gardens
View the document18: What is ECHO?
View the documentAdditional ECHO publications
Open this folder and view contentsECHO development notes - issue 52
Open this folder and view contentsECHO development notes: issue 53
close this folder28 additional technical notes about tropical agriculture
View the documentA few alternate seed sources that we commonly use
View the documentAmaranth - grain and vegetable
close this folderArid region farming primer
View the documentIntroduction
View the documentAgricultural techniques for arid lands
View the documentCitrus propagation and rootstocks
Open this folder and view contentsCucurbit seeds
Open this folder and view contentsDry farming
View the documentMuscovy ducks for png villages
View the documentFruit crops
View the documentFruit vegetables
View the documentGrain crops
View the documentGround covers and green manures
View the documentGreen manure crops
View the documentIndustrial crops
View the documentThe lablab bean as green manure
View the documentLeafy vegetables
View the documentLeguminous vegetables
View the documentThe moringa tree
View the documentRecipes to learn to eat moringa
View the documentMiscellaneous vegetables
View the documentThe poor man's plow
View the documentPulses (grain legumes)
View the documentRabbit raising in the tropics
View the documentLetter from fremont regier, mennonite central committee, Botswana (and earlier in Zaire)
View the documentRoots and tubers
View the documentSunnhemp as a green manure
View the documentThe sweet potato
View the documentTropical pasture and feed crops
View the documentThe velvet bean as green manure
Open this folder and view contentsPrinciples of agroforestry
Open this folder and view contentsGood nutrition on the small farm

Agricultural techniques for arid lands

Many of the techniques for agriculture in arid lands are not very different from those in other climatic zones. The unique problems of arid lands are almost entirely related to water or its effects over long or short times. Therefore, the discussion here revolves around two questions, "How to capture existing water", and "how to use water wisely".

How to Capture Existing Water. Much of the water that falls on arid lands is lost by runoff, deep penetration into sands, or by evaporation. Runoff can be captured for later use in natural or nature-like ways, or in manmade structures. These include the following:

1. Furrows, and diking of furrows, ditches, and pits following contours to slow the runoff of water and permit deeper penetration.

2. Similar structures reinforced by bench terraces, vegetative strips, or trees for alley cropping.

3. Crescent-shaped basins arranged to gather water for one or more trees.

4. Reservoirs of water, such as natural or constructed shallow basins along roads which capture runoff, earth structures that lead water into aquifers (underground streams), rock or clay-lined underground basins.

5. Other man-made structures. These include cisterns (household or community sized clay, stone, or concrete tanks, check dams (small structures that impede water movement in a stream), and conventional dams.

How to Obtain New Water. In many arid regions water can be obtained from wells. The depth of the well necessary to obtain water may vary a few to thousands of feet. Water in wells is either fossil (stored over impermeable layers for thousands of years), or from water that has entered the soil from rain, and is therefore stored rainwater. Both sources of water are limited and can be exhausted.

New water is also obtained by condensation from the air, either onto metal screens or plastic (the principle of the solar still) or onto foliage. Ingenious systems can be developed to capture this condensation. This source of water depends on nighttime temperatures that lower to the point of condensation.

How to Conserve Existing Water. Water that is conserved is just as valuable as water that is obtained, and is one of the best strategies for arid zones. There are many techniques, here presented only as lists.

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