Sharing knowledge on the use and conservation of water for food production
Catch, Store and Use Water
This page is designed to help you find the information you need about any rainwater harvesting and conservation activity or practice that you might be interested in.
There are several categories to help you find the tutorials best suited to your farm.
Some of them refer to a type of skill you might be looking to learn:
Types of skills
General Skills: Activities or practices that are generally used to help prepare for the main RWH&C practices
Catching, Reducing Loss and Holding Rainwater: Activities or practices that help us bring more rainwater into our cropping areas and hold it in the soil for longer
Storing Rainwater: Activities or practices that help us store rainwater for later use
Using Water: Watering (Irrigation) Practices: Activities or practices that help us use the water we have stored more efficiently
Some categories refer to the scale of faming you are interested in or working in. We have divided farm scales into three main categories:
This is the smallest scale band and includes homestead gardens and shared community gardens, with the focus very much on production for own use, although with potential for sharing, barter, and limited sales. Can include small numbers of small livestock. The production sites are either attached to or quite close to the farmers’ (or gardeners’) homes. Unlikely to involve employment of farm workers from outside the family. Low input costs, with little or no financial income. Areas involved usually less than 1ha, and can be just a backyard garden.
This mid-scale band includes larger shared community/co-operative gardens, and dedicated arable plots, with the focus on production for income generation, with some for own use, sharing and bartering. Generally producing fresh produce, although with potential for processing and value-adding. Supplying local and nearby, and potentially some national markets. Can include small livestock production. Production areas may be some distance from the farmers’ homes. May involve employment of workers from outside the family. Increased input costs with generation of some income. Generally areas of 1 – 2ha.
Focussed on production for income generation with little, if any, for own consumption. Some fresh produce, but also produce grown for mass processing. This can include production of crops not consumed locally, for national or international markets. Production areas may be some distance from the farmers’ homes. Almost invariably involving employment of workers from outside the family. Relatively high input costs, producing a reasonable income. Generally areas of more than 2ha.
Each skills tutorial consists of a diagram, it’s own unique downloadable handout and info card summary and page numbers for relevant resoures to download.
Info cards summarise some of the key information in the table, and
include a list ‘other factors’, where you will find an indication of the levels of technology; the levels of skills and understanding needed; the levels of cost required; and the levels of maintenance needed.
These are defined as:
Skills and understanding – as required for basic gardening
Cost R0 – R1000
Maintenance – none, one or two days a year, simple repairs
Skills and understanding – as required for small-scale business
Cost R1000 – R10 000
Maintenance – regular but infrequent checking/repair, 7 – 10 days/year, technical repairs
Skills and understanding – as required for professional specialists
Cost >R10, 000
Maintenance – essential regular and frequent checking and repair, up to 50 days/year, complex technical repairs
Posters – These show in the form of photographs with some text the main stages in the development of any activity or practice.
Handouts – These provide considerably more information and guidance for each of the activities or practices.
Please select a category and an information pack below:
Sponge lines and string lines
Water-saving. A trickle irrigation system, using sponge or string in the holes in the pipes to reduce water flow.
Water-saving. Small pipes taking the water from a central pipe to the plants. For orchards or vegetables.
Water saving. Takes water to crop roots. Mainly used in small-medium scale vegetable production.
Water-saving. Puts water directly onto the plant root area, most useful for orchards and other long-term crops, but can also be used for vegetables.
Relatively small-scale water storage for domestic use or irrigating small to medium cropping areas.
Relatively small-scale water storage for irrigating small to medium cropping areas.
Matamo/ipitsi (homestead ponds)
Small-scale storage ponds to catch and store surface run-off. Water used for watering (irrigating) crops or livestock.
Generally fairly large-scale storage ponds from which water can be taken for either watering crops (irrigation) or used directly for livestock.
The practice of spreading organic material like compost, straw, manure, dry leaves, grass clippings or wood chips onto the surface of the soil.
Trench beds (deep trenching, fertility trenches)
Trench beds are 1m wide and 2m long. They are dug to 1m deep then packed with dry grass/leaves, compost, manure and soil.
Diversion furrows (run-on ditches, run-on or ex field RWH)
Takes rainwater runoff from gullies, grasslands or hard surfaces (such as paths or roads) to a cropped area or to a storage tank.
Gelesha / infiltration (ripping)
Practice of turning the ground ready to catch and hold the rain before planting.
Tied ridges (in-field RWH, cross-ridges)
Built along the contour at 3m spacings. Crops are planted on either side of the ridge.
Swales (bunds, contour ridges, berm ‘n basin, contour ditches)
An earth bank constructed along the contour with a furrow on the up-slope side – this is filled with dry leaves, compost and soil.
Stone bunds (stone lines, stone banks, contour banks)
Rows of tightly packed stones built along contour lines.
Used in home gardens and smallholder fields. Mainly used in steeper-sloping areas for cropping and orchards.
Fertility pits (banana circles, circular swale)
Catch and hold runoff water in 1m deep pits that are filled with organic matter such as compost or manure.
Greywater harvesting (recycling, re-use)
Using non-toilet wastewater from a household to water the root zone of the soil.
Collecting water from roofs for household and garden use, widely practiced across South Africa.
Digging many small, well-formed shallow pits or “imprints” in the soil that collect rainwater runoff, seed, sediment and plant litter.
Dome water harvesting (rock catchment)
Catch and direct rainwater runoff from rock domes into a reservoir, or directly to a field where the water is held in the soil.
Saaidamme (wadi floodwater system, flood spate)
Taking floodwater from non-permanent rivers through ditches or channels into a series of low flat ‘basins’ which are used for cropping.
Calculating water needs
Estimation of crop water needs. Complex calculations for estimating water needs.
Calculating water storage needs
How to work out how much rainwater storage is needed. Detailed calculations of storage volume needs.
How to calculate the amount of rain falling on the land. Fairly simple methods for rainfall calculations.
Calculating slope (using an A-frame)
Simple method to calculate the slope of the land.
Identifying soil types
How to identify the right types of soil for different rainwater harvesting practices. Fairly simple methods for assessing soil types.
Constructing and using a line-level
How to identify points of equal height (elevation) using this simple tool. How to make the tool, set levels and help mark out contours.
Constructing and using an A-frame
How to identify points of equal height (elevation) set levels and mark out contours across a slope or hillside. How to make and test this simple tool.