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Opening New Opportunities for Farmers through Water Harvesting in Palestine

April 12, 2016

Water scarcity is a chronic problem in the West Bank where WLI operates. With increasing competition for the resource among different sectors, the continued availability of water for agricultural use is a growing concern among rural farmers in the area. The semi-arid WLI benchmark sites in Tammun and Hebron are no exception. Tammun, located in the Eastern Slopes, covers approximately 25.8 km2 and has an average rainfall that ranges from 213 -370 millimeters. Hebron is located South-West of the Central High Lands and receives between 290 -370 millimeters of rainfall per year. Over 70% and 50% of these areas, respectively, are classified as rangeland; with the remaining areas considered as rainfed. Inhabitants of these areas depend on a combination of subsistence agriculture through cultivating field crops, forages, breeding livestock, and pursuit of other off-farm income opportunities.

WLI has been testing and promoting various water harvesting strategies in these areas to provide farmers with additional water to meet their farming and livestock needs. In 2014, WLI arranged a special visit by Prof Dieter Prinz, an expert in rainwater harvesting from Germany who helped the team identify suitable areas and develop several water harvesting maps. In 2015, the team built on this effort to promote the technology among the farmers. This was made possible by linking WLI’s work with other projects working in the area, including work by the organizations Centro Regionale d'Intervento per la Cooperazione (CRIC), Netherlands Representative Office (NRO) for the Palestinian Territories, The Land Research Center (LRC), Climate Change, Adaptation for Learning (ARIJ), the Rawasi Project (CARE and ICARDA), and Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) funds.

The team focused on promoting various water harvesting techniques and strategies to improve water use efficiency in the area, including building rock terraces, check dams, eye brow terraces, and contour lines, plus rehabilitating roman ponds, etc. The structures also helped reduce surface run off and erosion. The activity was closely linked with rangeland management where farmers were encouraged to use the harvested water to plant and grow selected rangeland shrubs, olive trees, and vetch.

In the reporting year alone, the team managed to build rock terraces, check dams and contour ridges on 67 hectares of land in Al Thaherya, plus build eye brow terraces and plant olives on three hectares of land in Bzeek and eight hectares in Tubas. More than 500 hectares of land were also planted with drought tolerant wheat (‘Cham 3’ and ‘Hetahya’) in Thaherya with more than 92 farmers benefiting from the initiative. Farmers in Al Thaherya were also able to pump 81 m3 of water collected behind the check dams to water their animals and to irrigate their fields. The team’s accomplishments and their relentless efforts to leverage additional funds to promote WLI objectives were highlighted at the WLI Annual Regional Coordination Meeting as highly commendable.