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Soil conservation

Soil conservation

Dryland areas are particularly susceptible to soil erosion – and healthy topsoil is vital to healthy, productive agriculture in dryland regions. The Water and Livelihoods Initiative (WLI) aims to improve soil conservation in participating countries through the following strategies: promoting sustainable farming practices that minimize topsoil loss and improve fertility; strategies that mitigate the effects of drought; and gully restoration and the construction and maintenance of soil conservation structures that can effectively reduce run-off and conserve soil moisture.

The challenges:

  • Susceptibility to flash floods and water erosion.

  • Susceptibility to drought and desertification – increasing the vulnerability of topsoil to wind erosion.

  • Limited access to technologies that can monitor and model erosion rates – undermining effective decision making.

Soil conservation innovations:

Innovations to reduce susceptibility to soil erosion: constructing and monitoring soil conservation structures capable of limiting and preventing surface run-off and the removal of healthy soils – including check dams, terraces and contour lines.

Promoting conservation agriculture: this practice, which involves not plowing and leaving crop residue in fields for soil fertility and water conservation, minimizes the loss of topsoil.

Monitoring and modeling: close monitoring of soil data, sediment quality and quantity, salinity, and run-off; and using modern technologies to compute run-off and sedimentation rates for different areas to stimulate improved watershed management.

Drought-tolerant plants: introducing fodder plants that can thrive in drought conditions and help to bind soil and reduce erosion.

Selected research activities and results:

  • Data is being collected so that Soil Water Assessment Tools (SWAT) can be used in Lebanon to model run-off and sedimentation rates, helping to improve decision-making at the basin-level.

  • At one site in Palestine – Thaherya - 67 hectares of rock terraces, check dams, and contour lines have been constructed, helping to significantly reduce soil erosion and collect an additional 81 m3of water.

  • Some 33 check dams have been constructed at the Majdyya research site in Jordan’s badia region – helping to reduce run-off and erosion and increase the amount of soil moisture.

  • Application of K-fertilizer and compost to mitigate the effect of brakish irrigation water on potato and enhance yields in Iraq.