Water Harvesting in Malian Agriculture
This factsheet contains the findings of a study that tested the effect of traditional water harvesting practices on yields of several crops in the Mopti region of Mali.
Under the right conditions, the use of such practices can improve water retention, alleviate poor soil fertility, and improve crop yields - all critical given the impacts of climate change.
This study used a hypothetical site consisting of four soil types commonly found in the Mopti region: regosols, lithosols, arenosols, and luvisols. Regosols and arenosols are poorly developed soils with low organic content and low water holding capacity. Lithosols and luvisols have higher organic content and better water holding capacity. The major crops studied were maize, millet, sorghum and upland rice.
The four water harvesting practices modelled were soil or stone bunds, vegetated filter strips, contour ridges, and zai (planting pits).
The study found that overall, contour ridges and zai improved crop yield more than bunds, which, in turn, improved yields better than vegetated filter strips. Yield increases due to water harvesting practices were generally greater with sorghum than with maize or millet on all soils and under all climatic scenarios considered.
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