about the progress

Weather conditions in Arba Minch: Dry!

Last years report (in german): https://www.betterplace.org/de/projects/34102-echte-grune-revolution-slope-farming-projekt-arba-minch-athiopien/newsroom

June till end of August:

We finalized the implementation of our Rain Water Harvesting measures. on about 3 hectares of space, we established trenches, terraces, stonewalls, earthbunds. Alll topped by a app. 50m³ overflow reservoir linked to the trenches. In case of a tremendous rain event (like 60mm or more in just one hour), we expect to fill all this volume with ease.


Now, with the starting rainy seasons, and all means for retention and infiltration of the water in place, we start the establishment of our planting system. First plants are sown, mostly Moringa and Leucaena. Lets hope for continous rainfall and the absence of grazing animals. 


We will construct a house for our caretaking guard soon, in order for him to be present in the site and facilitate and protect the measures 24h per day, if needed. 


Now the actual restoration of the degraded area can begin!

April till early June 2017:

This year’s main rainy season came late – but intense. Due to a changing climate, weather conditions change drastically, people, animals and plants are suffering big time. The more important becomes research and activities in the field of Restoration Engineering, combating drought stress and low productivity of agricultural practice. All for the improved access to food and water, especially with a fast growing number of inhabitants, like in Ethiopia.
Thirsty for the rain, the environment really was struggling. Even deep rooting trees like Leucaena thinned out their canopy. But in the end of April the rain came, with astonishing rain events. Lots of rain on a dried out soil with little or no vegetation cover at all means too very often little rates of infiltration and high rates of surface runoff. Therefore our lately enhanced living Checkdam in the erosion gully had to withstand heavy floods, and only could partially manage. The  riverbank without mesh stabilisation collapsed due to severe overflow, in the following nights with again strong rain, the bank collapsed and eroded, almost all the way down to the fundament of the Checkdam.
So, we adapted, and constructed a new riverbank stabilisation with mesh, wood and a lot of stones. This wall will direct the water from the riverbanks (the most fragile part of the dam) towards the centre of the erosion gully, where it overflows towards the scour protection.
Also, by this strong rains, we could retain lots of water within our Rain Water Harvesting measures on-site in our project site. Currently, we construct more measures (a diverse mix: trenches, terraces, eyebrow terraces, keyline furrows, earth bunds, rain water pons with a distribution system) on the site, to exemplary demonstrate adapted to the very circumstances the functioning of the measures to interested people.
Now the water has come (and is retained in the site, where its percolated into the soil layers) we can start the planting of our adapted planting system soon. A living fence and “gardening guards” (caretakers of the green area) will manage to keep any free grazing goat or cow outside, so no harm is done to the plants. Only then there is a chance to improve the soil of the eroded site and have a well functioning, sustainable approach to show and evaluate.
The Azolla ponds became functioning mirco-ecosystems, with frogs swimming around (and eating mosquito larvae). The only additive so far is bone meal, which we pyrolyse in our wood gas stove from bones (and currently there are many because of the dying cattle from the drought). We hope to extend the research on this and produce a high-value organic fertilizer from waste residues.
We thank all supporters for their great contribution.
Jan Wibbing for the Slope Farming Team

September till December 2016: 4 students from TUHH joined the project in Arba Minch! During the month, many great things were accomplished by a great team!

Project Site: Measures of Rain Water Harvesting were started! With our self-constructed mason level, we marked the contour lines of the plateau in the project site to establish water harvesting keyline trenches. A suiting, beneficial vegetation cover will follow soon, benefiting from the stored water and non-eroded, fertile topsoil! Erosion can be stopped by adapted system, beneficial also for the farmer implementing them!

Productive Ponds: In ponds, we started to grow Azolla. The system basically only needs some cow manure and soil supplied weekly. Then the amazing Azolla starts growing non-stop. We aim to develope an integrated "waste and wastewater"-treatment system around this, with production of high-value organic fertilizer, mulch or even livestock fodder, for closed nutrient cycles!

Small Scale Farm: On the Mission Compound we implement a Small Scale Farm for research and demonstration purpose. How productive can we get by our system on a limited farming area? Here, on 1.400 m² we can see...

Chicken House: We constructed a chicken house from local materials (loam bricks, partly wood and bamboo) in the Moringa Tree Nursery for organic, free-ranged poultry, fed also by Azolla plants. No more weeding between the Moringas!

Check Dam: We enlarged the well working checkdams from last year to creat a flood plain. Much stones had to be carried, much soil to be dug out for strong fundaments. Within the the first following rain events, substantial amounts of sediments rich in organic matter have been accumulated. Now we can green the area with many beneficial plants!

July and August 2016: We started to do more experiments on loam bricks. The best mixture of sand, silt and clay along with water and additional material like teff straw is worked out right now by Jana. Asfaw will produce some more bricks for the construction of a house, soon.

June 2016: Thomas is working on the construction of an improved wood gas stove from metal. Along with a local metal worker a big stove was constructed, which works sufficient. Experiments on using saw dust as a wood residue instead of wood are still running.

May 2016: The experimental area was set up in the compound of the Catholic Church in Arba Minch. Trenches allow to retain water from stron rain events (up to 60mm in some hours) and infiltrate it into the soil. 

April 2016: The mission compound shall be turned into an experimental demonstration site for Slope Farming - with autark supply of agricultural goods! Therefore some measures were implemented: Rain Water Harvesting, Moringa plantings, living fences. We created some useful tools for adapted management of the measures: Moringa seed harvester, Mason level and charcoal grinder!

March 2016: Oliviero built a wood gas stove along with a local blacksmith! Pyrolysis is running good, but still too fast...producing charcoal WHILE you cook your dinner. Nice!

March 2016: The rainy season started. First rain events in the night - also one heavy one. The improved check-dams did their job and accumulated loads and loads of sediments! Great work! Now we have to increase them...

March 2016: Congratulations to Stefan Hügel for his great project work on plant selection in course of our "Slope Farming Project"!

Februar 2016: Giovanni, with the help of Pauline, Oliviero and Carla, built some new check-dams to support the big check-dam. Water rushing in the erosion gully is to be slowed down. This way our main check-dam can be protected efficiently.

January 2016: Carla and Oliviero arrived in Arba Minch to conduct work on a Terra Preta System, respectively on Wood Gas Stoves for the production of charcoal. Meanwhile, Moringa grew up to 4,7m, 8 month after sowing!

December 2015: Due to the weather phenomenon "El Nino" this years rainy season was unpredictable - even less than before. Heavy, erratic rain falls destroyed our established check-dams. Stones of more than a couple of 100kg were washed away. So Giovanni, with the help of Alessandro, constructed an improved check-dam, which should be able to sustain even that heavy floods.

December 2015: For an alternative housing construction with local materials, Melina managed to produce some loam bricks. These are now tested back in Hamburg for their suitability for construction.

December 2015: Due to plenty of rain fall, the Moringa trees in our tree nursery are doing good! The largest trees are already 4,5m - half a year after their sowing! The plants sown in the extension of the tree nursery also germinated!

December 2015: Alessandro worked on a low-cost hydroseeding system to easily establish a dense vegetation cover. Let us hope the goats do not find their way into the area!

15.11.2015: Giovanni is coming to Arba Minch for watershed management and implementation of Rain Water Harvesting measures in the project site!

06.11.2015: Alessandro is joining the team and arrives in Arba Minch to conduct his work on a hydroseeding system!

02.11.2015: Thanks for the donations so far! We constructed some more check-dams to retain sediments and infiltrate rain water!

16.10.2015: Melina made here way safely to Arba Minch and starts her work on a concept for alternative housing construction with local materials and waste products!

08.10.2015: After only one strong rain event at night, our check-dams passed their first real test and are already full of sediments. So we have to enlarge them!

05.10.2015: First actions were performed in the project site...the first two check-dams were constructed testwise. Many more will follow!

10.09.2015: Stefan, Claas and Asfaw are working on the extension of the tree nursery "Moringa Fields"...for many more Moringas!