Arid African Alluvial Aquifers

Water security to intensify irrigated agriculture

A4Labs – Arid African Alluvial Aquifers – aims to unlock Sub-Sahara Africa’s agricultural potential by enhancing water security through increased ability of farming systems to cope with water variability. This can be achieved through increased water storage from alluvial aquifers. The river beds of seasonal rivers provide opportunities for nature-based water storage. The sandy rivers beds contain significant amounts of water throughout the dry season and have the potential for intensifying irrigated agriculture. This action research aims to co-create solutions that can transform alluvial aquifers from underutilized community water supply systems to commercially viable water supply systems for multiple uses with a focus on high-value agricultural products and (supplementary) irrigated food crops.

Farmers and project partners will test, share and compare methodologies to develop a reliable and sustainable source of water for agriculture in semi-arid to arid regions of Sub-Sahara Africa, using water from ‘dry’ river beds, so-called alluvial aquifers. For its research A4Labs uses three experimental sites (‘living labs’) in Tekeze, Ethiopia (Nile Basin), Mzingwane, Zimbabwe and Limpopo, Mozambique (both Limpopo Basin). At these sites smallholder farmers, practitioners, agricultural extension officers, water engineers, private sector and students co-develop new technological, agronomic, financial, market approaches of accessing and using water from alluvial aquifers for productive purposes, and evaluate the hydrological, social and economic effects and impacts. Co-learning is institutionalized within and between sites.

A4Labs is coordinated by UNESCO-IHE, Mekelle University, Oxfam Mozambique, Dabane Trust, Acacia Water and Oxfam Novib.

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