Project update A4labs – Water from sand rivers

Creating a sustainable source of water for agriculture

A4Labs is an action research on Arid African Alluvial Aquifers. Farmers and project partners will co-develop, test, share and compare methodologies with farmers and partners to create a reliable and sustainable source of water for agriculture in three semi-arid to arid regions of Sub-Sahara Africa, using water from ‘dry’ sandy river beds. These sandy river beds, so-called alluvial aquifers or sand rivers, can store a lot of water that can be made available during the dry season.

The action research takes place in 3 arid to semi-arid regions in Africa:     

- Tekeze, Tigray region, Ethiopia, Nile basin

- Mzingwane, Matabeleland, Zimbabwe, Limpopo basin

- Limpopo, Gaza Province, Mozambique, Limpopo basin

Here, experimental sites (“living labs”) are developed where smallholder farmers, practitioners, agricultural extension officers, water engineers, private sector players and students co-develop new (technological, agronomic, financial, market) approaches of accessing and using shallow groundwater for productive purposes, and evaluate the hydrological, social and economic effects and impacts.


The baseline reports are finished, the projects are running, so it was time for a short update:

In Mozambique the Experimental Lab on the ISPG farm (ongoing irrigation equipment testing) was successfully installed. Along the Limpopo river, divers are installed together with a community-awareness programme.

In Zimbabwe project ownership was strengthened through capacity building on piezometer reading. Farmers have gained knowledge on recording the water level, making it easy for them to determine the amount of groundwater available in the river. Also, last march, Practica foundation visited Zimbabwe to test solar pumps and manual drilling together with Dabane Trust. 

Coming September, the annual meeting to foster South-South learning is held in Zimbabwe. Here learning experiences will be shared between the Zimbabwe and Mozambique projects. During the meeting also the status, planning and way forward of the project will be discussed. Our colleague Mieke Hulshof will be present at the meeting in Zimbabwe.

Co-learning will be institutionalised at the sites, as well as between the three sites, through conscious monitoring and evaluations by farmers and other players, assisted by local students. A4Labs will also study the effect of upscaling methodologies for use at river basin scale while maintaining sustainable abstraction limits and minimising negative social and ecological consequences.


For more information, visit the A4Labs project website ( or contact our colleage Mieke Hulshof (

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

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