On-Field Green Water Management Techniques – South Africa

Piloting On-Field Green Water Management Techniques – Nova Institute


The Nova Institute was founded as an association in 1994 with the stated mission to help improve livelihoods at the household level in South Africa by investigating the root causes of poverty while at the same time providing solutions to these problems.

One of the most significant, areas of focus is the enhancement of household-based production for marginal and impoverished communities that rely on such production for their well-being. Household based food production in particular remains an important source of food for vast numbers of rural South Africans. However, this type of agriculture is generally inefficient and vulnerable to crop failure and poor production.

Technical methods are available that could make it possible for rural people to provide staple food security and sufficient nutrition for themselves and their community members if implemented at scale.

Various techniques can increase on-field green water.These include conservation agriculture, in-field rainwater harvesting and deep trenching. For example the in-field rain water harvesting technique entails collecting rainwater by constructing run-off strips between rows of crops that lie perpendicular to the flow of rainwater runoff that allows rainwater to be collected in micro basins. The result is that water is concentrated in the basins and infiltrates deeper into the soil. The crops are planted on both sides of the basins. The application of mulch in the basins helps to retain moisture in the soil for longer periods of time, further enhancing the growth of crops. Dry land yields are between 30% and 50% higher than conventional tillage.

As part of the pilot phase of the project, Nova has commenced with training 500 households to implement various green water management techniques and monitor its impacts in South Africa’s rural Limpopo Province, with an estimated 5,000 additional households to be trained during the project’s full implementation over the next 7 years.