Catching some rain to grow food
The availability of water is one of the biggest issues that rural South Africans face every day. Rural Integrated Engineering (RIEng) has developed with partners a system that will catch rainwater from the ground surfaces, like roads at rural households. These systems are usually installed in conjunction with roof water tanks.
This system was technically much more challenging than we expected at first, and we had a few spectacular failures – but that information is unfortunately classified…
The first step in the process the ground is to determine how rainwater actually flows in or close to the plot. Each location is unique and provision has to be made to divert (catch) the water for storage and to safely drain (release) away from the reservoirs, crops and buildings.
The site for the buried tanks is then determined and these are usually two or three standard 5000 litres, plastic tanks. These tanks are reinforced internally to keep them from collapsing and are provided with a cement screed on the floor and a ladder – which is also a support for the roof of the tanks. We also install non return valve and a lockable lid for safety.
It is best to have a relatively large area to catch the rainwater and if it is only limited to the household area the planning and design should be carefully done. The best is to catch stormwater from the road, which will fill up the tanks in one or two rain events. The size of the garden is more determined by what one can grow in winter. This depends on the management of the tanks and the type of crop you plant. Experience has shown that 10 000 litres can usually provide water for a food garden for one crop during the winter when there is no rainfall.
In the photograph below complete RIEng installations can be seen
In order to get hold of the water in the tanks, RIEng developed a hand pump that can fill a 20-litre bucket in about 2 minutes. This pump is very cheap, has no seals and can be repaired by a local technician.
Another interesting innovation is a very cost-effective shade cloth tunnel that RIEng developed – also with partners. But more about that later…
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