Water sowing involves building shallow trenches and dikes that slow the rate of precipitation from land, stimulate soil penetration and direct it into ponds for later recovery. The technology gives the farmer José Antonio Casimiro plenty of water all year round on his Finca del Medio in Siguaney, Taguasco municipality in central Cuba. CREDIT Courtesy of Finca del Medio / IPSHAVANA, June 21 (IPS) – Cuban farmer José Antonio Casimiro found a way to meet his farm’s water needs and to mitigate the increasingly visible effects of climate change in the age-old technique of sowing water.
Casimiro and his family have been using sustainable farming methods for 28 years on their 10 hectare farm called Finca del Medio, which is located in the center of the long narrow island of Cuba, which is just over 1,200 km long from west to east.
When Casimiro and his wife Mileidy Rodríguez decided in 1993 to settle permanently with their children on their grandparents’ family farm, the place was shabby, with heavily eroded floors on impassable terrain and without fences.
With the help of folk inventions and sheer determination, the family is now self-sufficient with rice, beans, various types of tubers, vegetables, milk, eggs, honey, meat, fish and over 30 types of fruit.
The new generations of the Casimiro-Rodriguez family are also involved in food production and have managed to turn the farm into a model for agroecology and permaculture, as well as for the education and communication of good agricultural and ecological practices.
Prior to the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, the family business was visited by tourists who took part in guided tours where they could interact with the plants and animals, swim in the reservoir, taste organic food and learn more about the operation of a local farm .
One of the techniques applied is water sowing, which has been used in communities in southern Spain and the South American Andes for hundreds of years to reduce rainfall runoff into rivers and seas and conserve some of it for human, agricultural and animal activities.
“We have adapted the technology to our situation and possibilities. We place as many barriers as possible to hold back the water and to allow as little as possible to run off the surface so that it seeps into the ground where we want it. ”Casimiro explained to IPS via WhatsApp about the Finca del Medio in the Near the town of Siguaney, Taguasco municipality, Sancti Spíritus province, around 350 km east of Havana.
The strategy involves building shallow trenches and dykes that slow the seepage of water into the ground, stimulate its seepage into the subsoil and direct it into ponds for later reclamation.
According to Casimiro, “there has been about 200mm of rain in the past few weeks and the water still hasn’t left the farm. We have a small reservoir holding 54,000 cubic meters of water and retention barriers that accumulate thousands of cubic meters more that infiltrate.” slowly into the ground. ”
He said the infiltrated water is not only benefiting his farm.
“A farmer on a neighboring farm hasn’t had to fetch water from distant sources since we started using this technique. His well now has water all year round, ”said Casimiro.
A woman operates a hand pump to draw water for household chores in the Martha Abreu Basic Production Unit community in the central province of Cienfuegos. The projected increase in dry spells in Cuba due to the climate crisis requires incentives for initiatives to make greater use of rainfall and to promote the saving and reuse of water. CREDIT: Jorge Luis Baños / IPS On the Finca del Medio, part of the rainwater is mainly collected for domestic use, for example for washing and cleaning. With pumping systems, which are driven by solar panels, wind systems and hydraulic rams, the liquid is pumped out of the pond to higher altitudes.
“We have more than 100,000 liters of water in tanks, ponds and other places that is channeled by gravity,” said the farmer.
Casimiro believes it is feasible to encourage initiatives to collect more rainwater and save and reuse water.
Living with the climate crisis
Climate change is not an insignificant issue for this country on the largest island in the Caribbean, whose elongated, narrow shape creates short, low-current rivers that depend on rainfall, which is more frequent in the rainy season from May to October, and when passing through tropical cyclones .
From 2014 to 2017, the country faced the worst drought in 115 years, affecting 70 percent of the national territory.
With an average annual precipitation of 1,330 mm, several studies predict that Cuba’s climate will tend towards less precipitation, higher temperatures and more severe droughts, and that water availability could be reduced by more than 35 percent by 2100.
“The drought is one of the climatic extremes we face today and it creates a complex situation that requires science, monitoring, innovation and evaluation,” said Minister of Science, Technology and Environment, Elba Rosa Pérez, during one TV appearance in April 2020.
Several of Cuba’s 15 provinces have insufficient rainfall despite the middle of the rainy season.
From December to April, rainfall was only 54 percent of the normal average in what is known as the “very dry” period, Antonio Rodríguez, president of the National Institute of Hydraulic Resources, said on TV on May 13.
About 25 percent full, the dams are in the most critical location in the capital, which is home to 2.2 million of the country’s 11.2 million inhabitants, the official said.
View of a turbine for pumping drinking water in the town of Cauto Cristo in the eastern province of Granma. In recent years, Cuba has encouraged investment to expand and modernize its water infrastructure, with an emphasis on more than a dozen water transfers, strategic engineering work to divert water over long distances, and in support of agricultural development plans. CREDIT: Jorge Luis Baños / IPS “We should use rainwater better. It is very good water for washing, scrubbing and cleaning. I remember that when I was a child, many houses had gutters to collect rainwater, store it in tanks and use it You do it later. It has been lost, “Asunción Batista, an elderly resident of the city of Holguín, 685 km east of Havana, told IPS.
The challenge of making better use of water
The island has a storage capacity of more than nine billion cubic meters, spread over more than 240 reservoirs, which together with a network of sewage treatment plants guarantee access to drinking water for over 95 percent of the population and supply industry and agriculture.
In recent years, the government has tried to expand and modernize the country’s water infrastructure with the support of funds from international cooperation.
There are more than a dozen water transfers, strategic engineering work to control possible flooding and diversion of water over long distances to support agricultural production and provide water to communities and tourist resorts.
However, according to official data, 42 percent of tap water is still lost to leaks in the aging pipelines.
“An agricultural policy that stimulates and encourages the sowing of water by farmers could be positive for the land and for families in rural and semi-rural areas,” said Casimiro.
He stressed that “Farmers are aware of the effects of climate change, but the cost of preparing for climate change is often beyond their reach. Education levels are also low,” added the farmer.
A strategy that provides some inputs and promotes a culture of rainwater harvesting and more rational use could increase water availability in areas where access to water may be impaired in the not too distant future.
The Cuban government has focused on the local level as one of the fundamental aspects in its development plan until 2030, while viewing food production as a matter of national security.
Since 2017, Law No. 124 on Terrestrial Waters has regulated the integrated, sustainable management of water.
In addition, the country has committed to achieving the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) adopted by the United Nations in 2015, the sixth of which provide for access to clean water and sanitation for the entire population by 2030.
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