By investing in restoring soils, using cover crops, and other practices, we can capture and store billions of gallons of water, increasing farm productivity and reducing farmers’ vulnerability to drought.
A few years ago, I asked a farmer in the “dry corridor” of eastern El Salvador what he would do to improve water management if he were the donor funding our project.
He pointed up at the hills and said, “During the wet season, there are torrents of rain that come down this mountain. The vast majority of it just runs off the land to the streams and rivers. Then two months later, all us farmers complain about drought. So, what I would do is to find a way to capture all this water we lose in the wet season, so we can use it in the dry season”.
Simple and brilliant, this is the logic behind building dams and drilling wells. But there are limits with these common engineering solutions: they are expensive and they don’t work everywhere. Besides cost barriers, topography and geology often make it impossible or unfeasible to capture water in dams or pump it from aquifers.
But there is a more subtle and elegant way for farmers to capture and store excess water to improve plant production.