Seedlings

By Mekdelawit Deribe and Sukru Esin
July 2020

In the last 30 years a quiet but far-reaching revolution in our diets has occurred. Globally we eat more vegetables and fruit. Consumption has increased globally although not uniformly and sufficiently.  This is a positive trend as WHO attributes 3-5 million deaths a year to diseases related to inadequate fruits and vegetable consumption. The observed trend, apart from the considerable effect on health and nutrition, has also created a high value sector in the hands of small producers, especially near main urban markets.

Increased demand for vegetables and fruits has resulted in increase in demand of seedlings. Soil conditions are not always optimal for seed sowing and hence seed loss is a common problem. In addition, due to heavy rains, insects and cold weather not all seeds can germinate equally. This is a challenge for a homogenous plant growth. The use of seedlings can alleviate all these issues and also create market opportunity for small holder seedling farmers.

Starting seeds indoors gives crops more time to mature within the growing season. This is critical especially in cooler climate or when working with slow growing plants. Using seedlings results in best results in places where temperature fluctuates quickly. With seedling production, farmer will also use less seeds. Farmer can grow more than one crop in a year with seedlings. Seedlings can also solve damage of seeds by rain, insects and cold weather and ensure homogenous growth, contributing to increased yield.

Both farmers buying and selling seedlings benefit from the use of seedlings. It’s not always possible for the farmers to have empty space for seedling growth. Especially farmers who have large scale lands and intensive cultivation, do not have enough space to grow seedlings. Therefore, buying seedlings is a good alternative for them, opening market for small holder farmers who can cultivate and sell their seedlings. Seedling farmer can also increase their profit by using recycled seed.

There is a great opportunity for the seedling market, especially in peri urban areas near main urban market places. However, there are also risks involved. Harvesting of seeds needs to start earlier than seed sowing. This requires knowledge of area specific planting calendars for different crops. Growing seedlings also take time. For at least 4 weeks farmers have to take care of the infant plants. This period can be up to 8 weeks. In addition, the seedling market is not yet established in many developing regions. However, low cost, small scale seedling schemes such as low and high tunnel greenhouses and production units can create jobs, increase yields and enhance economic benefits of farmer all around.

                                                                                            

A Vermiculture Movement in Turkey

By Sukru Esin and Frank van Steenbergen
May 27, 2020

Vermiculture – the use of worms to transform waste – is a powerful way of producing fertilizer in a decentralized manner. Kitchen waste, cow dung, eggshells, coffee grounds, leaves, grass clippings, waste grains, paper, sludge – and then the magic of worms turning trash into treasure.

The worms eat almost everything – barring plastic or toxic waste. They then digest it into a high quality agricultural nutrient: vermicompost. The worms are put together with the material in aerated containers or trays. A drain may be provided to collect the liquid from the composting process. The containers should be placed in a sheltered, shaded place. The worms most commonly used are Eisenia foetida (red wrigglers), Eisenia andrei, and Lumbricus rubellus. They thrive and feed most rapidly at temperatures of 15–25 °C. Temperatures below 10 °C and above 30 °C may harm them. There are other worm species that are suitable for warmer climates.

Using worms to process waste accelerates the composting process and create a higher quality product than normal compost. Not only does vermicompost add nutrients to the soil, but it also improves soil structure and the ability of soils to retain water. Where water is scarce, less water will have to be applied when vermicompost is added to the soil.

The beauty of vermiculture is that it can be applied at any scale. In Turkey, for instance, vermiculture has become a widespread decentralized business, with numerous small producers earning a living from it.

The agriculture sector in Turkey is very dynamic and open to new approaches. The first vermicompost (solid and liquid fertilizer) production facility started in 2005. After this factory, many people started-up their own vermicompost producing facility. These were often small production lines in basements, backyards, barns, and terraces.

It is not difficult to get started in vermiculture. There is no minimum scale, and finding the source material/ waste is usually not difficult. No sophisticated equipment is needed in the beginning and there is much information on the internet. Besides, vermicompost is easy to sell. Apart from the compost one can also sell the worms to other people or alternatively expand one’s ownproduction facility.

All this has helped to spread the vermicompost business in Turkey in a very short period of time. In fact, growth is almost inherent to vermiculture. regions. For instance, one entrepreneur bought 10,000 worms and started feeding them waste. After three months the population became 20,000. In fact, the worm population will double every 3 months. At the end of year the entrepreneur will have 160,000 worms and population will keep growing every single day. Thanks to the internet and social media, young people can easily sell the worms and fertilizers.

Approximately 4000 amateur and professional people are in this sector in Turkey, working with around 150 million worms currently. Last year they produced around 30,000 tonnes of fertilizer.

What is remarkable is  the openness and enthusiasm in the vermicompost business in Turkey. Whereas in many agricultural industries there is culture of secretiveness, vermi-compost facility owners of any scale are willing to show their production line to other people. They are organizing free tours and give free trainings to other people who are interested to get into the business. They share their experiences and knowledge online and answer questions by those who want to start up this business and are new in this sector, and need  help. The vermicompost movement is helped by Facebook groups, YouTube channels, blogs, Instagram and Twitter. A culture of sharing prevails. All seem to realize that there is still so much to do and being one another’s competitor rather than compatriot in large vermicompost network would be the least sensible thing to do.

 

Stolen Harvest

 

The Harran plain lies in the cradle of one of the world’s oldest civilizations that flourished between the rivers Euphrates and Tigris.

In 1996, planned irrigation came to Harran Plain in southeast Turkey. It was expected to bring a lot of benefits to agriculture in the region. Between then and 2012, the area under irrigation has increased from 35,000 to 150,000. However, the irrigation has been excessive and more than 10% of that land has been lost to salinization already. A much greater area is under threat of following suit.

Experts point out that the irrigation systems introduced in the region comprise mostly of open channels, and are therefore bound to fail given the topography and the climate. Annual evaporation losses in Harran are five times the annual rainfall. Under such conditions, open irrigation systems are bound to lead to soil salinization. Closed systems such as pipelines and drip irrigation systems are much more suitable, and much necessary in order to prevent degradation of land and hardship to farmers.

More info: http://goo.gl/5jB3iE
Produced by: Sukru Esin
Year: 2013
Language: Turkish with English subtitles
Region: Turkey

 

Vermiculture: Turkey’s new booming agro-business

Posted by Sukru Esin

April 16, 2019

 

 

A culture of dynamism and a entrepreneurship is enabling a variety of initiatives in Turkey. The agriculture sector in particular is very dynamic and open to new approaches. Vermicompost is a good example, that could be focused on more and replicated in different regions.

In Turkey, the first vermicompost(solid and liquid fertilizer) factory started in 2005. After this factory, many people started-up their own vermicompost factories. Most of them started their production line in basements, backyards, barns, terraces, etc. Finding the waste is not difficult, you don’t need high tech tools in the beginning, investment cost is small and enough information is available on the internet. Besides, vermicompost is easy to sell. You either you have to sell worms to other people or expand your production facility. This is actually one of the greatest benefits, which has helped spread this business nationwide over a very short period of time.

Often, the big challenge to development agencies, ngos and researchers is disseminating and upscaling good practices. Normally when international development experts are conducting a project in specific area, they focus one region and try to bring benefits or overcome the challenges there. But with vermicompost production, growth is happening automatically, across regions. For instance, one entrepreneur bought 10,000 worms and started feeding them waste. After 3 months population became 20,000. Every 3 months, the population will double. At the end of year the entrepreneur will have 160,000 worms and population will keep growing every single day.

Thanks to the internet and social media, young people can easily sell the worms and fertilizers.

There is already enough researches on benefits of using vermicompost on different crops and enhancing soil health. So, the book is closed on whether its good for soil or not.

Approximately 4000 amateur and professional people are in this sector in Turkey, working with around 150 million worms currently. Last year they produced around 30,000 tonnes of fertilizer.

In Africa, fertilizer usage is very low and quite expensive. Fertilizer is often not easy to find, and even though African leaders have made many promises to boost the agriculture sector—especially the fertilizer sector—they are still very far from their goal.

I believe that young people can change the game with vermiculture. You only need knowledge, agriculture waste (especially cow dung), space for worms, water…. and passion.

Let’s change the game together!

 

How can we save the seeds?

By Sukru Esin , November 2018

In horticulture sector, seed is one of the most expensive inputs and not always easy to find in developing countries. The risk of germination failure rate is high when farmer directly sow the seed to the field. Failure percentage is depending on seed and special conditions but in average 30-50 % of seed cannot germinate. But seedling growing is better option for farmers. Germination rate is 80-95% in greenhouse. Also have a bigger root development, this makes the plant stronger and lower their chance of dying.

In Ethiopia, seedling production is quite limited. The economy of the country predominantly depends on agriculture, which contributes about 50% to the total GDP and 90% of export items of which horticultural crops are the leading component. In 2013 for example, Ethiopia exported 220,213 tons of vegetables and generated USD 438 million. Commercial horticultural crop production is carried out mainly in the central rift valley and eastern part of the country. Most of the vegetables and fruit produced in the eastern region are exported to Djibouti and small amounts of fruit and vegetables are also exported to Europe, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Yemen.

Small-scale producers involved in horticulture are estimated at 5.7 million farmers and vegetable seedling sector is not developed yet. Thanks to the ENTAG program(entag.org) MetaMeta has been promoting vegetable cultivation under tunnel greenhouse in Ethiopia and training local people on how to grow vegetable seedlings. If we can replicate this implementation in different part of the country and in different part of continent then definitely African farmers will save seeds (money) tremendously and with seedlings production will increase in Africa.

Species

Seed quantity in 1 gr

For 1 decare of land (1000 sqm)

 

Direct seed sowing (gr)

Seedling transplantation (gr)

Seed saving

Green pea

8

10000

8000

2000

Spinach

100

1200

700

500

Green beans

4

8000

6000

2000

Broad bean

1

3000

2000

1000

Parsley

700

10000

 

Radish

120

500

300

200

Celery root

1800

150

 

Red beet

50

1200

800

400

Tomato

300

80

8

72

Pepper

150

150

30

120

Eggplant

250

150

15

135

Melon

35

200

50

150

Water melon

15

200

60

140

Cucumber

35

200

50

150

Carrot

1000

400

 

Cabbage

300

60

30

30

Cauliflower

350

60

25

35

Lettuce

900

60

40

20

Leek

350

1000

500

500

Onion

275

700

 

Zucchini

14

800

150

650

      

 

Ropes and hopes

Posted by Sukru Esin (MetaMeta Anatolia) and Simon Chevalking (MetaMeta Research)
July 20, 2016

Ever since the beginning of the conflict in Syria in June 2011, large numbers of people have been leaving the country and seeking refuge from conflict, violence and war. Very much an imperative rather than a desire, Syrians leave their homeland, their comfort and livelihoods. But they also bring with them wherever they are received a wealth of knowledge, experience and expertise which is far too often left unrecognized and unutilized. According to AFAD (The Disaster and Emergency Management Authority) almost 3 million Syrian refugees are living in Turkey in either in camps or in cities. Many who have found refuge in cities have been able to put their past occupations – such as construction, interpretation and IT – into practice.

Recently, several Syrian people have been able to find work in the agricultural sector, particularly in horticulture greenhouses in and around the city of Urfa. Their work is not limited to picking tomatoes or peppers. In the GAP (Southeastern Anatolia Project) region of Turkey, it has extended to developing and improving greenhouses and cropping practices. 

How?

In Urfa, greenhouse farming is an attractive new business for emerging farmers. They can cultivate chili pepper and cucumbers from early spring till late November with plants growing much bigger and attaining significantly higher yields compared to cultivation in open fields.

However, farmers’ experience is still limited and proper expertise is rare. A particularly common problem they used to face was weak branches getting too heavy with fruits and breaking off from the bush. Not only did this reduce yield, but also made it difficult to maintain paths between the rows of plants.

Syrian refugees working for greenhouse farmers observed this problem and tackled it with an innovative solution.  Using steel rods at the head end of the rows and overhead laterals, they tied ropes skilfully in a web-like pattern along the sides of the pepper plants. This low-cost technique allowed the plants to branch properly and find the support they needed to bear the valuable crop until harvest.

Farmers have benefited from the expertise of Syrian refugees also in other sectors, such as arboriculture (cultivation of trees and shrubs). Pomegranate farmers have reported how intercropping with nitrogen-fixing beans, as suggested by Syrian workers, has helped increase soil fertility substantially.

Farmers value and appreciate these skills and expertise whereas, At the same time, Syrian refugees have found a means to earn money and capitalise on their knowledge, experience and expertise. With ropes they put to use in greenhouses, they are also weaving their hopes… of finding a place for themselves in their adopted home.

 

MetaMeta Anatolia is working with greenhouse farmers in and around Urfa, trialling and implementing water-saving solutions such as ‘Waterpads,’ with siupport from the Securing Water For Food programme. www.securingwaterforfood.org

 

Paradise Lost Somewhere in Anatolia

Posted by Frank van Steenbergen and Sukru Esin
November 02, 2015

It is an amazing place with a history of civilization of 12000 years. This is where grains were first domesticated and agriculture was invented: the historical area around Harran and Urfa in Eastern Anatolia (Turkey).  

This is also close to where the Garden of Eden was said to be situated. Harran is mentioned in the Bible and in the Quran as the city were Abraham (Ibrahim) and Job (Ayub) spent some of their formative years. Legend has it that there was a time when one could walk from Aleppo to Harran (~200 km) entirely under fruit trees. On the way, one could hardly see the sky, so dense was the canopy. Harran city was served by springs fed by underground rivers. It was at the crossroads of international trade and cultures. Its history remained unbroken for a long time. In the early days of Christianity it housed one of the first universities, famous for its heretic teaching.  What is left of it is the erect astrological tower (some say the tarot card is modelled on it) built from ostrich egg shells and rosewater – still giving a sweet fragrance after it rains. A few centuries later one of the first mosques in what is now Turkey was built here. 

But then things fell apart and buildings turned into ruins. If one takes a look at Harran now, one sees a half-abandoned village like many others, but perched on top of four thousands years of history and hidden behind an ancient city wall. Around Harran the landscape is dull and dreary – endless fields of cotton and maize with not even a tree to break the monotony. This is literally paradise lost.  So much could be done – more diversified crops, higher-value products, more life, but is just cotton fields and maize. 

There is ample water here, but it seems to suffocate rather than nourish. Nowadays the area is all irrigated from the GAP (Greater Anatolia Project). It was in fact the first area commissioned in 1995 under this mega-project.  Unfortunately, a harmful cropping pattern was set and rampant over-irrigation started to be followed.  The excess application of water is creating an out-of-balance system. Most striking are the drains that are running like small rivers – removing the water that is excessively applied upstream.  It would make much more sense to go for finely-balanced water allocation where the use of groundwater and surface water are synchronized; rather than diverting supplies to the area excessively. 

On top of this the two crops that are being grown – maize and cotton – do not necessarily yield much direct returns to farmers but are made attractive only on the strength of substantial government subsidies. 

The ‘why’ of it all is enigmatic. The area should have the harbinger of agriculture but it is not.  What happens these days at the Harran plains is the typical problem of managing a mega-irrigation system: unbalanced water allocation, leaky infrastructure and no clear systems. With all this attention to the ‘water crisis,’ the management of mega-irrigation systems is being forgotten. Mega-irrigation systems consume vast quantities of water but waste a lot of it.  Waterlogging and salinity are major ailments – symptoms of wastage but also creating unhealthy living conditions. Yet there are very few people or educational institutes in the world that know how to manage an irrigation system of say  more than 100,000 hectares. There is often too much attention paid to the small things but bigger issues are ignored. This is a call to get serious with the larger systems and introduce balanced irrigation water management in educational curricula, in high-profile water weeks and symposia, and mainly of course in the systems on the ground.

For migrants, is water life or grave?

posted by Sukru Esin

June 02, 2015

Fethiye is one of the most well known tourist spots in Turkey, as popular among the Turkish as Europeans. Thousands travel every year to its sun-kissed beaches to party or to just enjoy nature. In Turkish, we call the Mediterranean waters around Fethiye “Ölü Deniz” or ‘Dead Sea,’ as they are always very calm, even during storms. 

There are two main scenarios in Fethiye. The first one is, you wear your swimsuit and get into the calm waters to enjoy with your family or friends. This is one of the best diving spots in Turkey. Besides, there are numerous clubs, bar and restaurants that stay open all night and till early morning. All in all, a great holiday destination. So you see a large number of foreigners enjoying as tourists. 

The other scenario involves immigrants, many of whom don’t even know how to swim. The immigrants are mostly from among the more than 2 million Syrian refugees who have fled to Turkey and have been trying to survive here since 2011. All they have is a compass in their hands, and the aim to go “west” and nowhere else! 

Even as the world’s gaze hovers on immigrants trying and dying around the Italian coast, nobody knows how many people have drowned in the Aegean Sea of late (and along the Turkish west coast in general). A grave reminder is the dead bodies and clothes that wash up on the shores every now and then.   On May 18 this year (2015), local people found a number of clothes on the shoreline at Karakum (Blacksand Beach). These were not clothes left on the beach by those who had gone into the sea for a jolly swim. These were shoes and clothes of those who tried to take on the sea in sheer desperation, who tried to make it to Greek islands in rickety  overpriced boats sold by unscrupulous fishermen. Many of them were children’s clothes; it looked as if entire families had gone into deep waters together. It is heartbreaking to see this and remember how our Mums and Dads spare no effort to keep us away from any trouble.        

For many of us, water represents life, fertility, transparency, purity…. but for thousands fleeing their own homes in Syria and other conflict-torn nations, the Aegean Sea has been a watery grave. It is not clear when this will come to an end, but it is clear that increasing off-shore patrols does not deter people from risking their lives and perishing in the process.

 

The Big Hole in the Middle East

by Sukru Esin and Frank van Steenbergen

August 12, 2014 

 

 Whilst the attention in Middle East water conflicts has been on water from rivers, we may have lost the water ‘beneath our feet’ and with it the strong basis for future well-being and security in this region.

According to California University Hydrological Modeling Department, the Euphrates and Tigris river basins have been losing huge quantities of ground water reserve – with the maximum anomaly right at the border point between Syria, Turkey and Iraq. The video above shows the groundwater depletion in Middle East via GRACE (Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment) model, which uses deviation in the gravity rotations to assess the weightage lost because of groundwater extraction. The impact of uncontrolled groundwater extraction, poor irrigation methods and a lack of water management in the area and the uncontrolled use of groundwater has left a huge ‘hole’ in the groundwater reserves in Turkey, Iraq and Syria.

The Euphrates and Tigris originate in the Eastern part of Turkey and famously flow to Iraq and Syria. There have been long standing problems between the Turkish, Iraqi and Syrian governments on the water releases from these two vital rivers. Since the building of Keban dam (1965-1973) by Turkey water conflicts emerged between the three countries that once formed ‘the cradle of civilization.’ To secure its own resources the Syrian government responded by building the Tabqa dam between 1968-1973, but that dam created conflict between Iraq and Syria. At the time the Saudi government prevented potential war between these countries.

The first trilateral talks started with Joint Technical Committee meetings in 1983, yet despite protests by neighboring countries the Turkish government constructed the Ataturk Dam (1983-1992), which is the biggest dam in Turkey.  Iraq and Syria have consistently insisted that the water releases downstream from the Ataturk Dam should be agreed upon and settled but nothing has happened. The Iraqi government even threatened the Turkish government that if less than 700 cu m/s were released to Syria, it would not renew the 1984 Security Protocol. Water conflict is the order of the day: manifesting as claims for more and transparent water releases, refusal to take part in meetings, and complaints to Arab League and western countries. With observations from GRACE satellite, it is clear that the situation is even much more precarious. With the depleting groundwater resources, the heavily disturbed region is staring down into a precipice and a future with vanished groundwater and choked surface water supplies.

Nevertheless, Turkish authorities continue to single-handedly pursue the building of dams along the two rivers. Obviously Turkey, Iraq and Syria urgently need to organize an action plan in order to manage water from the Tigris and Euphrates catchments and in general make huge progress in more efficient water use and conjunctive water resource management. Between the three countries there are several agreements but none of these seem valid or effective. This holds the future of Iraq and Syria in suspension.  That’s why developing hydropower in the Middle East can be dangerous. Instead of constructing new dams in Anatolia, Turkish government should assist neighbor countries to manage the Euphrates and Tigris river basins together and share equally, otherwise there might be trouble in the neighborhood.

Currently Syria and Iraq are in severe turmoil and nobody knows when and how this will end. Sectarian conflict, corrupt politicians, lack of transparency in governance, lack of education, poverty, tribal lifestyle and sometimes naïve competition to bring  “Democracy” to the region has created the worst possible logjam.

The deep crisis in Syria and in Iraq definitely will affect Turkey, currently the single stable factor in the region – if not in short term then definitely in the medium term. Neither U.S drones nor any other useless sophisticated weapons will solve the current turmoil. They may, in fact, make things worse. Therefore Turkey should help various parties in the neighboring countries to achieve ceasefires and solve problems at the table. There is a strong case to add water management to the discussion: the Middle East is drying up rapidly and its future prosperity stands on increasingly thin ground.

 

Prime time farming in Turkey

Posted by Sukru Esin
March 04, 2014

 

Turkish soaps are extremely popular from Morocco to Pakistan. Broadcast of a new episode often means that shops are shut down and streets are empty.
There is, however, more to the Turkish mediascape: agricultural television, for example.

A slew of projects had been launched across the country to manage poor agricultural management and outdated traditional practices, but with limited effect. In 2010, the  Turkish Ministry of Food , Agriculture and Livestock Launched Tarim TV. Since then, ‘success has bred success.’ There are now 4 television stations in Turkey (1 government-owned, 3 private) offering dedicated 24×7 programming on agriculture. They broadcast talk shows  and documentaries round the clock on a variety of topics such as livestock, horticulture, staple crops, beekeeping… just to name a few. They provide information to farmers about government schemes, subsidies, weather forecasts et cetera. Most content can also be accessed online where it is archived for later viewing. This makes for a huge, growing repository- one can find almost all there is to know.  

Private TV channels also offer ad space. Private companies also help produce field demonstration films and documentaries. This way, an active agri-service sector is able to reach out to farmers all over Turkey.

The Turkish economy is growing rapidly, matched only by that of China. Its agricultural sector is currently ranked eighth in the world. Thanks to growing private and public investment, the agricultural GDP grew from USD 24 billion to USD 63 billion over the decade 2002-2012.

One can see agricultural TV shows playing being watched at tea houses and homes in farming areas. They have also broken through barriers and reached the marginalized, such as farmers in remote areas. This is not to say that just reach translates automatically into influence. There are plenty of farmers who watch these television shows but continue to stick to bad practices and outdated views. Nevertheless, with old ‘training and visit’ mode of agricultural extension long gone, agricultural television in Turkey has been able to bridge many knowledge gaps in Turkey.  

Websites of some prominent agricultural television networks Turkey:

http://www.bereket.tv/
http://www.tarimturk.com/
http://www.tarimtv.gov.tr/index.php (government-owned)
http://koytv.tv/

 

The Big Clean Up

Posted by Frank van Steenbergen, Bakshlal Lashari and Sukru Esin

January 15, 2013

It may be one of the word’s largest clean ups – the annual ‘canal closure’ in the mega irrigation systems in Sindh, Pakistan. Every year for two weeks in January the large irrigation canals are closed. No water is allowed to flow in them during that period. Instead, manual labour and excavators move in to remove the silt that has built up over the course of the year.

An impressive routine has developed: All the labour engaged in the irrigation canals are mobilized at once when the intake gates are shut down. The gates are further reinforced with jute bags and earthen dikes in front of them so that no water flows into these mighty canals. Some of Sindh’s canal are the largest in the world: the single Rohri Canal for instance irrigates 1.3 Million hectares and the Nara Canal 1 Million hectares. They are wider and longer than, for instance, the Suez canal.

Not all canals section are cleaned – this would simply be too much work especially given the resources that are available. The maintenance of the canal systems is chronically underfunded. Farmers are supposed to pay a rather complex irrigation tax in Sindh, based on an assessment of the crop grown in the previous season. This assessment is laborious and the outcomes are usually either disputed or ‘negotiated’. Moreover, the amounts charged per unit land (USD 5-10 per hectare) are too low – so there is no great willingness to collect the meagre sums.  Hence the focus is on the ‘hard water canals’: canals that choke rapidly because they are curvy and very flat. And canals that are made ‘in fill’, i.e. constructed on top of the land. If not maintained well, such high canals get breached and flood the land.

Interesting rituals have come into existence. When the sill at the top section of the canal is cleaned of silt, the year is painted on the concrete blocks at the bottom of the canal. This is then covered under water until next year’s cleaning operations.  (See picture above).

The mega canals have transformed Sindh Province like no other force. What until 1930 was desert country dependent on annual floods has been a well laid out, perennially irrigated land for decades. However, productivity of this land is lower than all other areas. In many areas, close 65% of the water is just lost to evaporation. The big challenge is water logging.  Due to irrigation,  groundwater levels have come very close to the surface, saturating the soil so that most crops cannot grow any longer. Besides,  the constant evaporation of water transports the salts in it to the surface, creating plots of land with white crusts of salt on the surface that are no longer useable. The soggy and saline land not only loses its productivity but also causes a number of diseases: malaria, kidney problems and liver fluke (for livestock).

This waterlogging is not inevitable. Simply too much water is allowed into these flat areas which simply cannot go away; a situation that naturally turns into massive waterlogging. The telling story in this regard is of the 1998-2002 drought when water supplies were reduced by 20% but crop production went up, not down. The reason is that the waterlogging disappeared over large parts of the Sindh Province. Whereas in ‘normal’ years it extends to 40% of the irrigated land (say 2 Million hectares), in the dry years the water logging dropped to less than 5% of the land: an enormous difference.  In other words, the drought was a blessing.

There is so much scope to make better use of the gift of water in Sindh: rationalizing how much water is led into the area is Priority Number One.  Large parts of the irrigation area simply receive too much water, and get choked and waterlogged in it. Then there is also a need to improve drainage and at least start unblocking the natural drains that have been disturbed by the building of roads and other infrastructure. 

Also, farming can improve. Travelling in Sindh, one spots small islands of hope where farmers are using wise water management techniques– such as mulching, ridges and green houses– and achieving high productivity, whereas their neighbours continue to over-irrigate and face waterlogging and salinity. Some farmers have also taken drainage into their own hands: excavating their own drains and sometimes taking over drainage pumping stations that the government owned but was unable to take care of. 

The final solution is to live better with the salt. A large part of Sindh Province has saline groundwater. Though difficult, there are options to use saline water productively: growing special crop varieties, using natural salt-tolerant plants, making fishponds, use soil remediants or adding more manure to the land.

Even though Sindh is now low on agricultural yields, it is a land of large promise.  With better water management and more innovative farming, Sindh could become an agricultural power house for the food hungry Middle East. The region could also do better in feeding its own population, and that of neighboring countries.

 

Soil Salinity in Harran Plain, Turkey

byŞükrü Esin

Soil salinity is a serious environmental problem affecting 20% of total irrigated land across the globe.

Harran Plain has the biggest groundwater reserve in the Middle-East and the largest irrigation field in the Southeastern Anatolia Project region which is 3700 square km  drainage area, 1500 square km plain area and 476000 hectares of irrigation area. Crop pattern is very poor: about 70% is just cotton planting. There is a big problem with the salinization in this area since the Turkish State Hydraulic Works Directorate (DSI) irrigation project started.

Climate

The main average temperature is 18.88oC and the annual rainfall is about 300 mm, with evaporation reaching as high as 2023 mm. The highest evaporation occurs generally in July and the lowest in February. Rain is irregular and mostly falls in winter. But the area receives almost no rainfall between June and September. 

         Graph: Local Growing Seasons (Resource: New LocClim)

Harran plain is arid area and cotton the main crop. This graph shows the six months of dry period, nearly one month of moist and four months of humidity. What it basically means long dry summer with very low precipitation in the plain.

The water budget for the Harran Plain, as reported by the Turkish State of Water Works for the year 2000, reveals that water entering the plain for irrigation is about 1208 million cubic meters and precipitation contributes about 104 million cubic meters.

The losses of water from the plain occur in two ways: (1) evapotranspiration accounting for about 996 million cubic meters, (2) discharge as runoff and drainage resulting in 193 million cubic meters.

The annual rate of water storage in the plain is about 121 million cubic meters. The stored water stays in the system and increases in groundwater level, especially from the south to the middle north of the plain (Özgür et al., 2001). Currently, about 15% of the plain is salt-affected and 30% of it has a shallow water table able to develop salinity-related problems (Cullu et al., 2002).

The Effect of Climate Change on Harran Plain

Global Clime Change scenarios show that south east Turkey will have less precipitation and the summer will be longer.  The Harran plain in southeastern Turkey then, will have less precipitation and more hot days in the future according to IPCC Global Climate Change prediction report.

Despite of all suggestions, farmers not willing to change irrigation methods as well as government does not want to decrease the funding for cotton plant.s This high income persuades the farmers to plant this crop every year.

According to IPCC Global Climate Change reports, that people are using water (almost 65%) for irrigation around the world. In Turkey that percentage is higher than the average. It is about 72% for agricultural irrigation. That´s why the State Hydraulic Works Directorate needs to change irrigation policy regarding this report. Also DSI should help farmers to develop modern irrigation methods and prepare themselves for 2100 scenarios action plan. 

Stolen Harvest

The Harran plain lies in the cradle of one of the world’s oldest civilizations that flourished between the rivers Euphrates and Tigris.

In 1996, planned irrigation came to Harran Plain in southeast Turkey. It was expected to bring a lot of benefits to agriculture in the region. Between then and 2012, the area under irrigation has increased from 35,000 to 150,000. However, the irrigation has been excessive and more than 10% of that land has been lost to salinization already. A much greater area is under threat of following suit. 

Experts point out that the irrigation systems introduced in the region comprise mostly of open channels, and are therefore bound to fail given the topography and the climate. Annual evaporation losses in Harran are five times the annual rainfall. Under such conditions, open irrigation systems are bound to lead to soil salinization. Closed systems such as pipelines and drip irrigation systems are much more suitable, and much necessary in order to prevent degradation of land and hardship to farmers.