Dead level contours and infiltration pits for risk mitigation in smallholder cropping systems of southern Zimbabwe uri icon

abstract

  • The persistent droughts, dry spells, and chronic food insecurity in semi-arid areas necessitate the introduction of more robust rainwater harvesting and soil water management technologies. The study reported here was conducted to assess the influence of dead level contours and infiltration pits on in-field soil water dynamics over two growing seasons. A transect consisting of six access tubes, spaced at 5 m interval, was established across each dead level contour with or without an infiltration pit before the onset of the rains. Two access tubes were installed upslope of the contour while four tubes were installed on the downslope side. Dead level contours with infiltration pits captured more rainwater than dead level contours only resulting in more lateral soil water movement. Significant lateral soil water movement was detected at 3 m downslope following rainfall events of 60?70 mm/day. The 0.2?0.6 m soil layer benefited more from the lateral soil water movement at all the farms. Our results suggest that dead level contours have to be constructed at 3?8 m spacing for crops to benefit from the captured rainwater. It is probably worth exploring strip cropping of food and fodder crops on the downslope of the dead level contours and infiltration pits using the current design of these between-field structures. With the advent of in situ rainwater harvesting techniques included in some conservation agriculture practices it will benefit smallholder cropping systems in semi-arid areas if these between-field structures are promoted concurrently with other sustainable land management systems such as conservation agriculture

publication date

  • 2012
  • 2012