Communal management and optimization of mechanized microcatchment water harvesting for combating desertification in the East Mediterranean region

Place: jordan, Asia
Sustainable management of natural resources Sustainable management of natural resources
Total Budget: € 359,14 | Period: From December 2003 To December 2007


Mechanized construction of micro-catchments for water harvesting (WH) was successfully tested in the Badia areas in Syria and Jordan, using the “Vallerani” plow. The plow was able to construct intermittent and continuous contour ridges. A low-cost Contour Laser Guiding (CLG) system, with specifications that suit the contour ridging in undulating topographic conditions of dry rangelands, was chosen, adapted, mounted, and tested, under actual field conditions. The system consisted mainly of a portable laser transmitter and a tractor-mounted receiver, connected to a guidance display panel. The system was field-tested on 95 ha of land where the system capacity was determined under different terrains, slopes (1-8%), and ridge spacings (4-12 m). The easy adaptation and implementation of the CLG to the “Vallerani” unit tripled the system capacity, improved efficiency and precision, and substantially reduced the cost of constructing micro-catchments for WH. 


National Center for Agricultural Research and Extension - Jordan

Lead applicant

It houses most agricultural research, projects and extension activities. It also considered to be the supportive pillar for agricultural sector to achieve sustainability, protect the environment and achieve food security.

The Jordan university of Science and Technology - Jordan

Initiative partner

The University of Jordan - Jordan

Initiative partner

Organizing, supervising, promoting and supporting academic research as the means for vast development and technological advancement. The role that UoJ is playing in augmenting and expanding human knowledge is recognized through persistently seeking ways and new endeavors to encourage, develop, promote and support scientific activities both locally and internationally.

As part of the sustainable management of natural resources, ICARDA team of researchers conducted a research aimed at introducing a mechanized transplanting technique to the water harvesting system to reduce costs and time of establishment of fodder shrubs, thus improving overall system capacity and making large-scale implementation more feasible. The Vallerani machine, an italian-made technology, was selected to cope with water scarcity and land degradation in the Muhareb Watershed in Jordan. This technology considered one of the Italian contribution towards improving livelihoods world-wide through an intervention designed to catch the runoff water and store it for beneficial use by the plants. The use of Mechanized Vallerani system allowed the implementation at large scale. This enabled the growth of fodder shrubs for livestock grazing in areas where rainwater is not enough to support sustainable production.

The identification of contour lines (lines of equal elevation) was necessary to ensure even
distribution of collected water. The application of the mechanized water harvesting system
(Vallerani) was facilitated and improved by adopting a laser-guiding system to facilitate the
implementation following the contour lines. This reduces the cost and time required to identify
contours for the plow to follow, and has tripled the system’s capacity (up to 30 ha per day),
improved efficiency and precision, and substantially reduced the cost of creating microcatchments.
This Italian technique is creating wide areas of water harvesting enabling large- scale planting,
which is substantially improving water productivity, yields and incomes for farmers. Benefited
farmers are enjoying more than double the yield for barley and 1.6 times for rangeland shrubs
compared to those grown without water harvesting.

Trattore immagine raffigurante un trattore

Annual rainfall, less than 200mm, is not enough to support crop production, leaving large areas with poor vegetation cover and high potential for desertification. Although water scarcity and land degradation in the dry areas are major factors of low productivity and income for inhabitants, an appreciable soil and water losses are taking place. Italian-made Mechanized water harvesting system (Vallerani) allows the implementation of soil and water conservation interventions for large areas with reasonable cost. This generates benefits for the inhabitants of these areas as well as for the environment. 

Photo https://www.flickr.com/photos/47730240@N05/14978492410/in/set-72157647269012736/

Developed in Italy in close collaboration with local populations, Vallerani water harvesting machine and the laser-guiding system were introduced and tested few years ago as an option for land and water management in the marginal areas. An initial assessment indicated that the technology was implemented by various research institutes and development programs in different parts of the marginal areas in Jordan. A total of 1867 ha were implemented by research projects, government and development programs. This represents good rate of adoption and anticipate high level of dissemination and uptake by land users in the dry environment. 

../file-system/small/pdf ../file-system/small/pdf Impact of Microcatchment Impact of Microcatchment

The main direct beneficiaries are the herders and inhabitants of the marginal dry areas. The intervention responded to the demand on feed for livestock by improving productivity and reduce water losses using cost-effective system. At the long-term, the indirect benefits for the inhabitants and the environment are many. Among these are the establishment of good vegetation cover and reduction of soil and water losses, leading to reduced levels of land degradation, especially under predictions of reduced rainfall amounts and more frequent extreme events as a result of climate change.  

Photo https://www.flickr.com/photos/47730240@N05/15162164121/in/set-72157647269012736/
../file-system/small/pdf ../file-system/small/pdf Water Benchmarks of CWANA Water Benchmarks of CWANA

This is a result of long-term research and collaboration between ICARDA and national and international partners supported by different donors. ICARDA is leading the research-for-development plan and work closely with national research institutes to implement in the field. The national and international institutes are using the results of this research to adopt the interventions at wider scale.

Photo https://www.flickr.com/photos/47730240@N05/14978573338/in/set-72157647269012736/
Photo https://www.flickr.com/photos/47730240@N05/14978492320/in/set-72157647269012736/

The technical specification were fine-tuned through research to adapt to the biophysical challenges in the dry areas. The main obstacles for wider uptake and adoption were the socio-economic and institutional aspects. Among these are the land tenure system and organizing beneficiaries in groups (NGO) to facilitate implementation.  

Photo https://www.flickr.com/photos/47730240@N05/14978492080/in/set-72157647269012736/

The main impact on the environment is through the saving of fuel by reducing the use of machines to cultivate the crops annually by establishing no tillage water harvesting system. This also encourages the re-establishment of many indigenous species that tend to disappear by continuous cultivation of land since the introduction of tractor in the dry areas.  

Photo https://www.flickr.com/photos/47730240@N05/14978492400/in/set-72157647269012736/
../file-system/small/pdf ../file-system/small/pdf ICARDA Annual Report 2013 ICARDA Annual Report 2013

The intervention is mechanized and therefore the out-scaling for large areas is possible. The maintenance of the system requires the involvement of the land users and therefore might limit the implementation without local contribution. 

../file-system/small/pdf ../file-system/small/pdf ICARDA Annual Report 2013 ICARDA Annual Report 2013

The system is being promoted through collaboration with different development and government programs. Media material was generated to facilitate thisRehabilitation and Integrated Management of Dry Rangelands – Water Benchmarks of CWANA 9



Photo https://www.flickr.com/photos/47730240@N05/15164763122/in/set-72157647269012736/