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Question for Allen about water

 
Brent Rogers
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How are you able to supply adequate water for so much livestock in such brittle areas? I have heard of lot of ideas in this space, such as: water catchment from solid surfaces, portable troughs on trailers, exclusion access to ponds. Are you using any of these? What is your water secret? Thank you.
 
Allan Savory
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No secret unfortunately and we often struggle with this in early stages till effectiveness of available rainfall can be realistically increased. We have over the years in many countries used all manner of solutions to watering greatly increased numbers of livestock reasonably quickly. Things like carting water (expensive so avoided where possible), piping water from several weak points to one point, of course using some form of large holding reservoir - mostly made with the eggshell concrete structure permaculture people are aware of. We have taken one of these as high as 3 meters with good result although all our staff stood by waiting for it to burst on first filling! We have had people in Mexico successfully use harvesting off large stony hills with small directing walls to one point and collecting in a large retaining reservoir where possible with all operating on gravity flow. We have used large area harvesting flood water (Paraguay) into a hollow with a windmill to pump the water into a large holding reservoir (almost a cup and saucer). We have pumped from sand in rivers. All manner of ideas we can come up with and keep coming up with as more people try to solve such problems.
Where we have found no solution for the early stages we can usually at least get people planning livestock grazing properly over the humid growing season using scattered surface water while it lasts to begin reversing the land (and water) degradation. In Africa we have had great problems with theft of solar panels and people not maintaining diesel engines where we need solar or diesel to pump from boreholes and where the wind is not reliable enough when needed. There we are right now attempting something we think might work but is very difficult - using animal power to pump from boreholes. The Egyptians used and still use animal power to pump from the Nile but that is lifting the water only a small height. We are attempting to lift several tons of water 100 meters as our target each day. We now know why no one tried this - it is damn difficult. We do have a prototype pump now almost working and are making further adjustments before field testing on a borehole using 4 oxen to pump. We are using the generator of a wind power outfit as used in generating electricity from wind in the US and then a submersible pump, only oxen and not wind turn it. If it works we will let people know. Right now we know cost of R& D has been very high and so unless it works really well it will be a white elephant.

Re my point about early stages till we can improve water cycle and thus borehole reliance and stream flow duration we are seeing encouraging results at our Africa Centre Dimbangombe ranch where we are pushing the most advanced work using herding and integrating wildlife with the livestock management herd. We have closed down two artificial water holes we used to have to maintain for the wildlife as no longer needed. River flow has improved dramatically over last four years of average seasons. This year is a great learning year as we have had a very poor rain season with the river drier than we have seen for about 15 years and we will see how we come through till December - I am not too worried but will be there toward the end of the long dry to gain maximum learning as I am always learning. Also a lot will depend on the numbers of elephants visiting to water on us with such a dry year - can be 600 or more a day which really soaks up some water. All this that we learn is always made available to others. What we have experienced in this dry year is that we still made the rainfall so much more effective that we have grown more grass, forbs, shrubs etc than we ever did in the past in the best of years and are having to double up on the herd just to try to keep pace with production. So all in all really a balancing act using increased animals to increase water and deal with the time delay - all new ground. So not much of an answer for you as we are all learning how to deal with this problem.
 
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