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Sustainable Water management – Agriculture in Africa

Sustainable Water management – Agriculture in Africa

Water shortage threatens drinking water supply and food production in tropical and subtropical Africa. This article describes three solutions, developed by Dutch social entrepreneurs, to combat lack of water. A few features these methods for water management have in common are:

  • Simple yet ingenious design.
  • Making use of natural principles, therefore naturally safe for the environment.
  • Proven concepts with sustainable results in practice.
  • Acknowledged and awarded by various authorities.
  • Boosting employment and sustainable development of the local community.

1) Water Pyramid – Martijn Nitzsche

The water pyramid (or waterpyramid) basically consists of a large, pyramid shaped balloon with slight overpressure inside. The water pyramid is made of transparant material which lets sunlight energy through.
The water pyramid collects pure water in two ways:

Sea water is pumped into the pyramid. Clean water is obtained by the principle of evaporation followed by condensation against the inside wall of the water pyramid. This desalinated water is then collected in a storage tank.

The outside surface of the large pyramid is used to collect water from rainfall. This water is also collected, and stored in another tank.

A water pyramid with a diameter of 15 meter produces around 1000 liters of water every day on the inside of the pyramid. The production of water on the outside highly depends on local rainfall characteristics, but on average is about 600 m3 a year in Africa. Both water types are of drinking water quality.

Ambitions are to use the water pyramid to initiate local enterprises. For instance watershops, funded by microcredit. The water pyramid has already successfully been introduced in practice and boosts the local community and trade.

The water pyramid technology was developed by engineer Martijn Nitzsche and is brought to the market by his company Aqua Aero Water Systems since 2002.

Watch another video about the water pyramid in action in Africa.

2) WaterBoxx – Pieter Hoff

The waterboxx is a kind of a plastic bucket with a planting hole for a tree in the middle. The design of the lid causes water to condense during the night and drains the water in the bucket reservoir. Also occasional rainwater is collected by the lid and stored in the bucket. A peace of rope slowly releases the water from the bucket to the root system of the tree.

Ambitions are to use the water boxx to turn deserts into green oasis. In theory the waterboxx has the potential to solve the problem of CO2 emission.

The waterboxx was developed by Pieter Hoff. Distribution of the product is taken care of by Aqua Pro.

A tiny version of the giant water pyramid is the German Water Cone, (watch video) producing about 6 glasses of drinking water per day.

3) Contour Trenching – Peter Westerveld

Contour trenching is a technique to dig long grooves in the desert that capture water during heavy rainfall. These trenches have to functions:
* Trenches counteract soil erosion by horizontal waterflows over land. Hence fertile soil is preserved.
* Trenches promote the formation of an underground water supply, because water in the trenches has time to infiltrate the soil. This water supply stimulates the growth and development of new vegetation.
The trenches can be just one to over three feet deep and has potential for agriculture. Contour trenching is effective in regions with annual rainfall of less than 100 mm.

Ambitions are to use contour trenching to combat desert formation and even to regreen existing deserts.

The contour trenching technique was invented by Peter Westerveld. The contour trenching method is promoted by non-profit organization Naga Foundation.

Video about contour trenching in practice in Africa.
Video about contour trenching on a large scale in Israel and Australia.


5 thoughts on “Sustainable Water management – Agriculture in Africa

  1. Thank you for the presentations. Low tech without chemicals and using the power of sunlight makes more sense for arid regions. There are also a buoyant solar or wave powered desalination design, and a land based Fresnel Lens version. Please email for details.

    1. Dear Rosemary Jones,

      I would be interested in info about desalination design.
      If available please send info.

      Note: In Dutch horticulture a technique named “reversed osmosis” is used to desalinate water. This technique could even be used to desalinate sea water, even on an industrial scale. However, it’s very expensive, requires a lot of energy, and know-how to operate.

      Best regards,

  2. Plz send me the details of aforementioned articles at mail id

    1. Please email for details about low tech solar desalination and boiling mechanism.

  3. Good day Ed. Thank you for sharing these concepts and practices. I am not a horticulturalist but I am interested in urban food production, food security and ground reclamation. I am a water professional practicing in India and southern Africa. From my perspective these ideas offer a lot of promise.

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