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posted by Francesco Sambalino
October 15, 2012

The volcanic islands of Azores are incredibly beautiful and unspoilt. People there manage soil and water with a lot of creativity to grow their crops.

Back in time they used coastal "tidal wells," in which the water from tides would mix  with the scarce fresh water available. This enabled conjunctive use of fresh and salty water for domestic uses such as washing and cooking, and in the production of baskets.










Across the islands, cisterns and paved catchments are used to harvest rainwater.


In Pico Island, they produce amazing wines. Each field is divided in hundreds of micro plots (max 10 sq.m) sheltered by walls built with volcanic rocks. This is to protect the plants from strong winds, thus reducing evaporation and damage to the plants. The scale of it is astonishing and the effort that goes into it is impressive, to say the least. These micro-basins now make for a UNESCO heritage site.

  • For a lighter burden

    posted by Frank van Steenbergen October 08, 2012A common sight in rural areas is long lines of jerry cans, waiting to be filled with water and carried home by women. In their earlier life, the containers carried cooking oil.They are square and unwieldy – a good enough design to import cooking oil but certainly not to carry water in, on one’s back or on the head. Yet this is what most jerry can...

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  • Multiple-use Water Conflicts

    posted by Seifu Kebede, Taye Alemayehu, Asefa Kumsa and Frank van Steenbergen October 01, 2012In the last five years, the development of small scale private irrigation has caught on in Ethiopia. Small, high-value horticultural plots are ‘popping’ up in many parts of the country. Often the new vegetable gardens use water from rural drinking water systems, converting these - by stealth - into so...

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  • Water: The New Gold Standard?

    posted by Frank van Steenbergen September 24, 2012In recent times of crisis, the economic performance of US has been helped very much by an age-old practice – the printing of extra money (the euphemistic term is ‘quantitative easing’). A shot in the arm for the economy but also one that also brings inflation and weakens the patient. If the dollar was any other currency its bloated being woul...

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  • Herbicides: are they good for you?

    posted by Marta Agujetas Frank van Steenbergen September 17, 2012An amazing trend is the increased use of herbicides in rain-fed farming, for instance in Ghana where this picture was taken. A main driver is shortage of labour, with so many young people leaving rural areas for towns and cities. But are these herbicides good for us?The use of herbicides in often (but others are silent) recommended i...

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  • Mermaids

    posted by Frank van Steenbergen September 10, 2012 Whereas we may be familiar with the iconic mermaid in the harbor of Copenhagen, in rivers and lakes in Ghana, mermaid creatures are said to live as well. Called ‘Maame Water,’ she is very much like the Mami Wata spirit that is common to many other West African cultures. During the slave trade, the belief in these mermaids travelled to the Car...

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  • Yemen's 'Magic Soil'

    posted by Taha Alwashali and Frank van Steenbergen September 03, 2012The ancient name of Yemen is ‘Arabia Felix’ - the blessed happy Arabia - and maybe this has something to do with some of the special soils in the country.  A very common soil is the red soil that has an amazing ability to retain water - which in the arid environment of Yemen is a big plus.  Red soil is both cohesive and por...

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  • Changemakers: Future of Irrigation in Africa

    posted by Frank van Steenbergen August 27, 2012Much hope is pinned on the development of small-holder irrigation in Africa. In many places there are ample water resources – groundwater and local streams. Several new irrigation systems, large and small, have been developed. Even so, irrigation development is taking off slowly and failure rates are high.                      There are s...

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  • Financial Crisis and Water Utilities

    posted by Frank van Steenbergen August 21, 2012Over the past three-four years, the financial crisis has dominated the headlines– with much of the attention on national debts in Southern Europe at the moment. What gets less attention is the financial position of lower tiers of governments (municipalities, provinces) or public utilities, such as drinking water companies or water boards.Traditional...

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  • Weapons of Mass Destruction

    posted by Frank van Steenbergen August 13, 2012 What is more important – public health, or security and deterrence? To answer this impossible question, lets take a closer look at the sub-district of Kahuta, situated not far northeast from Pakistan’s capital Islamabad.Located in Kahuta is Khan Research Laboratories:  Pakistan's main nuclear weapons lab and its center for long-range missile de...

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  • The Inca Vessel

    Posted by Frank van Steenbergen August 06, 2012One of the most beautiful objects in the National Museum of the American Indian in New York is the Inca Terraced Vessel. It is estimated to be six hundred years old and comes from coastal Peru.  The vessel looks like a replica of an Inka temple, but on closer look it seems to represent a carefully terraced landscape.The three lower steps of the vesse...

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