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Livelihoods from Floods


 "Floods are not always a hazard. They may also sustain aquatic life and riverine biodiversity, recharge aquifers, enrich soilds and in some of the world's poorest areas they are the main source of irrigation.” -- Global Water Partnership (2000) 'Toward water security: a framework for action.

Water availability is increasingly under pressure as a result of population growth, environmental degradation and climate change. More than ever, the potential

offered by seasonal floods needs to be harnessed; to strengthen agricultural livelihoods, to improve social equity and to increase the ecosystem integrity.
Harnessing floods is a quintessential method to allow rural communities in vulnerable areas to adapt to climate change. For many farmer communities who
depend on agriculture and fisheries, floods are not a hazard but rather an asset.

Flood-based Livelihood Systems can be classified in different categories:

  • Floodplain agriculture: cultivation of flood plains, using rising and receding floods;
  • Spate irrigation: diversion of short floods from seasonal rivers or wadis to fields by means of bunds and canals. A traditional method in Yemen, Pakistan and North Africa and currently expanding in Eastern Africa;
  • Inundation canals: irrigation through canals that fill up by temporarily high water in rivers. A common system in ancient Egypt, and continues to be so in parts of Sudan;
  • Depression agriculture around temporary wetlands: dambos and bas-fonds are common in the humid areas of West, Southern and Central Africa.

Other productive activities carried out in floodplains are:

  • Fisheries with floodplain ponds and finger ponds: when water levels increase in lake basins and floodplains in mainly West Africa and South East Asia, small ponds are filled with water and fish fauna. After the water has receded, fish get trapped in the ponds and are grown for human consumption;
  • Flood pastures: pastoralist communities use flooded areas for cattle grazing;
  • Timber and bushlands: forest and bushlands are common in floodplains, being used as an important source for fuelwood and fodder harvesting;

A group of young professionals working on strengthening flood-based livelihoods systems from across the world came together in Wageningen in April-May, 2017. They spent two months exchanging experiences, learning from each other, and strengthening their capacities with support from the Flood Based Livelihoods Network. 

This theme page brings together some of their stories, perspectives, and reflections. Together, they form a snapshot of the current status and future prospects of flood-based livelihoods globally.  

For more on Flood Based Livelihoods, visit www.spate-irrigation.org




  • Blog: Rice growing in the water

    Rice growing in the waterBlogpost by: Palal Moet MoetDo you know how to sow rice in deep water? In the soil – of course: ultimately all plants have to be rooted in soil. But what I want to describe is floating rice (FR) which is a range of traditional rice varieties adapted to large changes in flood water levels that occur during the rainy season. Can you believe if I say floating rice can elong...

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  • Blog: Lake Malawi: The Vanishing Blessing

    Lake Malawi: The Vanishing BlessingBlogpost by: Blessings Jeranji Shores of lake Malawi, everyday businessMalawi as a country has been blessed by a lake called Lake Malawi. It is not just a blessing but a source of blessings to the country and its people. These blessings visible in support of the country’s Agro-based economy. The lake is connected to all operations of sectors in the country. The...

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  • Blog: Kingdoms of Spate

    Kingdoms of SpateMichiele GebrehiwetLike in other Kingdoms of the world, the Raya-valley farmers have their own rulers, the Kings of Spate. These Kingdoms are different, because the ‘King’ is elected every year and called Abo Mai meaning “Father of the Water”. This father has to be loyal, workaholic, transparent, enthusiastic and above all put community interest on the first place. This Fa...

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  • Blog: Gash the traveler

    Gash - The TravelerBlogpost by Ahmed A. Bagi Alamin  She starts her journey in Asmara City, and she always gets up after the heavy rains. Then she moves towards Sudan. It is somewhere in June. She crosses all the wonder valleys and passes the green hills, until the prospected guest reaches to Al Geerah village, where the Sudanese show her their respect to visit them. Despite their happiness, she...

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  • Blog: Creating opportunity out of a problem: the hidden cotton plant

    Creating opportunity out of a problem: the hidden cotton plantBlogpost by Celestine Kilongosi Calotropis procera tree is one among the many invasive plants in Kajiado County, Kenya. However, we should not view its growth as an anchor but an opportunity for growth both for the community members and the country in general. Less than 600 mm of rainfall is experienced in this area in a year leading to...

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  • Blog: Resolving the Drought Puzzle in Northern Kenya

    Resolving the Drought Puzzle in Northern KenyaPosted by Elly Arukulem YalukApril 28, 2017Drought haunts pastoral livelihoods in Masol, West Pokot county, Kenya Letter from West Pokot: the silent droughtFor many years the pastoralist Pokot people of Nyangaita, a tiny village in Masol area, have endured serious water and food scarcity situations that have gone unreported. Because of the unforgivin...

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  • Blog: Starving the Tihama: Impact of War on Spate Irrigation Systems in Yemen

    Starving the Tihama: Impact of War on Spate Irrigation Systems in YemenPosted by Adel Zolail and Frank van Steenbergen May 3, 2017 For reasons no one can explain, a war has been raging in Yemen since 2015. It is clear who the culprits are, and the solutions seem simple – just stop and do something else. But tragically no one seems to bother to resolve. The airstrikes and ground fights have by ...

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  • Videos

    VideosThese video presentations provide snapshots of flood-based livelihoods systems in Sudan, Ethiopia, Kenya, Yemen, Malawi, and Myanmar        For an overview of all flood based livelihoods related videos, click here...

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