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The world’s population will grow by an estimated 2 billion people by 2050, which means 9 billion people living on the planet which is already facing huge resource challenges. The global water demand could be up to 30% higher than today.

  • Agriculture currently accounts for 70% of global water use, mostly for irrigation – a figure which rises in areas of high water stress and population density.
  • Industry, dominated by energy and manufacturing accounts for 20% of world water use.
  • 10% goes to domestic use – the proportion used for drinking water is about 1%.

The world needs to be smarter when it comes to the conservation of water - and there needs to be a big focus on agriculture. Project Alba has committed to saving water by providing efficient tools and techniques to smallholder farmers of Cambodia.

We know that Cambodia farmers have already faced big issues related to climate change and drought. We’re acting now so farmers can face these challenges today and in the future. On this World Water Day focused on nature , we take a look at the top 3 ways Project Alba is conserving water.

1. We switch from hand irrigation to drip irrigation

Smallholder farmers in developing countries traditionally hand water their crops. They often don’t have up to date knowledge about the latest technologies and if they did they are often financial out of reach for farmers earning around $70 a month.

When farmers partner with Project Alba we provide them with drip irrigation at no cost to the farmers to enable them to switch from hand watering. The system has huge benefits, not only does on average 84 litres of water per kg of leafy green vegetables grown but it’s also less time consuming for farmers.

Using drip irrigation the water goes directly to the root of the plant. Many farmers working with us keep fish in their ponds. This adds more benefits to the water, as fish waste provides increased nutrients for plants to thrive. Whilst Project Alba has yet to move into full Aquaponics agriculture, we are looking to test this route by 2019 with our most advanced farmers. Aquaponics is excellent in term of water saving as no water goes to waste!

2. We teach water saving techniques to farmers

Our aim is to enhance the knowledge of farmers and help them with new techniques to grow healthy and clean vegetables. It’s vital farmers understand how to use drip effectively. Our field agents work with them to identify irrigation needs of plants depending on their variety, season (dry/wet), soil texture and growth stage. The irrigation schedule is adapted to these factors.

One of the main techniques we use to save water is mulching. It prevents evaporation of soil moisture. Covering the soil keeps more in the ground and around the plant. More indirectly, techniques that we use in nurseries help to reduce temperatures and slow down soil drying for the seedling production are UV netting and plastic.

Many farmers face water issues in the dry season. Some often run out of water. Our recent introduction to farmers having these issues is to put a cover crop down to maintain soil health and not completely deplete their pond.

3. Targeted production adapted to Cambodia

Before any of our crops make it to the farmers field we conduct a variety of trials. We test crops so we can choose the varieties that best tolerate the conditions in Cambodia.

At present we focus on crops which require the the smallest amount of water yet are in demand and easy for farmers to grow. We’re currently growing lettuce, tomato and cucumber which respectively have a global average water footprint of 130 liters, 180 liters and 240 liters per kilogramme.

For comparison rice has a water footprint of 3,400 liters per kilogramme. The cheese industry accounts for 5,000 liters per kg, chocolate production needs no less than 24,000 liters per kg or the beef industry with 15,500 liters needed for one kg.

We want to see more farmers grow, quality vegetables in Cambodia and across the world. In Cambodia by growing more vegetables farmers can make more money and have a more positive impact on the environment.

At Project Alba we are committed to long term sustainability and lessening our environmental impact.

Project Alba is recipient of the Securing Water for Food grant - focused on organisations who can produce more food using less water.

Marion Vieira, 22nd March 2018