How to mitigate the effects of floods on your farm

Floods cause huge losses in homes, farms and ranches almost every year. This natural calamity destroys human life, property, crops and animal yields. Though they have a positive impact on farming, the risk to vulnerable poor farmers and pastoralists is enormous. As water sweeps their crops and livestock away, it erodes their hope, efforts and resilience for years.

According to the World Resources Institute, River floods affect 21 million people each year. Most are in food-insecure regions of Asia and Africa. Climate change is likely to worsen the severity and frequency of floods. The flood-prone smallholder farmers need affordable solutions to mitigate flood risks on their farm crops, homes and ranches.  Agcenture proposes 12 solutions you can consider in this blog post.

Individual smallholder farmers or collectively in their cooperatives and groups can use these risk management solutions. It is our hope their adoption will improve your resilience and adoption against floods.

Unclog Drainage Channels

Fast removal of water from your farm will reduce its build-up and flood. You can change this right from land preparation by making good drainage as follows;

  • Create floodwater channels that direct the water from farms to a harvesting site or a nearby water source such as a river.
  • Establish runoff or sediment traps to reduce the likelihood of soil erosion.
  • Consider dredging to unclog the water channels by removing silt, plastic or vegetation that is blocking water channels.

Dredging can be a large scale project by authorities to straighten and widen river channels between beds in low-land flood plains.

Weather insurance for farmers

You can lower your losses to weather risks (floods, drought & unreliable rainfall) through insurance. Pay premiums to an insurance company that protects crops, livestock or equipment against damage by floods. In case of loss, they will compensate you, cushioning your loss.

For crop insurance, go for index-based flood insurance. It uses hi-tech satellite imagery for faster, accurate and efficient field assessment. Once the extent and severity of crop damage by floods in your area are determined, there is fast delivery of your payouts. There are 11 companies offering agriculture insurance for high-value crops and livestock in Kenya.

Raised farm beds

If your farm is in a flash flood-prone area, consider making raised beds on which you grow your crops.  Floodwaters will not wash away your plants.  You can make a raised garden bed using a variety of cheap materials such as wood, cement blocks, recycled materials or metal. You can construct your DIY raised garden bed using these kits and this guide.

Plant Flood resistant crop varieties

This modern climate-smart farming technique. It promotes the use of changed seed varieties. These have enhanced stress tolerance to excess soil moisture and are resilient to flood submergence. This will reduce the risk of crop failure to floods for farmers in flood-prone areas and provides them with a high yield of potential hybrid seeds.

There are flood-tolerant seed varieties for rice, maize, sugarcane and jute. Consult your area farmer’s office for flood-tolerant seeds available in your area.

Better farming methods

Farmers can avoid practices that promote soil erosion and floods.  Examples of farming methods that can curb floods include;

  • Making terraces on the steep hillsides to reduce surface flow speeds and Contour farming along the slopes to control soil erosion.
  • Plant vegetation on waterways to help curb the erosive force of runoff and gully formation.
  • Observe strip cropping; cultivating a field partitioned into long, narrow alternated strips to reduce erosion.

Rain Water harvesting

Farmers can reduce flood disasters by harvesting rainwater.  You save it for a non-rainy or drought period. You can use the water for irrigation, watering animals and other farming uses. This risk control method reduces water in surface runoff and sewer overflows to prevent floods.

Smart water harvesting methods include digging shallow water pans, ponds and reservoirs. You can also buy or construct a water tank that you can place on the surface or underground. You can choose one of plastic, metallic or cement.

Authorities or firms can fund a mega project to dam rivers to control floods downstream. Such projects serve multiple purposes. An example in Kenya is the seven folks dams project. The dams harvest stormwater used in irrigation, tourism, power generation and flood control.

Erect flood-barriers

To avoid flood losses, make a permanent flood barrier around your farmhouses or property. These defences include raised dykes and embankments, constructing stone walls and laying sandbags. These methods are expensive, take time and are labour intensive to set.

Temporary flood barriers are portable and easy to deploy in minutes. They are work on water contact as shown in the YouTube video on the best temporary flood barriers for homes.

Amazon stocks various anti-flood products. You can compare and Shop them at end of this article .

Construct Flood Proof Farm Houses

Reduce your losses for Farm machinery, farm produce and inputs by placing them in areas above floodwater level. There are different techniques to build a flood-resistant house.  You can opt for the following options;

  • Elevated houses; built a house on strong poles allowing water to pass under the raised platform like a beach house. You can also use a raised foundation made of compacted earth or concrete.
  • Amphibious floating houses; allow the homes to rise from their foundations to a height of 13 feet
  • Use flood barriers; (see above) that are watertight to keep water out of your property or house from floodwaters.

Go for an affordable solution that uses locally available materials.  

Tree planting

It is not a coincidence we are facing more frequent and severe floods as our national forest cover has decreased. Forests act as water catchment areas. Water infiltrates underground and is released slowly to natural drainage systems such as swamps or rivers. Farmers can take part in afforestation to reduce floods as a long-term measure. Distinct ways you can do this is;

  • Agroforestry. Grow multipurpose trees alongside livestock and crops. You can grow fruit trees, fodder or green fertilizer legumes trees. Examples of trees good for agroforestry are Calliandra, Leucaena and Nandi Flame.
  •  Commercial tree farming. Plant fast-maturing and marketable trees used in building, carpentry and fencing. Once they mature, harvest, sell and plant new seedlings. The best choice trees for timber, fuel and poles blue are Eucalyptus, cypress and Cedar. However, the choice may change depending on your ecological region.
  • Orchard farming. Plant fruit trees to enjoy their multiple benefits. Eat and sell their quality fruits. The best fruit trees for Kenya farmers are Hass avocadoes, mango, and oranges. As a bonus, consider contracted farming in an out-grower scheme with a fruit exporter or processor.

Grow cover crops

You can grow cover crops to control floods. The plants’ ground cover, mulch and organic residues improve the soil’s water retention capacity and reduce runoff.

The cover crops you can plant as cover crops. For nitrogen-fixing legumes, grow; clovers, cowpeas, soybeans, velvet beans or alfalfa. Best cereals and grasses cover crops you can farm oats, rye, Sudan grass and sorghum. Additional ground cover crops are sweet potatoes and desmodium,

Vaccination

Livestock exposed to floods may suffer from stress, diseases and pests.  To avoid any post-flood losses, consider emergency vaccination for your chicken, cows, goat and sheep against flood-related diseases. The common ailments during and after floods are pneumonia, lumpy skin diseases and the Newcastle disease.

Apart from vaccination, deworm and treat your flock grazing in flooded pastures. As a safety measure, move your livestock to higher ground during floods to prevent them from being washed away.

Disaster management & weather forecasting

Building the capacity in preparedness and knowledge of farmers to expect, prepare and respond to flood risks is the best bet against flood risks. Farmers need to access weather and flood forecasting advisory services. Farmers in Kenya can access accurate weather forecasts at no cost using KAOP. Learn more.

Samuel K

Samuel Kibicho is passionate about profitable and safe agriculture as a tool for wealth creation and food security. He is the founder of Agcenture and consults in market systems development (MSD), program management and result measurement, monitoring and evaluation for sustainable agriculture & rural development projects.

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1 Response

  1. September 11, 2020

    […] Trees have many benefits on your health, surroundings and income. They provide food and shelter for humans, birds and animals. They are a source of industrial raw materials. Besides, forests reduce soil erosion and flooding. […]

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