Flood control measures for farmers

a corn field submerged under water

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. 

Unclog Drainage Channels

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

a drainage channel in a field with a sunset on the background
  • 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.

Grow cover crops

As an organic farmer, 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.

Plant Trees

tree planting on a hill side

You can prevent floods by planting trees of afforestation. 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 fodder 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.

Water Reservoirs

As a home owner, you can reduce flood disasters by harvesting rainwater in large storage tanks and reservoirs.  You will collect storm water and save it for the drought period. You can use the stored water for irrigation, watering animals and other farming uses. This harvesting water will reduce the water in surface runoff and sewer overflows to prevent floods.

You can store water by digging shallow water pans, ponds and reservoirs. Other ways to harvest water are to construct a water tank that you can place on the surface or underground. You can choose the plastic, metallic or cement tanks given your budget.

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.

Weather insurance

You can lower your losses to weather risks (floods, drought & unreliable rainfall) through crop and livestock 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

a stream of flood water flowing between a row of paddy rice

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.

Livestock Vaccination

A herd of Freshian dairy cattle grazing near a river

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.

Samuel K

Samuel is the founder and senior agribusiness development consultant at Agcenture. He can be reached at skibicho@agcenture.com

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