The water shortage issue is afflicting thousands of people in Brazil and in recent years it became even more worrying. This harsh reality leads us to question the way we have managed such a feature, because even though our country have this apparent wealth of water (approximately 12% of the world’s fresh water), we can not say that the country is in a comfortable situation. Agriculture has always appeared as the great villain when it comes to the good use of water resources.
Debate chains transfer to agriculture the responsibility for the lack of water and announces that the demand for food has made agriculture a large water consumer, it even estimates that one kilogram of grains require one thousand liters of water for its production. In fact, we know that plants absorb water and minerals through their roots, and carry it through conducting vessels to its leaves, and there is where the chemical reactions that makes a plant release oxygen and absorb carbon dioxide happen.
The water crisis is not an actual (current) problem. There are data and reports of major droughts that occurred in the past, specially in the 1910s, in 1950 and 1990. The impacts are more visible today than before, the increased demand for food is changing consumption patterns and leading to an increase in hydro capacity use, both in the city as in the countryside. In the later, the use of irrigation is very important to enhance productivity and thus making that new areas do not need to be cleared for food and biofuels production.
Our area of action – The drought situation has concerned the urban and rural areas. For the past four years rainfall levels were much lower than the historical average in virtually every coffee producing county where COOABRIEL operates. According to data collected by INCAPER, from January 2012 to December 20, 2015, the city of Nova Venecia (ES) alone had a deficit of 435 mm / per year, totaling 1740 mm in the period. In the last two years (Jan / 2014-20 Dec / 2015), the situation got even worse because it rained only 507mm / per year when it was expected 1156 mm / for the year, amounting to a deficit of 1,298 mm on the historical average for the years of 2014/2015. This, well below than needed rain volume, lacks the capacity to replenish groundwater and the supplying water sources.
In this new scenario, some actions must be taken to increase the capacity of our soils to retain rainwater.
Tips to increase the soil ability to retain rainwater
Micro-Dams – Also used to reduce water velocity. It consists in making small earth or sand bags dams thus preventing that water runoff gain speed and causes erosion and also provides greater water absorption. Finally, with a few simple techniques, we can increase the water volume in our properties by keeping it infiltrated in the soil, with a high capacity supply for surface waters and ultimately improve our properties sustainability.
Keep Soil Covering : A simple practice is to cover the crop with a vegetation cover. The grass which is seen as a major enemy, if well managed in the alleys of the coffee plantations, can help protect the soil against erosion, reduce soil profile temperature and evaporation, and increase the amount of microorganisms that recycle nutrients and higher the content of organic matter, thus reducing water losses in agriculture. The coffee straw is an excellent raw material and soil conditioner that in addition to the benefits already mentioned, it is believed to provide a decrease of 30 % of water loss in coffee plantations, besides been be a great source of nutrients.
Droughts and Contour Cord boxes – These are two techniques that if well placed, reduce water runoff velocity and promote greater water infiltration, gradually replenishing the springs and stream beds throughout the year. The Contour Cord is a technology widely used in the past and that must be used again, it is the construction of ditches in contour to reduce the superficial water velocity when there is a water runoff, reducing erosion of cultivated soils and promoting water infiltration into the soil.