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Sustainable Environmental Practice Cases: a World Map

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The world map shows case studies on sustainable environmental practices. Specifically, these cases stand for different approaches in different climate zones. Click on the pins and you will get more information on cases in the area of Check Dams or Rainwater Harvesting. You can choose the different topics from the drop-down menu.

Soon we will publish more topics, such as Agroforestry, Urine Utilisation and Aquifer Recharge, which will appear in differently coloured pins on the map.

Additionally, you can find more detailed information on each topic in our other Toolboxes.

The presented studies are only a small selection. Do you miss an important case study? Or do you want to add pictures or further material? Please, have a look at our Community and share your ideas with us! We are happy to work with you on an additional pin or just add your pictures.

Check Dams

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Rainwater Harvesting

rainwater harvesting main post

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Rural Energy Systems

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Universal access to modern energy is driven by both local and global factors, including climate change, population increase and future energy security. In order to be sustainable in the long term, rural energy systems need to meet the energy requirements of rural dwellers, while raising economic productivity and contributing to a sustainable development of the living conditions in these areas. They should also provide inputs for further rural energy interventions and reduce the environmental impact by focusing on renewable energy technologies.

For more information about this topic, please click on the elements below.

Rural Energy Systems Video

Rural Energy Systems Video

Rural Energy Systems Quiz

Rural Energy Systems Quiz

Distributed Renewable Energy

Distributed Renewable Energy Supply for Rural Areas

Rural Energy Systems Summary

Rural Energy Systems Summary

Rural Energy Literature Review

Rural Energy Systems Literature Review

Open Source Solar System

Open Source Hardware

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Decentralised Wastewater Treatment

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Wastewater is a key feature of public concern, especially with increased issues related to water availability, sanitation, health and sustainability. Inappropriate use and inadequate management of wastewater pose a huge threat to social welfare and ecosystems.

United Nations Sustainable Development Goals aim to ensure access to adequate and equitable sanitation and hygiene for all by 2030 while expanding recycling and safe reuse of water all around the world (Objective 6). However, as reported by WHO, around 4.5 billion people still lack access to safely managed sanitation services and 80% of wastewater flows back into the ecosystem without being reused or treated. Numerous regions of the world demonstrate a dominantly rural or peri-urban character. Sanitation data in rural communities reveal serious health, hygiene, economic and social implications that highlight the dire need to develop cost effective, more efficient and easy to maintain wastewater treatment technologies, which suit regional realities.

Decentralised wastewater systems treat and dispose relatively small volumes of wastewater, originating from single households or dwellings located in relatively close proximity with focus on the extraction of nutrients and energy, and reuse of wastewater streams. Decentralisation appears as a logical and sustainable solution to tackle wastewater management issues in rural and peri-urban areas. Numerous approaches for decentralised collection, treatment, and dispersal/reuse of wastewater exist, but there is no fixed or universal solution to the issue, making it necessary to proceed on a case-by-case basis.

For more information about this topic, please click on the elements below.

Decentralised WWT Summary

Integrated Decentralised WWT

Integrated_Decentralised_Wastewater_Treatment

Decentralised WWT Quiz


Water Saving Potential

Water_Saving_Potential_Calculator

Nutrient Recycling Potential

Nutrient Recycling Potential Calculator

Literature Review

Decentralised WWT Video

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Biowaste Usage

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Biowaste stands for discarded biodegradable material. This means it can be broken down into carbon dioxide, water, methane or simple organic molecules by micro-organisms under anaerobic and aerobic conditions. One of the main reasons why biowaste represents a threat to the environment is the production of methane during its decomposing in landfills. This environmental impact can be significantly reduced through separate collection and use of biowaste.

In terms of usage potential, meaning soil or energy recovery, biowaste is still largely underutilised. Employing traditional practices in recycling, reusing and composting can significantly decrease uncontrolled waste disposal, which is especially important in regions without access to formal collection services. Composting, for example, can even ensure the generation of good quality natural fertiliser, which is why this practice should be encouraged.

For more information about this topic, please click on the elements below.

Biowaste Usage Video

 https://www.ruvival.de/biowaste-usage-video/

Biowaste Usage Quiz

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Soil Erosion

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Soil erosion is the displacement of the upper layer of soil (called topsoil). It is a naturally occurring process that affects all landforms. However, certain human activities greatly enhance this process and contribute to a significant soil loss. This matters significantly, because topsoil contains the highest amount of organic matter and is best suited for agricultural activities. In the last 150 years, as much as half of the world’s topsoil has been lost.

However, the effects of soil erosion go far beyond the loss of fertile land and include increased pollution and sedimentation in streams and rivers.  As a result, these waterways are prone to clogging, which causes declines in fish and other species. Furthermore, degraded land can often hold less water, which can worsen flooding.

For more information about this topic, please click on the elements below.

Soil Erosion Video

Soil Erosion Video

Soil Erosion Summary

Interactive Summary Soil Erosion

Soil Erosion Control Measures

Soil Erosion Quiz

Soil Erosion Calculator

Soil Erosion Calculator

Soil Erosion Literature Review

Literature Review Soil Erosion

If you would like to learn more about rural development, please take a further look at our website. For additional learning materials about soil, have a look at our World Soil Resources Toolbox and Lecture Soil – Water & Food Security.

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Livestock

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Livestock is a general term used for farm animals, such as dairy cattle, beef cattle, pigs, broilers and laying hens,  kept for use and profit. As part of agriculture, conventional livestock production is one of the main drivers of deforestation in the world. This system focuses on technologies for increased productivity, such as high-yielding breeds, modern feeding techniques, veterinary health products, as well as synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, which in itself represents a threat towards the environment. What is more, conventional livestock production takes up as much as about 70 % of the total agricultural land!

It is estimated that by the middle of the century, the global food demand will rise by 1.1 % per year. The demand for meat and milk by this time is expected to rise by 75 % and 60 % respectively, compared to the demand at the beginning of the century. If not properly managed, livestock production could cripple the life supporting systems of our biosphere and all other living beings sharing our planet. It is therefore increasingly important to understand the relationship between an increasing demand for livestock products and the exploitation and erosion of water and soil resources. Actions that need to be implemented in order to achieve sustainable production in and across different systems remain subject to debate. Today’s systems are challenged to increase production levels, while reducing their environmental impact and at the same time being economically viable and socially responsible. Some alternatives to conventional production already exist and will be mentioned in this Toolbox element, as well as further tools to reduce the impact of this agricultural practice on the environment.

Click on the elements below for more information!

Livestock Video

Video Environmental Impact of Livestock

Livestock Interactive Summary

Livestock Interactive Summary

Livestock Quiz

Livestock Quiz

Environmental Impact

Animals in Permaculture Quiz

 

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Traditional Rainwater Harvesting

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Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK) refers to ecological knowledge and practices of indigenous and local cultures. With a focus on Rainwater Harvesting (RWH) many different types of systems were designed based on scale, water usage and storage location. Over centuries, people in diverse geographical positions relied on rainwater and developed indigenous knowledge and techniques to harvest rainwater. These can be divided into these categories: Micro-catchment methods, Macro-catchment and Flood-water methods.

Traditional Rainwater Harvesting is a process that requires the concentration, collection and storage of rainwater for a number of purposes. This can be done in the same area where the rainfall takes place, or in a different area. This water can also be used immediately or later. Some examples of traditional rainwater harvesting include qanats, contour-bench terracing, spate irrigation, khuskhaba system, rooftop rainfall collection and cisterns.

Traditional methods may have a few challenges to overcome, but they have proven to be sustainable over long time periods. In order to fight environmental degradation of the present and future, it is important to develop holistic and sustainable strategies, especially in vulnerable regions.

Click on the elements below for more information!

Traditional RWH Summary

Traditional Rainwater Harvesting Interactive Summary

Traditional RWH Quiz

Traditional RWH Quiz

Traditional RWH Timeline

Traditional Rainwater Harvesting Systems Timeline

Literature Review

Traditional RWH Video

Traditional RWH Video

DIY Rooftop RWH

DIY Rooftop Rainwater Harvesting

For a more general overview and introduction to rainwater harvesting, please check out the Toolbox on Rainwater Harvesting. Further information on practical applications is given in the Land-based Rainwater Harvesting Toolbox, as well as the one on Aquifer Recharge,  which provides you with knowledge on how depleted groundwater sources (aquifers) can be restored.

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Sand Dams

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Sand dams represent a simple, low cost and low maintenance method for water conservation, especially suitable for semi-arid regions. They can retain rainwater and recharge groundwater. A sand dam is essentially a wall, which is built in stages across and into a seasonal sandy riverbed. It is most commonly made out of steel reinforced concrete, rubble stone masonry or earth.  Its life span can be up to 50 years. By implementing sand dams, local communities are provided with a clean and reliable source of water, even during periods of drought.

Seasonal rivers form during rainy seasons and carry soil downstream. This soil is mostly made up of sand, the heavier part, and silt, which is lighter. The heavy sand accumulates behind the sand dam, while the lighter silt washes downstream over the dam. Up to 40 % of the retained volume is actually water, which is stored between sand particles. The dam usually fills completely within one to four rainy seasons.

Sand dams are most common in Kenya, but actually they have a significantly broader geographical range of application than has yet been explored. Examples of sand dam structures exist also in Brazil, Ethiopia, Angola, Zimbabwe, Burkina Faso and India.

Learn more about sand dams in the elements below.

Sand Dam Elements

Sand Dams Elements

Sand Dams Quiz

Sand Dams Quiz

Sand Dams Design

Design and Construction of a Sand Dam

Sand Dams Summary

Sand Dams Interactive Summary

Sand Dams Literature Review

Working paper on sand dams

For more on rainwater harvesting, please check out our Toolbox elements rainwater harvesting and land-based rainwater harvesting. Aquifer recharge provides you with knowledge on how depleted groundwater sources (aquifers) can be restored. Additionally in the Toolbox, you can also learn about another type of dam structures, check dams, which serve to reduce erosion, by lowering water speed and accumulating sediments during floods.
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Land-based Rainwater Harvesting

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In arid and semi-arid regions of the world, water is the limiting factor for food production; especially in areas where rain-fed agriculture dominates. Rainwater harvesting systems have the potential to provide a sustainable source of water, while helping to achieve food security, combat soil erosion and flood hazards, simultaneously, if designed correctly. Rainwater harvesting systems have many applications and can prove especially useful in vulnerable rural areas.

This Toolbox element will introduce land-based rainwater harvesting applications, as a method of enhancing crop yields in rain-fed agriculture. These systems can also be used for stormwater management and flood control in areas with a high and unpredictable rainfall rate. Additionally, they can be applied as an erosion control mechanism. However, in spite of their potential, the implementation of these techniques is not as widely distributed amongst farmers as it should be, due to a lack of technical know-how, socio-economic and policy factors, as well as a lack of community participation in the development and implementation of occurring projects.

To learn more about this topic, please click on the elements below.

Land-based RWH Video

Land-based Rainwater Harvesting

Rainwater Harvesting Landscape

Rainwater Harvesting Interactive Image

Elements of Land-Based RWH

Elements of Land-based RWH

Interactive Summary

Land-based Rainwater Harvesting Summary

Quiz

Land-based Rainwater harvesting Quiz

Macro-Catchment RWH

Macro-Catchment Rainwater Harvesting

Semi-Circular Bunds

Semi Circular Bunds

For a more general overview and introduction on rainwater harvesting, please check out our other Toolbox on Rainwater Harvesting. A further application of land based rainwater harvesting is explained in the Toolbox on Aquifer Recharge,  which provides you with knowledge on how depleted groundwater sources (aquifers) can be restored.

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Agricultural Practices

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As the world population is estimated to be over 9 billion by 2050, there is a growing demand to increase the quantity and quality of food. Good agricultural practices should be applied in order to create safe and wholesome food for consumers or further processing. This Toolbox delves into different agricultural practices that can contribute towards duly responding to this growing demand. The measures suggested in this Toolbox take into consideration their different accompanying environmental impacts, which are discussed within each tool.

To learn more about these topics, please click on the elements below.

Risks of Wet Rice Cultivation
Small Organic Farms Quiz

SRI Facts and Misconceptions

Synergies on Small Organic Farms
Aquaponic FarmingAquaponic Farming using the Asian Clam

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World Soil Resources

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Soil is the foundation of life. It is a medium for plant growth and a habitat for many insects and other organisms. As much as 95 percent of all our food comes from  soil. Soil also plays a key role in filtering water and absorbing carbon. Yet, what is the current state of the world soil resources?

Already about a third of the world’s soil has been degraded. This is worrisome, as it takes 1000 years to generate only 3 centimetres of topsoil. The causes of soil degradation include chemical-heavy farming, deforestation which increases erosion, pollution and climate change. If soil degradation continues to occur at the same rate, all of the world’s topsoil may be gone in as little as 60 years, according to the UN.

This is why  practices that conserve soil, such as sustainable irrigation, agroforestry instead of traditional agriculture, the building of check dams and living terraces, among others, are increasingly important.

For more information about this topic, please click on the elements below.

World Soil Resources Video

world soil resources video

Summary

world soil resources summary

Global Soil Conditions

Global Soil Conditions

Global Soil Status Quiz

Global Soil Status Quiz

Interactive Summary

world soil resources interactive summary

Soil Condition Analysis

soil condition analysis

Literature Review

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Urine Utilisation

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An average person produces around 500 litres of urine per year, which makes urine one of the principal excreta of human origin. Urine was seen as a waste product causing severe problems on the environment and challenging wastewater treatment systems, however, during the last decades urine was seen more and more as a valuable resource. Therefore, also research increased on the utilisation of urine tackling its challenges.

Access to clean water and sanitation is one of the essential human rights, as recognised by the UN. As many as 2.4 billion people still live without an improved sanitation system and almost 1 million people practice open defecation. Sanitation systems have a big impact on the environment in regard to discharges to water bodies, air emissions, soil degradation and use and reuse of natural resources. New approaches in sanitation and irrigation should be pursued, aiming towards public health, water savings and water pollution prevention. Urine utilisation can help to achieve these aims and recycle the nutrients from human excreta. However, it is important to remember that if urine is not managed properly, the risk of pathogen transmission, as well as the risk of soil salinization and the strong and offensive odour of urine can cause significant health problems and discomfort.

Urine utilisation can minimise these diverse negative impacts on the environment. Unlike faeces, urine contains no or very few pathogens and contains four important nutrients for plant growth: nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), potassium (K) and sulfur (S). Therefore, the utilisation of urine does not only lower the pressure on wastewater systems, it also can replace in certain cases expensive mineral fertilisers.

To learn more about this topic, please click on the elements below.

Interactive Video

Urine Utilisation Quiz

Urine Utilisation Quiz

Urine Utilisation Summary

urine utilisation summary

Urine Application Calculator

Urine Application Calculator

Literature Review

Toiletiquette

Urine Utilisation Video

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World Water Resources

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Water is vital for the world. Inadequate access and inappropriate management of water result in a wide range of ecological challenges, also impacting the most basic human needs on sanitation, food and drinking water supplies. The knowledge on this planets hydrosphere is most essential as a pillar for a sustainable development and, especially, for reviving already water scarce regions. Learn more about the hydrosphere in this Toolbox element!

To learn more about this topic, please click on the elements below.

World Water Resources Video

world water resources video

Summary

Hydrosphere

Hydrosphere Hotspot Image

World Water Resources Quiz

Water Resource Quiz

Seawater Desalination

Seawater Desalination

Measuring Groundwater

Groundwater Quantification

Measuring Surface Water

Surface Water Quantification

Measuring Rainfall

Water Condition Analysis

Water Condition Analysis

Water Quality and Quantity Quiz

 


 

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Sustainable Irrigation

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Irrigation has been practised worldwide for thousands of years and irrigated agriculture is one of the biggest users of water in the world. Although irrigation systems and methods have developed through history, much improvement can still be done, especially with regards to water efficiency. Freshwater has become a depleting resource and the demand for it is only increasing. Looking ahead, climate change will cause more severe droughts and intensify pressures on water resources around the world. Humans will continue to rely on irrigation for survival, so it is critical to reduce the pressure on freshwater bodies, while still maintaining crop productivity. This is why sustainable irrigation is more than ever necessary.

To learn more about this topic, please click on the elements below.

Sustainable Irrigation Videosustainable irrigation video
Sustainable Irrigation Summary
sustainable irrigation summary
Irrigation Pros & Cons

Sustainable Irrigation Quiz
sustainable irrigation quiz
Homemade Irrigation Homemade Irrigation
Literature Review
Sustainable Irrigation Literature Review

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Rainwater Harvesting

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Rainwater harvesting (RWH) is the collection and storage of rainwater that would otherwise run off. The water collected in this way can be used for a myriad of both domestic and agricultural purposes. Different types of systems are in use, depending on the scale, type of water use and the storage location.

To learn more about this topic, please click on the elements below.

Rainwater Harvesting Video
Rainwater Harvesting Video
Rainwater Harvesting Summary
Rainwater Harvesting Interactive Summary 
Rainwater Collection Calculator
Rainwater Collection Calculator
Rainwater Harvesting Quiz
Rainwater Harvesting Quiz
Literature Review Rainwater Harvesting Methods Literature Review
DIY Rooftop RWH DIY Rooftop Rainwater Harvesting

Practice Cases: a World MapWorld Map of Sustainable Environmental Practices

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Aquifer Recharge

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Aquifers are geological formations of saturated rock beneath the surface, through which water can move. They act as natural filters and trap sediments and other particles, thereby providing natural purification of the groundwater flowing through them. Almost all aquifers are, in fact, not underground rivers, in which the water floows freely, but rather it has to squeeze through pore spaces of rock and sediment. Aquifer recharge occurs naturally through infiltration mechanisms. However, due to changes in the vegetation cover and increasingly soil erosion, the infiltration rates tend to decrease. The recharge of an aquifer can be managed by facilitating natural infiltration processes or by the construction of structures that maintain recharge artificially. This is called managed aquifer recharge (MAR).

To learn more about this topic, please click on the elements below.

Aquifer Recharge Summary

Aquifer Recharge Summary

MAR Methods

Aquifer Recharge MAR Methods

Elements of MAR Systems

Aquifer Recharge Drag and Drop

Aquifer Recharge Quiz

Aquifer Recharge Quiz

Low Cost MAR

Low Cost Managed Aquifer Recharge

 Literature Review

aquifer recharge literature review

Aquifer Recharge Video

Aquifer Recharge Video

Geological Background

Geological Background

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Terra Preta Sanitation

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Terra Preta Sanitation (TPS) is an astonishing biowaste/sanitation system of a highly advanced ancient culture. Terra Preta shows great potential for soil building and nutrient recycling from excreta. TPS was developed through the inspiration from the rediscovered historic practice and is researched at the Institute of Wastewater Management and Water Protection of the Hamburg University of Technology. TPS systems treat excreta and produce valuable soil amender, thus closing the loop between sanitation and soil amendment.

Originally, this technique consists of urine diversion, lactic acid fermentation (LAF) with charcoal additives and subsequent vermicomposting by earthworms. LAF suppresses odour formation and sanitizes the excreta. Subsequent composting and vermicomposting additionally sanitize the substrate and a nutrient rich humus is produced. This product can be utilised as a soil amendment for non-food purposes in forestry or agriculture. Such sanitation systems are capable to contribute attaining particular Sustainable Development Goals of the UN.

To learn more about TPS, please click on the elements below.

Introduction Video

terra preta sanitation video

TPS Summary

Terra Preta Sanitation Summary

TPS Design Model

Terra Preta Sanitation Interactive Image

TPS Quiz

Quiz Terra Preta Sanitation

Literature Review

Literature Review Terra Preta Sanitation

TPS Handbook

Terra Preta Sanitation System in Detail

Toiletiquette

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Living Terraces

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Living terraces constitute a combination of erosion control measures on slopes. Their aim is to provide effective erosion control and soil building, with minimal labour and maintenance. The entire structure, with both vertical and horizontal elements, consists out of living trees. This greatly increases their stability and durability. At the same time, they provide a source of income in form of livestock fodder and green manure after only a few months. This type of practice represents a sustainable method of erosion control, which can have a chance to serve the local farmers in developing countries. Such methods should therefore be embedded into Rainwater Harvesting.

For more information about this topic, please click on the elements below.

Introduction Video
Living Terraces Introductory Video
Summary
Living Terraces Summary
Scheme of Living Terraces
Living Terraces Scheme
Living Terraces Quiz
Living Terraces Quiz
 Plant Selector Tool
Living Terraces Plant Selector Tool
Literature Review
RUVIVAL Publication Series Volume 1

The introductory video and the summary offer you a quick insight into the main aspects related to this topic. Once you have understood the basic concepts, you should take a look at the living terraces scheme. It gives you visual guidance for the different elements that come into play during the making of the terraces. The  literature review provides you with more in-depth knowledge on the topic. It explains the different erosion control measures and how the concept of living terraces builds on them, as well as the way in which it serves in rainwater harvesting. Finally, the Plant Selector tool is a database which is set up to help you select the most appropriate plants for creating living terraces.

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Agroforestry

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Simply put, agroforestry is a combination of agriculture and forestry. It represents the inclusion of trees or other woody perennial plants into agricultural systems, including crop and livestock production. Agroforestry, unlike conventional large scale agriculture, has the objective of emulating natural ecosystems. This helps realize a number of ecosystem services. Those include the protection of soil against erosion and water-logging, minimizing evaporation of water from soil and plants by decreasing wind speed, water protection through deeper and more extensive root systems and increased biodiversity. Long term stability and productivity of agroforestry systems surpasses those of conventional monocultures or pasturelands as they tend to be more resilient. However, the establishment of trees on farmland comes with certain challenges.

For more information about this topic, please click on the elements below.

Introduction Video

Summary

Agro-Silvopastoral Systems

Agroforestry Quiz

Plant Selector Tool

Literature Review

Agroforestry Systems in Ethiopia

The introductory video and the summary represent a quick insight into the main aspects of this topic. Once you have understood the basic concepts, you should take a look at the agro-silvopastoral systems scheme. It gives you visual guidance of the synergies that exist in this system. The  literature review provides you with more in-depth knowledge on the topic. It explains the concept of agroforestry and its benefits, but also challenges. It also introduces you to the Slope Farming Project being developed in collaboration between Hamburg University of Technology and the Arba Minch University. For real life examples of agroforestry applications, we present you with the practices employed in this project on different locations in Ethiopia. The Plant Selector tool is a database which is set up to help you select the most appropriate plants for creating living terraces.

In case you feel like you have mastered this topic, but would still like to know more about rural development, please take a further look at our website. Please keep in mind that new materials are available weekly.

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Check Dams

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Check dams, or gully plugs, are structures built across channels to reduce erosion, by lowering water speed and accumulating sediments during floods. They are often introduced in already degraded areas, where natural or agricultural vegetation cover was lost or not capable of holding the top soil. Usually they are built in areas hit by intense runoff events, where conventional erosion control techniques are not sufficient. Check dams need to be built at the right places, ideally where water can be directed to suitable areas for groundwater recharge. In addition, work needs to be started in the upstream of a catchment in order to avoid destruction of the structures. Due to their relative simplicity and easy implementation, they represent one of the most used stabilisation measures worldwide.

For more information about this topic, please click on the elements below.

Introduction Video
Check Dams Introductory Video
Summary
Check Dams Summary
Gully Catchment Area
Check Dams Interactive Image
Check Dams Quiz
Check Dams Quiz
Handbook
Check Dams Handbook
Literature Review
RUVIVAL Publication Series Volume 1
Check Dam Design Tool
Check Dam Design Tool
Practice Cases: a World MapWorld Map of Sustainable Environmental Practices

The introductory video and the summary will give you a first insight into the most important aspects of this topic. Once you have understood the basic concepts, take a look at the gully catchment area scheme. It will give you a better visual overview of the entire area affected by the check dam installation. Through the  literature review, you with gain more in-depth knowledge on the topic. Check dam classification, advantages and disadvantages, as well as the basic construction guidelines and design recommendations, are some of the topics covered. Finally, for those of you interested in knowing even more about building check dams, we have provided a step-by-step building handbook. The handbook is based on a review of different manuals and complemented with pictures, for easy understanding.

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