I have just read a project in Tanzania, based on digging “Water Bunds”, which are a fascinating and simple response to a drying landscape, and to the possibility of re-greening large areas of the East African savannah.

      The savannah around Arusha, in Northern Tanzania, is desert for the majority of the year. When the rains come sweeping across the Serengeti plains they produce an amazing re-greening of the landscape, which attracts the huge herds of wildebeest and zebra that we’ve all seen on television, if not in person. However, that abundant water quickly evaporates, or runs off, and the landscape returns to desert. The wildebeest and zebras move on.

      A project sponsored by “Justdiggit” has transformed this cycle by, as the title implies, just digging holes (see the picture above). The holes are quite shallow, and easily dug by hand with simple tools, but they trap water long enough for the seeds that are always present in the soil to germinate. The results are astonishing, as the time-lapse picture below (left to right) shows.

      The work around Arusha has now spawned similar projects in other areas of Tanzania, such as Lake Manyara (famous for its lions that climb trees), and into Kenya. Millions of these “Water Bunds” have been dug since the project started in 2013. Thousands of trees have been regenerated, millions of liters of water have been retained, landscapes have been dramatically changed, farmers are more self-sufficient and even the Maasai villages have benefitted with increases in their cattle herds. A win-win all round, for such a simple solution.

      The group’s mission statement is: “To regreen African landscapes in the next 10 years, together with millions of farmers, and together with you.” They further state that “If we want to cool down the planet in one decade, everyone needs to be in on the change. Through the power of media, communication, data, and the latest technology we can spread our message and scale up the project. We want to inspire, unite and empower an entire generation, growing a landscape restoration movement.”

      Water bunds are not a new concept but previous versions, in many parts of the world, have focused on building stone ones. Just digging holes, a la “Justdiggit”, is far cheaper, quicker, and easier, especially when you are doing it without available mechanical tools,out in the middle of nowhere, like the Serengeti plains.

      The initial “Justdiggit” project has already seen the Massai dug over 29,000 bunds. I should add that the Massai are not farmers, they are warriors and cattle herders, and to get them to dig that many holes must be a result of them understanding how significant these bunds are for their future.

      On that note, “Justdiggit” has also undertaken an extensive community training initiative, whereby over 7,500 people have been trained in this simple technique of digging and maintaining earth holes.

      The results, as you can see from the time-lapse pictures above, are amazing, all-the-more-so because it is a simple process that can be easily replicated.

      It’s projects like this that give you hope that there is a grass-roots initiative alive, well, and working hard to address the issues of climate change, even if the politicians are still choosing to basically ignore it.

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