Microfarm Project using Simplified Hydroponics and Fertigation in the Lerma Chapala Basin, Mexico
By Peggy Bradley, International Director Institute of Simplified Hydroponics Tehuacan Mexico
By Raanan Katzir, Sustainable Agriculture Consulting Group, Tel Aviv, Israel
The complete paper can be read here. (Word Document 3,685 words)
Micro Farms Project - Online Design
Unsustainable water use in the Lake Chapala Lerma River watershed is reducing the lake levels and depleting some of the 37 watershed aquifers. Currently irrigation for agriculture is using 86.5 % of the water in the watershed, overusing an estimated 1.4 to 1.9 billion m3 of water each year (4, 5).
A microfarm project is proposed for the basin to increase productivity of farmers, utilize degraded lands and reduce water requirements for farming. The microfarm is designed for a family using a hectare of land to produce from 40 to 140 kg of agricultural products a day. The farm uses simplified hydroponics and Israeli fertigation techniques to reduce the amount of land and water required to grow produce (8).
Rainwater is captured for use on the microfarm. Fish ponds of 1060 m3 capture and store rainwater and drip irrigation fields utilize the fish waste water. Watershed average precipitation of 736 mm a year provides 7360 m3 of water falling on a microfarm hectare each year. The microfields are estimated to require about 1440 m3 a year and fish pond evaporation is estimated at 1964 m3 a year. The total 3344 m3 a year is less than available rainfall so if sufficient water can be captured, out water resources for irrigation will not be required.
In the Lerma Chapala watershed, of the 78,000 farmers, 52,125 are classified as small farmers. Currently 820,000 hectares are irrigated and an estimated three million hectares are in agricultural production. These practices currently use at least 6.5 billion m3 of water. If microfarms use 3444 m3 of water per year, the estimated 52,125 small farmers would require total water of about 180 million m3 of water a year on 52125 hectares of land. Reduction in land space and water could relieve the excess water use in the area, restoring both lake levels and aquifer waters. As estimated 3.2 billion m3 of water could be saved with this change in practice.
The microfarm project addresses several of the objectives SEMARNAT Master Plan for Lake Chapala. The use of drip irrigation systems under fertigation for crops will release much of the irrigation water now used by small farmers. The farm includes diversification of cultivars and the reuse of agricultural water in the utilization of fish pond waste water for crops.
|An important component of the recovery of the Lake Chapala Lerma River watershed is the successful harvesting of rainwater for a small farmer in the region. In addition to harvesting rainwater is the importance of establishing drip irrigation fertigation technology to deliver the captured water to plants in a water conservative manner that reduces evaporation and increases yield per plant.
In the microfarm project Israeli technology of fertigation is combined with aquaculture and water capturing technology to reduce the need for using either surface waterways such as the Lerma river or the groundwater supply to produce crops.
If existing water users and potential waters could successfully produce crops using microfarm technology, family farm income would increase, regional income would increase due to primary production, and land and water use could be conserved.
A complete switch to microfarming from traditional soil based agriculture of flood irrigation could save 3.44 billion m3 of water a year, enough to allow both Lake Chapala and the aquifers to be used sustainably.
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