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Innovation: Water




Addressing the Greatest Barrier to Farmer Success: Water

Trees for the Future is exploring new solutions to persistent global water woes

Water, particularly in the developing world, is widely considered one of the greatest barriers to farmer success. International development nonprofit and leader in regenerative agroforestry Trees for the Future is launching a series of innovations to improve rural agriculture development, particularly in the developing world – among them is a focus on water access and conservation.

“Our Water Innovation – and the Innovations Program at large – is helping us to better understand and implement solutions that are urgently needed in the developing world,” says TREES Director of Programs Brandy Lellou. “We are experts in agroforestry, but we are always working to improve our methodology, digging deeper to see how we can help more people and drive impact.”

The problem with water, Lellou explains, is that many farmers in the semi-arid developing world do not have municipal or private water systems in place to be able to reliable care for their crops. TREES’ Water Innovation strives to find smart, cost-effective ways to bring water to farmers in some of the driest regions of Africa.

“Our agroforestry approach teaches farmers how to create more healthy micro-environments on their land, which can then trap and retain water in root systems, soils, and in the water table,” Lellou says. “Over time, this helps to stabilize the water cycle on the farm and provide some consistency for the farmer. But when we first start working with farmers and their land is decertified, water access is imperative to restoring that land.” 

TREES’ Water Innovation explores four ways to establish water access on dry farmlands:

Linking to Existing Water Systems

Loxo Loxo (or Hand-in-Hand) is a water initiative in Senegal where we are working closely with farmers to bring water from government-funded local water towers to farmers’ Forest Gardens. TREES and farmers are splitting the cost of the water pipe and staff and farmers are digging trenches and laying the lines together to install water spigots on more than 1,000 farms. Learn more about Loxo Loxo.

Shallow Wells*  

In areas where the water table is shallow, between 10-15 feet below ground surface, we can install new hand dug wells and rehabilitate old wells to provide year-round availability of water for household use and Forest Garden irrigation.

Rain water harvesting*

In East Africa many farmers have metal A frame roofs. In areas where the Forest Garden is located near a farmer’s home, rainwater can be harvested from the roof into large 2,000 liter tanks. Farmers can then use the water via gravity flow for irrigation.

Solar Water Pumping*

In areas near open streams and natural water holes, water can be pumped via solar energy to a large tank shared between several farmers. Farmers can then use gravity flow for irrigation.

Each of these approaches pose various opportunities and challenges for the nonprofit and the farmers they serve. Currently, TREES has successfully linked more than 1,714 Senegalese farmers to existing water systems through their Loxo Loxo Project.

TREES is currently accepting assistance from other organizations or individuals with expertise in shallow wells, rainwater harvesting and solar water pumping. If you are interested in working with the team, please email us at To learn more about other TREES’ Innovations, click here