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Alternate Technologies

Snow Fencing

Seed and Light International's snow fence project in western Mongolia.

Desert conditions (above) make alternate technologies in water conservation imperative and challenging.
   Extremely low winter temperatures and blizzard conditions during the winter of 2001 and 2002 devastated the livestock in Mongolia prompting SLI to recommend building cattle fencing for live stock protection and snow fence trials for capturing wind blown snows for moisture retention to improve forage and gardens. Winter 2003 gave us the first opportunity to start field trials for both the cattle fencing and snow fencing.
    Both fences have proved to be of great use and had attracted attentions with the Government sending veterinarians to inspect the installation. Livestock losses in the project area were high in 2001 and 2002 with a 30% yearly loss of all livestock and leaving the living cattle and sheep with little fat reserve which led to severely underweight newborn lambs and calves. Both forage improvement and vegetable gardening are relatively new to this formerly nomadic population.
    Snow fences are generally made of a 50% open design where there is a dramatic down wing (leeward) lowering of the wind velocity allowing the snow to settle in a drift. Blowing snow, under high wind conditions, will sublimate or evaporate from the solid to the vapor state with in two miles if not harvested in drifts. Salvaging extra moisture for early spring forage and gardens can mean the difference between a successful or minimum harvest in this land of extremes. Our local Heroes designed a vertical slat fence much like the one pictured, two meters high using salvaged boards woven with wire from an old barbed wire fence the unwound.
See thumbnails below for comparison. Photo courtesy of UWYO.
    Additionally dirt mounds, standing crop and straw were tried in the gardens. An innovation the local workers discovered was to rake the course straw and stalks into a six food donut or ring shape placed a few feet apart.
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Click over illustrations to enlarge.
    Additionally dirt mounds, standing crop and straw were tried in the gardens. An innovation the local workers discovered was to rake the course straw and stalks into a six food donut or ring shape placed a few feet apart.
Snow Fences work equally well in breaking the wind in sand storms and create mini dunes which help protect crops, animals, housing, etc.

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Olla or Clay Jar Irrigation
    This traditional form of irrigation is found in many cultures spanning many centuries. It is again an appropriate form for small plot gardening in areas short of water or extending the growing season into the normal dry seasons.
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Click over photos to enlarge.
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    Large unglazed Terra Cotta jars found in Western China may be some of the oldest examples where water storage in buried containers wept slowly inadvertently providing a perfect plant growing environment. Thrifty gardeners were quick to utilize this micro-environment near the water pots to grow food as well. Later in hot dry climates these jars were adapted to gardening and even cooling of interior rooms.
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Women in Moldova women learn an ancient art via SLI and Hero's on the ground.
   The Romans utilized them to establish grape vines and many examples have been found in place in Archeological digs. The spontaneous discovery in many cultures is likely but we see this technology in the American Southwest in the Spanish Colonial period and possibly used by the Pueblo people as well.
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   The concept is the unglazed fired Terra Cotta will weep water to the surface slowly and forming  a moist area about ½ of the diameter of the Olla or Jar in all directions providing a great area to grow plants and conserve water.
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   As the plant grows it will eventually cover the surface of the Olla with roots forming a matt and at this time almost all of the water used will pass though the plant and very little evaporation making this one of the most efficient irrigation systems
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Many examples can be found in the Photo Galleries of our web page:
     There you can see whole gardens using tubing to fill all the Ollas at one time as well as the use of Ollas in containers.