Regreening dry lands with ancient techniques, modern technology and a strong communication approach.
Step 1 Landscape restoration
Degraded land is restorable
Justdiggit jumpstarts large scale landscape restoration projects by retaining rainwater for vegetation and preventing erosion, flooding and land degradation. This creates local benefits for communities and the environment.
Step 2 Dig and open up the soil
Prevent soil erosion
In dry areas where the soil is degraded, rainwater can no longer infiltrate into the ground. When it rains, water washes away unused. This causes erosion and washing away of the remaining fertile soil and seeds. This causes further land degradation and loss of vegetation cover. This negative vicious circle needs to be broken to restore and re-green the land by interventions.
Step 3 Harvesting the rains
Make best use of the water
Almost everywhere on our planet it rains, even in dry areas. By using ancient water harvesting techniques combined with recent innovations, we enable rainwater to infiltrate the ground again. This makes it available for vegetation and seeds in the soil. It also stops further erosion and loss of fertile soil.
Step 4 Returning the natural vegetation
More vegetation means more rains
By allowing rainwater to infiltrate into the soil, seeds will sprout and vegetation returns. To increase biodiversity and improve the livelihood of communities we complement this with planting trees, improved agriculture and agroforestry.
Step 5 Restoring the water cycle
An upward spiral
The restored vegetation brings more moisture into the air, which helps to create clouds and restores the water cycle.
Step 6 Creating more green with a little green
Green areas growing towards each other
Due to the renewed root system underneath, the soil becomes poreus and the water can easier infiltrate. This rises the aquafer and the vegetation will spread.
Step 7 Greener land makes a cooler planet
Trees and plants are the air-conditioning of our planet, that’s why it’s important to restore degraded lands. It has been calculated by the UN that 2 billion hectares of degraded land is restorable. This is almost twice the size of Europe!
Our ultimate goal is to restore these areas, but we can’t do this alone. Let us all pick up the shovel and re-green the land to cool down the planet!
- The urgency
- Loss of rain and soil
- Flooding and droughts
- Climate change
Break the vicious circle
Climate change, land degradation and overexploitation are causing temperatures to rise, land to dry up and fertile soils to erode. This causes serious problems such as extreme droughts and famine.
Loss of rain and soil
In the areas we work, the land is degraded and vegetation cover is poor. Rainfall is often concentrated in a few rainfall events with heavy downpour. This combination causes most of the water to flow away as surface runoff, causing erosion, soil fertility loss and flooding downstream.
Flooding and droughts
Most of the water is flowing away unutilized towards the ocean. The land remains bare and droughts can occur just weeks after the rains.
Once vegetation is lost, it no longer helps to create clouds nor can it cool the atmosphere. This results in even less rain and more eroded land. We want to break this vicious circle.
- What we do
- Rainwater & vegetation
- Infiltration stops erosion
What we do
Re-green degraded lands
Within the Justdiggit projects, degraded landscapes are restored using rainwater harvesting, soil improvements and re-greening techniques. This will lead to regrowth of vegetation and improved soil conditions. When vegetation is restored and soils are improved, the water cycle will be restored. This is the key to sustainable re-greening and contributing to regional cooling and more equally distributed rain.
Rainwater & vegetation
The interventions within the projects focus mainly on rainwater harvesting and vegetation recovery. By taking measures to reduce surface runoff during rain events, water has more time to infiltrate slowly and to soften the dry soil. This will make water available for the remaining vegetation and for seeds to sprout.
Infiltration stops erosion
The increased vegetation cover improves soil conditions further, thus enhancing infiltration. The root systems of the vegetation hold the soil together and reduce erosion. And the increased soil moisture availability increases the growing season, through which vegetation can recover further.
- Selecting interventions
- Sustainable solutions
The most suitable techniques
There are many different rain water harvesting, soil conservation and re-greening techniques. We select a combination of the most suitable interventions for our project areas.
The interventions are selected in close collaboration with our local partners, based on physical conditions (land use, climate, soil conditions, slope) and social conditions (socio-economic structures and land use).
We also ensure there is a clear socio-economic benefit for the community attached to each intervention. This is a way to ensure an intervention is sustainable. The interventions are chosen and implemented in partnership with local communities and local NGO’s, to benefit from local networks and knowledge and in doing so creating sustainable solutions.
- Climate impact
- Cloud formation
- Vegetation for rain
- Learn more on our impact
Re-greening to cool down the planet
Besides the local benefits for people (e.g. more agricultural revenues and more grass for livestock) and environment (biodiversity), our projects have an impact on the climate too. The returned vegetation ensures cooling, not only because of the shade, but also because plants evaporate water (evapotranspiration) which provides cooling (similar to how sweating cools people).
This can be seen clearly on this picture of the temperature of bare soil and vegetation. The bare soil is over 40 ℃ (104 ℉), the vegetation is much cooler (29.9 ℃/ 86 ℉).
The vegetation also has an effect on air circulation and cloud formation. Due to the evapotranspiration, more moisture is added to the air which may result in clouds. The following picture shows the effect of temperature and air circulation on clouds: above the land the air rises, cools down and forms clouds, above the water the air drops again and the clouds disappear.
Vegetation for rain
Thus, more vegetation ensures more moisture in the air and causes cooling. This can lead to more cloud formation, which can cause more precipitation which in turn is good for the vegetation. The effects will be the strongest on the ‘fringes’ of the rainy season. In the middle of the dry season the air contains insufficient moisture to trigger precipitation, but at the beginning and end of the rainy season, a change in the land area can make the difference: it could cause rains when it would otherwise remain dry.
Learn more on our impact
Download our whitepaper
Vegetation positively affects the climate in even more ways. One is that vegetation allows for ‘volatile organic compounds’ in the air, very small particles that can bind to moisture in the air and causes raindrops to form.
The article ‘Trees, forests and water: Cool insights for a hot world’ (Global Environmental Change, 2017) gives a good overview. More information can also be found in the Justdiggit whitepaper.
Cooling effect of vegetation
The impact on the micro-climate can already be seen in our projects in Kenya. This is a semi-circular bund from the Justdiggit project in Kuku, Kenya. Move the slider to show the temperature difference between the vegetation inside the bunds and the surrounding bare soil.
Where do we work?
Many regions of the world have suitable conditions for a Hydrologic Corridor. In first instance we focus on Africa, where the problems are severe and growing and where we found great restoration opportunities. Together with our partners we have developed a potential map to locate the areas for our regreening projects. The greener the area, the bigger the potential to successfully regreen. More information on data and methods behind this map can be found in this memo.
- Impact monitoring
- Climate indicators
- People indicators
- Vegetation & soil
- Vegetation impact
- Vegetation indicators
- Water indicators
We focus on the following metrics to determine the impact of our work:
Water: the volume of water retained by the program (liters).
Vegetation: the surface area of sustainably ‘re-greened’ and restored land (ha).
People: the number of people benefiting directly from the implementation of our program.
Climate: the above leads to a positive impact on the local and regional climate (temperature and rainfall).
Local and regional climate impact
A positive impact on the local and regional climate (both temperature and rainfall).
Restoration of degraded lands and the water cycle leads to a decrease of climate extremes regarding both temperature and rainfall. The increase of evapotranspiration, changes in air circulation and cooling by vegetation leads to lower temperatures, more rainfall, less intense rains and sequestration of carbon.
These additional indicators can be studied to determine our impact on climate:
- A decrease in average and extreme temperatures (°C)
- An increase in rainfall and decrease in extremes (mm) and prolongation of the rainy seasons (days)
- Cloud cover (%)
- Humidity (%)
- Soil temperature (°C)
Beneficiaries and participants
The number of people benefiting directly from the implementation of our projects.
For this, we consider the people directly benefiting from the project either through employment, agricultural improvement or increase in land value.
These additional indicators can be studied to determine our impact on the people:
- Beneficiaries (families, male/female, children)
- Income (level and diversification)
- Employment (direct and indirect)
- Education and training (children and adults)
- Migration and stability
- Gender equality and empowerment
- Continuation of the project approach
- Implementation by other communities
- Payment for ecosystem services
Vegetation & soil
Re-greened and restored land
The surface area of sustainably ‘re-greened’ and restored land (ha).
Degraded lands are restored and vegetation (both natural and agricultural) and soil conditions are improved by our projects. The land in our project areas is made more resilient to climate-related hazards (droughts, extreme rainfall).
A positive impact on degraded lands means:
- In natural ecosystems; An increase of the vegetation cover and biodiversity by species endemic to the region or fitting natural and ecological ambitions (e.g. no invasive species).
- For agricultural lands; An increase in crop yield in a sustainable way (no overexploitation of natural resources, overuse of pesticides, etc.).
- For soils; less erosion, increase of soil organic matter and infiltration capacity.
These additional indicators can be studied to determine our impact on vegetation and soils:
- Vegetation cover (%)
- Biodiversity (species richness)
- Crop type and yield (ton/ha)
- Soil organic matter (%)
- Infiltration capacity (mm/h)
- Erosion (kg/year)
Impact on the water cycle
The volume of water retained by the project (liters).
Due to our interventions the water cycle is restored, which leads to a healthy balance in infiltration, runoff, groundwater recharge and evapotranspiration. Water availability is sustainably increased and can be used by vegetation, as drinking water and for agriculture.
These additional indicators can be studied to determine our impact on the water cycle:
- Runoff (%)
- Infiltration (mm)
- Evapotranspiration (mm)
- Recharge to deep groundwater (mm)
- Downstream flood risks (likelihood)
Re-greening always has positive effects on climate. Even small scale efforts will moderate heat extremes and increase thermal comfort for people and cattle alike.