OpenIDEO is an open innovation platform. Join our global community to solve big challenges for social good. Sign Up / Login or Learn more


Tame the Rain to Revive the Land using Geo-membrane Retention Basin for Sustainable Irrigation and economic development in rural areas.

Photo of Joseph Mulabbi
8 1

Written by

Explain your project idea (2,000 characters)

We propose hill-top geo-membrane retention basin (typically 10,000 m3 capacity) to hold rainwater. With precipitation rate between 2000-5000 mm/year, the water level reached 2-5 m. This is enough supply to water 20 Ha of land during the dry season, using gravity flow system. To further decrease run-off, we also develop orchard on the surrounding area (within the radius of 1 km), planting 3000-5000 premium tropical fruit that can absorb water (every tree of 3 years old can hold 200 L water per day). To maintain both, we build capacity of local farmers in horticulture as well as cooperative system to market the product. Farmers are organized into a group of hundred, to each farmer was allocated 2000 m2 of land. We also build field training center, where 2 field assistants live in for 3.5 years to work with farmers from planting to harvesting and marketing. In highland villages with high precipitation rate, soil erosion and landslides often happen during rainy season due to rainwater runoff. On the contrary, drought happens during dry season, as conventional agriculture activities had reduced the infiltration rate. Irrigation becomes more difficult as sometimes water has to be pumped from source location that is lower than the field. In the long term, decrease of land productivity and increase of disaster risk can be easily projected.

Who are the beneficiaries? (1,000 characters)

Local Ugandan farmers Unemployed community Government

How is your idea unique? (1,000 characters)

We integrate water conservation, agribusiness, and community development. We also reach economy of scale by engaging a minimum of 100 farmers for 20 Ha orchard in an integrated program consisting of water infrastructure, agriculture production facility, and technical assistance for 3.5 year.

Idea Proposal Stage (choose one)

  • Initial Design: I am exploring the idea, gathering the inspiration and information I need to test it with real users.

Tell us more about your organization/company (1 sentence and website URL)

We are a formal registered company in Uganda working to bring about innovative solutions that address the most pressing needs of the people in and around our communities.

Expertise in sector

  • 1-2 years

Organization Filing Status

  • Yes, we are a registered company.

In 3-4 sentences, tell us the inspiration or story that encouraged you to start this project.

From the failure of mega dams and irrigation projects, we learned that they often taken away farmers' access of water, and need high maintenance. We come to a hypothesis, that if we downsize the scale and introduce more appropriate technology, we might get better irrigation solution.

Please explain how your selected topic areas are influenced, in the local context of your project (1,000 characters).

Environmental: We shall build hill-top geo-membrane retention basins in pair with tropical fruit orchards to harvest rain water. In most locations, villagers will see an increase of their water well production and a change of micro climate. Social: Farmers will be trained to implement Good Agriculture Practice and Good Management Practice, which increase their land productivity. As they are organized, they can control price against middlemen. Thus overall farmers' income is increasing. In addition, most of the villages shall be transformed into agro-tourism, where the villagers independently develop simple accommodations, food kiosk, and event organizing. Our site will be able to generate annual village income of 2.5 billion from homestay, culinary, and events. As the villages get media highlight, more support from government and others shall come to improve local infrastructure, thus increasing rural job opportunity.

Who will work alongside your organization in the project idea? (1,000 characters)

Local farmers Government The community National and International bodies

Please share some of the top strengths identified in the community which your project will serve (500 characters)

There is already willingness from the government and the local community to bring this idea to reality.

Geographic Focus


How many months are required for the project idea? (500 characters)

24 Months

Did you submit this idea to our 2017 BridgeBuilder Challenge? (Y/N)

  • No


Join the conversation:

Photo of David / Thomas Svarrer / Høyer

Hey Joseph,

Yet another interesting and good project !!

If you layer the basins, such that you put them step by step downwards the hills, and if you also put a slow-drainage on farmland in same layered / levelled structures, then you can harvest run-off water from the farms and let that water into the lower levelled basins.

Then you can pump the water up from the LOWEST basin to the very top basin by use of solar energy (for instance a solar concentrator, plus a stirling engine connected to a primitive piston / valve pump (these are cheap, locally maintainable, can pump very high (high pressure)).

Via valve systems (primitive, mechanical pressure-level-gauged valves put at the entry to the lower basins, cascading all the way down - use the same as used for toilet cisterns), now let the water trickle down from the top to the bottom basins in an overflowing manner, thereby overflowing water will trickle down, and congestion will stop the flow on a down-to-up manner, primitively - no electronics, no computerization - simple mechanics.

This way, you can harvest rain water from uplands and thereby - as you mentioned enormous amounts of rain - you wrote 2,000 to 5,000 millimeter annually (???) - you can ensure that you have plenty of water.

Keep a thing in mind, which I was told some few years ago by a specialist in these matters - A Charles Ndiguire - that some particular soil processes which are done by certain bacteria in the soil - are only - and solely - triggered by the physical raindrops falling on dry soil. This means that certain drip-watering and certain other kinds of irrigation will not work as it should, and can give surprising lack of crop-yield, due to that the bacteria are not triggered to do what they are supposed to do, when rain comes.

In terms of the basins, we have had our share of huge, devastating busting dams. Most recently here in Kenya.

It is key that the dams are built such that they cannot just collapse like that. Therefore, when we discuss rain-reservoirs in the mountains, it is a good idea to carefully seek out the locations for the basins, such that one make use of already beneficiary locations where it takes maybe just a few hundred cubic metre of stone/concrete to make the location into a dam. Human built dams are prone to bursting, and this can indeed cause loss of life and livelihood, animals etc., not to mention flushing away soils, crops etc.

David / Thomas

Photo of Joseph Mulabbi

Hello David / Thomas Svarrer / Høyer
I love the way you articulated everything.
Thanks for this powerful wisdom.
I now kindly request you to accept for a collaboration in this idea
so that we work together.
I am adding you to the team please accept,
you can participate in the comments section and give feedback to some of
the questions that might be paused by our the community.

Photo of David / Thomas Svarrer / Høyer

Dear Joseph,

I am not sure that the team thing works after the REVIEW phase started. But count on that I will be there if you need me.

We (Nexus 7) do not need to be in your team. We are happy just to assist and help out. There are some 20 projects here in the OpenIDEO where we in our project can see that we can make a difference with just some 10, 20 or a little more hours, so we will just assist you good guys, just like we have ourselves received tremendous help from others during our own process.

So, Joseph, do it this way - when you have questions of any kind, or you would like comments, or sharing something, feel welcome. You take the initiative, and we shall happily assist you good guys.

IFF you have added me to your team, you are welcome - but I have not seen this "team adding" work, and I cannot see anywhere to click to accept :-)

David / Thomas

Photo of Joseph Mulabbi

Thanks David,
I think the team thing doesn't work,
but trust me we shall keep in touch

Photo of David / Thomas Svarrer / Høyer

Dear Joseph,

Yes, I think too that the ability to choose team is closed in this part of the competition, however, it is indeed OpenIDEO's intent that we form teams, so I think it is maybe a little technical hitch that we cannot form teams in this period. I have addressed this towards the OpenIDEO guys, so we will see if they find out to open it up in this part of the competition.
And yes, we shall indeed keep in touch here...

Just write what you have in mind, and if I can add anything to it, I will :-)

Have a wonderful weekend and cheers!
David / Thomas

View all comments