1. Can we review lessons in history and nature?
During the last century, the industrial collectivized farms in Czechoslovakia altered landscapes and drained wetlands for intensive farming to obtain high crop yields. However, these seeming improvements result in rainwater draining to the waterways swiftly as soon as it rains. Water has no chance to remain in the landscape, percolate, saturate the soil pores, or refill the aquifers. Land-use designed for drainage alters the hydrology of watersheds.
2. Asking the right questions. How can we prevent floods and droughts?
Our landscapes are losing water. Soil without moisture cannot hold much life, so fertilizers and pesticides are applied several times a season, damaging the soil's biology and degrading the land. Farming and forestry roads are designed for convenience contributing to the water deficits, erosion, and flooding risks. Erosion gullies increase runoff intensity and nutrient loss, impacting soil organic matter and crop resilience.
3. Returning (and recycling) lost water.
After years of land degradation and synthetic fertilizer use, Ladislav Židek and his team reclaimed 27 hectares and launched the Bioclimate Park Drieňová. Dry streambed there filled seasonally only for a month during spring. They began to conserve every drop of rainwater, building water-retaining earthworks, recharging the groundwater, restoring a stream that runs the year-round!
Now a vibrant living farm and an outdoor climate discovery trail invite young and old to broaden their knowledge of nature, climate, and water. Bioclimate Park is nestled amongst the Carpathian Mountain Rajec Valley in Slovakia.
4. Following the raindrop and Mother Nature.
The biggest challenge of the Bioclimate Park was to irrigate the crops. Should they plant trees in the arid landscape? According to hydrologist Michal Kravčík, Goldman environmental award recipient and founder of People and Water NGO, rainwater should come first. Water intensifies photosynthesis and plant growth.
The system of Kravčík's water-retaining check-dams, weirs, beaver dam analogs, bioretention ponds, contour strips, infiltration trenches, swales, keyline systems, hedgerows, and buffers strips proved to work. Water coursed to natural floodplains, and soil infiltration improved, preventing floods.
5. Sharing our abundance
"Water begets life," Mr. Židek keeps repeating. Beehives and all creatures thrive near water. Indeed, water sustains life and biodiversity [i], on which we all depend. Seven years in the making, Biopark is transforming wasteland to a verdant land flowing with milk and honey, where the larks sing, beehives thrive, sheep and goats roam, and children play. Rare blue butterfly species appeared on the farm. They are indicators of good conservation status and a healthy ecosystem.
6. Restoring land and watersheds to develop food security.
Several studies have shown that global crop production needs to double by 2050 to meet the projected rising population demands, boosting crop yields annually by a 2.4% production increase rather than clearing more land for agriculture. Bioclimate park spelt crop harvest doubled within five years, recording 20 % growth per year, despite record temperatures and no synthetic fertilizers, herbicides, fungicides, or pesticides! Integration of land management and rainwater retention bears fruits. Healthy breakfast eggs can come from healthy chickens, fed healthy food, and raised in a healthy environment.
7. Can we piece a puzzle with all the pieces in ecosystem restoration?
- Natural retaining rainwater solutions need to be of utmost importance. There is no life without water!
- Restoration of natural floodplains and small water reservoirs is the key. Interception of underground tile drainage pipes will refill the aquifers once more. Terraces that allow the passage of mechanization improve the soil water-holding capacity.
- Cover crops, crop rotation, farm manure fertilization, and reforestation are also essential restoration tools. Plants and living soil will provide perfect air-conditioning for our planet.
8. Working with plants, soil, and water to regulate the climate in your neighborhood.
What happens when there is no water to evaporate or transpire from the landscape?
It rains less!
It gets hot.
Where land-use alterations dry out the landscape[ii], the surfaces generate more sensible and less latent heat, and change Bowen's ratio of energy flows. Reestablishing the atmospheric and terrestrial moisture cycles in vegetation, soil, and atmosphere is essential for cooling the planet and securing the precipitation patterns.
Every drop of rainwater is a gift to be conserved, not diverted, says Mr. Kravčík. His motto is consistent with UN Goal 6.6 [iii]- restoring all water-related ecosystems. Last year, the regional parliament in his home approved his methods in the Košice Restoration Program [iv].
Ecosystem restoration begins with the next rainfall in our cities, farms, and communities!