ISSRAR presentation at regional WASH workshop in Lebanon
6 July 2018

Reusing treated wastewater in alfalfa farming: a site visit

Green alfalfa, irrigated by sprinklers using treated wastewater, attracts migratory birds

High Demand for Alfalfa

The Jordanian market has a high demand for alfalfa crops and fodder to feed livestock. This demand is derived from the market demand for fresh milk and dairy products. Alfalfa is an essential crop for the animals, especially pregnant ones, because it contains vitamins and mineral salts.

The Jordanian Investment Commission indicated that in the period 2010-2015, the annual average value of importing alfalfa is about 6 million dinars, where the dietary needs of the cattle sector represent more than 72% of the cost of production. Therefore, the recent increase in fodder prices has led to an increase in the cost of milk production.


ISSRAR Business Model for Alfalfa Cultivation

Studying the feasibility of cultivating and producing green alfalfa is on-going as a part of the ISSRAR project's socio-economic study.

ISSRAR-alfalfa-model

Wastewater in alfalfa cultivation (click to zoom)

The ISSRAR concept for an alfalfa business model starts with the municipality reusing treated wastewater in cultivating alfalfa, then harvesting the crop and selling it to livestock farmers. To achieve transparency and increase the participation level, it is preferred to engage CBOs such as the livestock farmer’s association in the business model. The livestock farmers’ association can manage the supply of high-quality and mold-free alfalfa to cattle breeders, taking into account the livestock farmers who lack financial capacity. The result would be a profitable return to the municipality, by providing jobs in the area and utilizing local sources of water and unused land.

To check the feasibility of this model, on 24 July 2018 the ISSRAR team visited an alfalfa farm located south of Amman. The farm, run by a local NGO of around 52 members, is around 100 dunum and fully irrigated by treated wastewater.

The treated wastewater is pumped through pipes from the South Amman wastewater treatment plant (WWTP), which is 15km away. The water is collected on the farm in a storage pool, with a surface area of around 1600 m2 and a storage capacity of more than 4000 cubic meters.

The water price is very cheap and is equivalent to 50 fils/m3. The farm produces green alfalfa, barley and feed corn. The irrigation system uses sprinklers. The number of workers at the farm is five, with an average salary of around 550 JOD / month. Such a project requires equipment with capital costs equal to 50,000 JOD. The selling price of 1 ton of alfalfa is 170 JOD, while the market price is between 270-350 JOD / ton.

The green alfalfa is cultivated once per 7-8 years. This farm was planted 4 years ago. Every 1 dunum required 5kg of alfalfa seeds (9-11 JOD / kg). The harvesting frequency is every 25 days. This farm attracts migratory birds, although the surrounding area is dry.

On 24 July 2018 the ISSRAR team visited an alfalfa farm located south of Amman that is irrigated by treated wastewater. The aim: evaluating the feasibility of the ISSRAR business model for alfalfa cultivation.