Pitcher irrigation for the management of moderately saline soils [Bangladesh]

Kalash shesh podhothi

technologies_4112 - Bangladesh

Completeness: 92%

1. General information

1.2 Contact details of resource persons and institutions involved in the assessment and documentation of the Technology

Key resource person(s)

SLM specialist:

Biswas Sachindranath


Soil Resource Development Institute

Principal scientific officer, Soil Resource Development Institute, Regional office, khulna


SLM specialist:

Biswas Amarendra Nath


Soil Resource Development Institute

Senior Scientific Officer, Soil Resource Development Institute, Regional Office, Khulna.



Zahid Ameer M.D.


Soil Resource Development Institute

Soil Resource Development Institute, Head Office, Farmgate,Dhaka-1215


Name of project which facilitated the documentation/ evaluation of the Technology (if relevant)
Decision Support for Mainstreaming and Scaling out Sustainable Land Management (GEF-FAO / DS-SLM)
Name of the institution(s) which facilitated the documentation/ evaluation of the Technology (if relevant)
Soil Resource Development Institute (SRDI) (Soil Resource Development Institute (SRDI)) - Bangladesh

1.3 Conditions regarding the use of data documented through WOCAT

When were the data compiled (in the field)?


The compiler and key resource person(s) accept the conditions regarding the use of data documented through WOCAT:


1.4 Declaration on sustainability of the described Technology

Is the Technology described here problematic with regard to land degradation, so that it cannot be declared a sustainable land management technology?



Pitcher irrigation technique is very effective to check the salinity development on the soil surface through capillary pores in dry season ( November to May ) in salt affected coastal area of Bangladesh.

2. Description of the SLM Technology

2.1 Short description of the Technology

Definition of the Technology:

The technology is called pitcher irrigation technology because irrigation water is provided from an earthen pitcher which has several small holes on its bottom. The earthen pitcher is placed on a raised bed which is filled with fresh irrigation water having several pores on its bottom. Then jute fibres are entered into the pores.Then, the pitchers are filled with fresh irrigation water to reduce soil salinity, increase irrigation water use efficiency, increase land cover as well as soil productivity. The technology is popular in case of vegetable cultivation in moderately salt affected area in Bangladesh.

2.2 Detailed description of the Technology


Agriculture is a major sector of Bangladesh's economy and the coastal area of Bangladesh is suitable for growing rice. More than 30% of the cultivable land in Bangladesh is in the coastal area. Out of 2.86 million hectares of coastal and off-shore lands, about 1.056 million ha of arable lands are affected by varying degrees of salinity. Farmers mostly cultivate low yielding, traditional rice varieties during wet season. Most of the land remain fallow in the dry season (January- May) because of soil salinity, lack of good quality irrigation water and late draining condition ( Karim et al., 1990; Mondal,1997 and SRDI, 2001). Crop production of the salt affected areas in the coastal regions differs considerably from non saline areas. Because of salinity, a special environmental and hydrological situation exists, that restricts the normal crop production throughout the year. In the recent past, with the changing degree of salinity of some areas due to further intrusion of saline water from the sea, normal crop production becomes very risky. Crop yields, cropping intensity, production levels and people’s quality of livelihood are much lower than that in other parts of the country, which have enjoyed the fruits of modern agriculture technologies based on high-yielding varieties, improved fertilizer and water management and improved pest and disease control measures ( BBS, 2001). At the same time food demand in the area is increasing with the steady increase in human population.

In this circumstances, Salinity Management and Research Centre( SMRC) of the Soil Resource Development Institute, located in Batiaghata, Khulna has developed some technologies which can reduce soil salinity, increase irrigation water use efficiency, increase land vegetative cover as well as soil productivity. Now the pitcher irrigation technology is popular in Khulna, Satkhira and Bagherhat districts of Bangladesh.
In this irrigation method, at first, several pores ( 2.2 mm in diameter) are made on the bottom of an earthen pitcher. Then, some jute fibres ( 30 cm long) are entered into the holes keeping 20 cm outside of the pitcher. After that, the pitcher is placed on a raised bed and fill it up with fresh water. Some seed / seedlings (Lagenaria siceraria, Solanum spp, Abelmoschus esculentus, Cucumis sativus, Benincasa hispida) are sown on different corners of the raised bed. It is done before setting the pitcher on the bed. Then water comes out / seeps very slowly through the fibres. It has several benefits as concerns the scientific point of view. First of all, it reduces irrigation water loss at least 70% as compared to flood irrigation due to reduced run off and evaporation . It supplies irrigation water continuously at the surface of the plant bed and rootzone of the crops. The pitcher needs to be refilled at 15 days interval. As a result, the salt movement is hampered / hindered to rise to the surface through capillary pores because of continuous drip irrigation. So, salinity level in the soil doesn't increase throughout the cropping season. Secondly, this technology enhances the seed germination percentage and creates a favourable environment for uptaking soil nutrient by plants and increasing the crop yield.
The farmers responded quickly to adopt the technology, because thousand hectares of land remain fallow in coastal areas in the dry season. During this period, there are two major problems: soil salinity, water salinity and scarcity of suitable irrigation water. The pitcher irrigation technology is playing an important role to reduce soil salinity as well as increasing the efficiency of irrigation and increasing crop yield.

2.3 Photos of the Technology

2.5 Country/ region/ locations where the Technology has been applied and which are covered by this assessment



Region/ State/ Province:

Khulna region

Further specification of location:

The region consists of Bagerhat, Satkhira, Khulna, Jessore and Kustia districts.

2.6 Date of implementation

If precise year is not known, indicate approximate date:
  • less than 10 years ago (recently)

2.7 Introduction of the Technology

Specify how the Technology was introduced:
  • during experiments/ research

3. Classification of the SLM Technology

3.1 Main purpose(s) of the Technology

  • improve production
  • reduce, prevent, restore land degradation
  • conserve ecosystem
  • preserve/ improve biodiversity
  • overcome soil salinity

3.2 Current land use type(s) where the Technology is applied



  • Annual cropping
Main crops (cash and food crops):

Bottle gourd, sponge gourd, okra, indian spinach, cucumber, ash gourd, sweet gourd etc.

3.3 Further information about land use

Water supply for the land on which the Technology is applied:
  • mixed rainfed-irrigated
Number of growing seasons per year:
  • 2

Rainfed rice - vegetables

3.4 SLM group to which the Technology belongs

  • improved ground/ vegetation cover
  • irrigation management (incl. water supply, drainage)
  • Mitigate soil salinity

3.5 Spread of the Technology

Specify the spread of the Technology:
  • applied at specific points/ concentrated on a small area

Pitcher irrigation technology is being used in moderately saline soil areas. In case of extreme salinity, it cannot reduce the salinity to an optimal level.

3.6 SLM measures comprising the Technology

structural measures

structural measures

  • S4: Level ditches, pits

Instead of flood irrigation, controlled irrigation (pitcher irrigation) has been used in coastal areas of Bangladesh to keep moderate soil salinity in check.

3.7 Main types of land degradation addressed by the Technology

chemical soil deterioration

chemical soil deterioration

  • Cs: salinization/ alkalinization
biological degradation

biological degradation

  • Bc: reduction of vegetation cover
  • Bh: loss of habitats

3.8 Prevention, reduction, or restoration of land degradation

Specify the goal of the Technology with regard to land degradation:
  • reduce land degradation
  • adapt to land degradation

4. Technical specifications, implementation activities, inputs, and costs

4.1 Technical drawing of the Technology


Md Babul Hossain



4.2 Technical specifications/ explanations of technical drawing

Common sized pitchers (15 litre) have to be collected. At their bottom, 5-6 holes will be made in the form of ballpoint pens (circumference at approximately 2.2 cm). Thereafter, strings of jute fibre (30 centimetre long) will be inserted into the holes. After that, the earthen pitcher will be placed in the raised soil bed (diameter 40 centimetres) in such a way that the holes and jute fibers remain in contact with the soil. Thereafter, 4 seeds should be sown on the 4 corners of the raised bed . The seeds so sown will germinate easily due to moist soil. The jute attached to the holes of the pit will allow water to infiltrate the soil so enable water supply at the root zone of the plants. The mada (raised soil bed) will always be wet. As a result, salt water from the ground level will not come up to the soil surface, thereby preventing the soil salinity in the mada (raised soil bed) area from increasing. Besides, the plants will be able to get adequate water and plant nutrients. Majaor elements of the technology are:

A large size pitcher( 15 litre water holding capacity)
5-6 pores of approx. 2.2 cm diameter are drilled into the bottom of the pitcher
Jute fibres of 30 cm length
Pitcher placed in the middle of the bed (Mada)
4 seeds are sown in the 4 corners of the bed
Salinity reduces: 2.0-2.5 dS/metre
Water requirement: 3-4 filled pitcher amount to complete a crop( Vegetable) life cycle. The irrigation water will be used only in the raised soil bed not in the whole field.

4.3 General information regarding the calculation of inputs and costs

Specify how costs and inputs were calculated:
  • per Technology area
Indicate size and area unit:

1 bigha

If using a local area unit, indicate conversion factor to one hectare:

0.134 hectare

other/ national currency (specify):

Taka (tk)

Indicate exchange rate from USD to local currency (if relevant): 1 USD =:


Indicate average wage cost of hired labour per day:

500 Taka

4.4 Establishment activities

Activity Type of measure Timing
1. Land preparation Agronomic November
2. Raised bed preparation Agronomic November
3. Earthen pitcher collection Management December
4. Jute fibre collection Other measures December
5. Making pore on the bottom of the pitcher Management December
6. Filling the pitchers with irrigation water Other measures January
7. Placing the pitchers on the beds Management January
8. Seed sown on the bed Agronomic January

8 hours labour cost equals to 1 day labour

4.5 Costs and inputs needed for establishment

Specify input Unit Quantity Costs per Unit Total costs per input % of costs borne by land users
Labour Land preparation persons/day 5.0 500.0 2500.0 100.0
Labour Raised bed preparation persons/day 7.0 500.0 3500.0 100.0
Labour Earthen pitcher collection persons/day 2.0 500.0 1000.0 100.0
Labour Jute fibre collection persons/day 2.0 500.0 1000.0 100.0
Equipment Making pores on the bottom of the pitcher persons/day 5.0 500.0 2500.0 100.0
Equipment Filling pitcher with irrigation water persons/day 5.0 500.0 2500.0 100.0
Equipment Placing pitcher on the bed persons/day 5.0 500.0 2500.0 100.0
Equipment Seed sown on the bed persons/day 1.0 500.0 500.0 100.0
Equipment Earthen pot number 40.0 25.0 1000.0 100.0
Equipment Jute fibre kg 2.0 50.0 100.0 100.0
Equipment Drilling machine number 2.0 100.0 200.0 100.0
Plant material Seed( Bottle gourd, sweet gourd, cucumber etc) kg 2.0 200.0 400.0 100.0
Fertilizers and biocides Urea( Nitrogen) kg 15.0 16.0 240.0 100.0
Fertilizers and biocides TSP( Triple super phosphate) kg 6.0 22.0 132.0 100.0
Fertilizers and biocides MOP( Muriate of potash) kg 10.0 30.0 300.0 100.0
Fertilizers and biocides Gypsum( Sulphur) kg 35.0 3.0 105.0 100.0
Other Irrigation water cost Tk/bigha 3000.0
Total costs for establishment of the Technology 18477.0

4.6 Maintenance/ recurrent activities

Activity Type of measure Timing/ frequency
1. Loosening the soil by labourer with spade Agronomic March
2. Putting soil on the bed by labourer with spade Agronomic March

4.7 Costs and inputs needed for maintenance/ recurrent activities (per year)

Specify input Unit Quantity Costs per Unit Total costs per input % of costs borne by land users
Labour Loosening the soil by labourer with spade persons/day 5.0 500.0 2500.0 100.0
Labour Putting soil on the bed by labourer with spade persons/day 6.0 500.0 3000.0 100.0
Total costs for maintenance of the Technology 5500.0

4.8 Most important factors affecting the costs

Describe the most determinate factors affecting the costs:

Labour costs affect the total technology cost. Labour scarcity is severe in coastal areas of Bangladesh.

5. Natural and human environment

5.1 Climate

Annual rainfall
  • < 250 mm
  • 251-500 mm
  • 501-750 mm
  • 751-1,000 mm
  • 1,001-1,500 mm
  • 1,501-2,000 mm
  • 2,001-3,000 mm
  • 3,001-4,000 mm
  • > 4,000 mm
Specify average annual rainfall (if known), in mm:


Specifications/ comments on rainfall:

Monsoon rainfall (June to October), in winter season very little rain (October to March).

Indicate the name of the reference meteorological station considered:


Agro-climatic zone
  • sub-humid

5.2 Topography

Slopes on average:
  • flat (0-2%)
  • gentle (3-5%)
  • moderate (6-10%)
  • rolling (11-15%)
  • hilly (16-30%)
  • steep (31-60%)
  • very steep (>60%)
  • plateau/plains
  • ridges
  • mountain slopes
  • hill slopes
  • footslopes
  • valley floors
Altitudinal zone:
  • 0-100 m a.s.l.
  • 101-500 m a.s.l.
  • 501-1,000 m a.s.l.
  • 1,001-1,500 m a.s.l.
  • 1,501-2,000 m a.s.l.
  • 2,001-2,500 m a.s.l.
  • 2,501-3,000 m a.s.l.
  • 3,001-4,000 m a.s.l.
  • > 4,000 m a.s.l.
Indicate if the Technology is specifically applied in:
  • not relevant

5.3 Soils

Soil depth on average:
  • very shallow (0-20 cm)
  • shallow (21-50 cm)
  • moderately deep (51-80 cm)
  • deep (81-120 cm)
  • very deep (> 120 cm)
Soil texture (topsoil):
  • fine/ heavy (clay)
Soil texture (> 20 cm below surface):
  • fine/ heavy (clay)
Topsoil organic matter:
  • low (<1%)

5.4 Water availability and quality

Ground water table:

< 5 m

Availability of surface water:


Water quality (untreated):


Is water salinity a problem?



In dry winter season, the water as well as soil is moderately to highly saline. In the rainy season, salt washed out by heavy rain and flood water.

Is flooding of the area occurring?




5.5 Biodiversity

Species diversity:
  • low
Habitat diversity:
  • low

5.6 Characteristics of land users applying the Technology

Sedentary or nomadic:
  • Sedentary
Market orientation of production system:
  • subsistence (self-supply)
Off-farm income:
  • less than 10% of all income
Relative level of wealth:
  • poor
Individuals or groups:
  • individual/ household
Level of mechanization:
  • manual work
  • mechanized/ motorized
  • women
  • men
Age of land users:
  • youth
  • middle-aged

5.7 Average area of land owned or leased by land users applying the Technology

  • < 0.5 ha
  • 0.5-1 ha
  • 1-2 ha
  • 2-5 ha
  • 5-15 ha
  • 15-50 ha
  • 50-100 ha
  • 100-500 ha
  • 500-1,000 ha
  • 1,000-10,000 ha
  • > 10,000 ha
Is this considered small-, medium- or large-scale (referring to local context)?
  • small-scale

5.8 Land ownership, land use rights, and water use rights

Land ownership:
  • individual, not titled
  • individual, titled
Land use rights:
  • individual
Water use rights:
  • open access (unorganized)

5.9 Access to services and infrastructure

  • poor
  • moderate
  • good
  • poor
  • moderate
  • good
technical assistance:
  • poor
  • moderate
  • good
employment (e.g. off-farm):
  • poor
  • moderate
  • good
  • poor
  • moderate
  • good
  • poor
  • moderate
  • good
roads and transport:
  • poor
  • moderate
  • good
drinking water and sanitation:
  • poor
  • moderate
  • good
financial services:
  • poor
  • moderate
  • good

6. Impacts and concluding statements

6.1 On-site impacts the Technology has shown

Socio-economic impacts


crop production

Comments/ specify:


crop quality


risk of production failure


production area

Comments/ specify:

As the technology has been proved promising for salt affected soil management, its usage has spreaded for crop production in large area.

land management

Income and costs

expenses on agricultural inputs


farm income

Comments/ specify:

Agricultural inputs decreased

diversity of income sources

Comments/ specify:

Production of different vegetables increased. So, the produces are being used in agro based industries for different purposes.

economic disparities

Comments/ specify:

Different classes of people are now being involved in vegetable production in saline areas and the poor and unemployed people are earning money by selling agricultural products.


Comments/ specify:

As the technology requires so many people for pitcher setting on the bed, so workload will be increased.

Socio-cultural impacts

food security/ self-sufficiency


health situation


land use/ water rights


SLM/ land degradation knowledge


Ecological impacts

Water cycle/ runoff

water quantity


surface runoff


excess water drainage


groundwater table/ aquifer



Comments/ specify:

Evaporation decreases due to drip irrigation comparison to flood irrigation.


soil moisture


soil cover


soil loss


soil accumulation


soil crusting/ sealing

Comments/ specify:

Due to loosening of raised soil beds.

soil compaction


nutrient cycling/ recharge




soil organic matter/ below ground C



Comments/ specify:

As the soil will be kept moist during crop production, soil acidity will be reduced.

Biodiversity: vegetation, animals

Vegetation cover


biomass/ above ground C


plant diversity


animal diversity


beneficial species


habitat diversity


pest/ disease control

Climate and disaster risk reduction

drought impacts


emission of carbon and greenhouse gases




6.2 Off-site impacts the Technology has shown

water availability


groundwater/ river pollution


impact of greenhouse gases

Comments/ specify:

Cropping intensity has increased due to the technology adoption and the crops are absorbing more CO2.

6.3 Exposure and sensitivity of the Technology to gradual climate change and climate-related extremes/ disasters (as perceived by land users)

Gradual climate change

Gradual climate change
Season Type of climatic change/ extreme How does the Technology cope with it?
annual temperature increase moderately
seasonal temperature summer increase moderately
annual rainfall decrease well
seasonal rainfall dry season decrease very well

Climate-related extremes (disasters)

Meteorological disasters
How does the Technology cope with it?
tropical storm well
local thunderstorm not known
Climatological disasters
How does the Technology cope with it?
drought well
Hydrological disasters
How does the Technology cope with it?
general (river) flood well
storm surge/ coastal flood moderately
Biological disasters
How does the Technology cope with it?
insect/ worm infestation well

As the beds under the technology is a little bit raised from the level ground and the agronomic practices are more intensive than the traditional cultivation system, so insect/pest infestation is below economic injury level.

6.4 Cost-benefit analysis

How do the benefits compare with the establishment costs (from land users’ perspective)?
Short-term returns:


Long-term returns:


How do the benefits compare with the maintenance/ recurrent costs (from land users' perspective)?
Short-term returns:


Long-term returns:

very positive

6.5 Adoption of the Technology

  • 10-50%
Of all those who have adopted the Technology, how many have did so spontaneously, i.e. without receiving any material incentives/ payments?
  • 50-90%

6.6 Adaptation

Has the Technology been modified recently to adapt to changing conditions?


6.7 Strengths/ advantages/ opportunities of the Technology

Strengths/ advantages/ opportunities in the land user’s view
Increase crop production. Due to soil salinity the crop yield was very poor before adopting the technology.
Reduces soil salinity. The water enters into the soil through jute fibre , as a result, salt cannot come into soil surface through capillary movement.
Decrease cost of production. The whole field is not irrigated, instead the raised soil bed is irrigated with pitcher water. So, labour cost reduces.
Less irrigation water use. Water of 3-4 pitcher can complete a vegetable's life cycle.
Strengths/ advantages/ opportunities in the compiler’s or other key resource person’s view
Increase land cover in degraded land. Reducing salinity helps to grow crops vigorously throughout the field.
Increase soil productivity. Through decrease of soil salinity, most of the soil nutrients become available for plants.
Decrease soil pollution.
Have opportunity to extend in moderately saline areas.

6.8 Weaknesses/ disadvantages/ risks of the Technology and ways of overcoming them

Weaknesses/ disadvantages/ risks in the land user’s view How can they be overcome?
Not suitable for large scale crop production. Mechanization can be introduced instead of manual labour to cover large area.
Establishment cost is higher. With proper agronomic practices, farmers are trying to get higher yield and they are producing high value crops like rock melon.
In case of high salinity, yield is not sufficient. Adoption of the technology for long period of time, will help to decrease high salinity.
Weaknesses/ disadvantages/ risks in the compiler’s or other key resource person’s view How can they be overcome?
Labour scarcity. Farm mechanization is badly in need.
Establishment cost higher. Financial assistance should be given from the Government.

7. References and links

7.1 Methods/ sources of information

  • field visits, field surveys


  • interviews with land users


  • interviews with SLM specialists/ experts


  • compilation from reports and other existing documentation


7.2 References to available publications

Title, author, year, ISBN:

Saline soils of Bangladesh, 2010

Available from where? Costs?

Soil Resource Development Institute, Free of cost

7.3 Links to relevant information which is available online

Title/ description:

Causes of Salinity Intrusion in Coastal Belt of Bangladesh


Title/ description:


URL: -

Title/ description:

Environment and Livelihoods in Tropical Coastal Zones: Managing Agriculture .


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