• A-Frame: a wooden frame in the form of a letter ‘A’ with a spirit level set in the cross-piece. Used to lay-out a contour across a sloping field
  • Agroforestry: the deliberate combination of woody and non-woody species – most commonly trees with crops or grass – for multiple benefits
  • Alternative Energy:  renewable energy from wind (windmills) the sun (solar panels) or organic matter/ faeces (biogas). Hydro-electric schemes sometimes included in this definition; energy-saving stoves also
  • Agrobiodiversity: the range of living organisms within agricultural systems – both farmed and natural species
  • Aquaculture (Fish Farming): farming of fish in ponds, fed artificially, and often protected from birds by nets
  • Base Scenario (Baseline): the current status of a catchment resulting from ‘business-as-usual’ activities
  • Berm: a bank or bund usually constructed from earth
  • Biodiversity: the range of living organisms within a given area
  • Biogas: gas (mainly methane) from anaerobic digestion of organic matter (usually cow manure and urine) in a specially designed unit that can be piped and used for cooking or lighting
  • Blackwater:  waste water and sewage from toilets
  • Brush Packing: laying out cut bush/ scrub along a contour/ across a slope to reduce erosion and protect emerging vegetation
  • Carrying Capacity: the maximum number of individuals that can be supported, fed or are able to survive in any specific habitat or ecosystem without causing the breakdown of the habitat or ecosystem
  • Catchment: an area from which any rainfall falling on it will drain into a watercourse through surface flow to a common point: sometimes referred to as a watershed. In the Malawian context around 35,000 ha in size (see also Micro-Catchment; Sub-Catchment; River Basin)
  • Catchment Hardening: compaction of parts of the catchment through overgrazing, road building, housing etc. causing an increase in runoff
  • Catchment Management Plan: a plan of action to achieve the catchment vision
  • Catchment Vision: the future that a group want to see in their catchment – their goal
  • Climate Change Adaptation: measures taken to adapt to the impacts of climate change by lessening their impacts and/or reducing risks of extreme events
  • Climate Change Mitigation: measures to decrease the reduction of greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere through reduced emissions, or by carbon storage (sequestration)
  • Climate Resilience: the ability of a living system to restore itself to its original condition after being exposed to shocks or disturbance caused by climate
  • Check Dam:  a structure made of stone, brushwood or other materials that partially block a gully to reduce erosion by slowing flow of runoff
  • Compost: decomposed organic matter made in a heap or a pit which adds fertility to soil and improves structure
  • Conservation Agriculture (CA): an approach to managing agro-ecosystems for improved and sustained productivity, increased profits and food security while preserving and enhancing the resource base and the environment. CA is characterized by three linked principles, namely:
  • 1.         Minimum mechanical soil disturbance
  • 2.         Permanent organic soil cover
  • 3.         Diversification of crop species grown in sequences and/ or associations
  • Contour: a line joining points on the same elevation/ a barrier across a slope (e.g. contour vegetative strip; a contour earth bund; contour ridge)
  • Crop Rotation: changing crops from season to season (or after a longer period) on the same plot of land – for example a legume following a cereal crop
  • Culvert: large pipe under road draining water from catchment on the far side
  • Cut-Off Drain: channel/ trench usually sited on the contour, to hold potentially damaging runoff from catchment above fields/ homesteads etc. Where the catchment is large, it may be graded to lead water away safely
  • Dambo: seasonally waterlogged low-lying areas which are mainly covered with grass
  • Decision Support System (DSS):  a system that helps guide people to make choices from a ‘menu’ of activities based on specific needs and situations
  • Deforestation: the partial or complete loss of trees within a forest and the associated loss of the forest’s ecosystem function and services
  • Dyke: an embankment alongside a watercourse to prevent flooding
  • Endemic: a plant (or animal) that is originally from, and confined to, a particular location
  • Eutrophication:  the enrichment of aquatic systems with plant nutrients, mostly nitrates and phosphates, which stimulates growth of algae, and depletes oxygen, killing local plants and fish and thus damaging the indigenous aquatic ecosystem
  • Fauna: animal life
  • Flora: plant life
  • Graded Terraces: terrace constructed with a lateral gradient (slightly off contour) to allow discharge of excess water
  • Gabion/ Gabion Basket: a wire mesh box of (usually) 1.0 (or 2.0) metres length x 0.5 m height and 0.5 m width, packed with stones and connected to each other by wire to form a semi-permeable weir across a gully, or a wall for bank protection
  • Green Manure: planting a leguminous crop which is then ploughed into the soil to increase fertility and improve structure
  • Greywater: used household water sourced from baths, showers, bathroom basins and laundries, but excludes water from the toilet (= black water) Grey water can contain pathogens, high concentrations of nutrients and other contaminants that pose a risk to human health or the environment if used inappropriately
  • Herbicides: chemicals – or sometimes organic substances - used to kill weeds
  • Inorganic Fertilizer: industrially produced fertilizers of a known composition; mainly composed of the macronutrients, nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium (NPK), with micronutrients added where necessary
  • Integrated Catchment Management (ICM): integrated management of all the components that operate within a catchment, as well as the human activities that impact on, and are impacted on, by the different components.
  • Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM): a process which promotes the coordinated development and management of water, land and related resources in order to maximise economic and social welfare in an equitable manner without compromising the sustainability of vital ecosystems
  • Intercropping (or Companion Cropping or Mixed Cropping):  a combination of different crops in the same field to provide benefits greater than planting separately but also to reduce risk
  • Invasive Alien Species: plant species that have been introduced from outside the country (or outside a particular zone) that reproduce rapidly and reduce production of desired species
  • Land Tenure: the rights to use of land – may be temporary or permanent
  • Levee: embankment (usually of earth) built alongside a river to prevent flooding – similar to berm but generally larger
  • Line Level:  a simple device consisting of a spirit level suspended on a string between two poles that is used to determine contour lines
  • Micro-Catchment: See also Catchment, in the Malawian context around 500 ha in size
  • Mitigation: the implementation of practical measures to reduce adverse impacts: in the context of climate change see Climate Change Mitigation (above)
  • Mitre Drain:  road drain – draining the near-side of the road from the crest (also see culvert)
  • Modelling: use of computerised mathematical formulae based on available data/ estimates to predict a catchment’s reaction to (for example) rainfall or conservation treatments such as afforestation
  • Mulching: the application of (usually) organic material on the soil surface to yield multiple benefits including moisture conservation, reduced runoff, weed control, temperature modification and a build-up of organic matter, fertility and biodiversity in the top soil
  • Multi-storey planting: planting pattern arranged according to height of plants
  • Participatory Rural Appraisal:  a participatory methodology aimed at articulating problems and potentials involving members of the local community and facilitated by a trained ‘outsider’. Combines various tools, such as transect walks, historical profiles, participatory mapping, wealth ranking, and ranking/ scoring of different options
  • Permaculture: a system of ‘natural’ farming that makes use of a combination of plants, ensuring maximum integration of resources and seeking symbiotic relationships and continuous production. Permaculture is often characterised by a three dimensional geometric design
  • Phiri-Lino-frame: see A-frame.
  • Problem Tree:  type of analysis that offers an overview of known causes and effect of an identified problem.
  • RAAKS: Rapid Appraisal of Agriculture Knowledge Systems combines elements of PRA (see above) and institutional analysis to create a framework for participatory action research to understand and improve agricultural knowledge systems
  • Reclamation: restoring land from a state of serious erosion, such as a gully, and (at least) stabilising its state
  • Rehabilitation: the process of bringing natural resources – croplands, rangelands, forests etc – back to their original state after degradation has taken place
  • Remote Sensing: monitoring from a distance – for example aerial photography or satellite imagery
  • Resilience: the ability of a living system to restore itself to its original condition after being exposed to an outside disturbance
  • Resource Map: showing the economic activity or natural resources in an area spatially by means of different symbols or colours.
  • Rotational Resting (Rotational Grazing): allowing a recovering period for pastures/ rangeland through resting them from grazing
  • Riparian Buffer Zone: a strip of several metres in width (depending on the size of the river, and its flow regime) alongside a river which is planted to perennial vegetation, including trees, principally to protect the riverbanks from erosion
  • River Basin: the catchment of a whole river
  • Runoff: surface flow of non-infiltrated rainfall
  • Sand Dam: a masonry dam in a watercourse that captures sand behinds its wall in which sub-surface flow of water is stored allowing recharge of the local water table for consumption and/or irrigation
  • Semi-Structured Interview: a participatory methodology tool that is used to gather information in an informal way by constructing a discussion around a small number of key questions (in contrast to a structured questionnaire)
  • Soil Erosion: the detachment and transform of soil particles: i.e. the loss of soil form the original site
  • Strip Cropping: planting broad strips (several metres wide) of different crops along the contour in sequence, usually so that a crop which is prone to erosion is ‘protected’ by a band of a denser crop
  • Sub-Catchment: See Catchment, in the Malawian context around 4 500 ha in size
  • Sustainability: the ability of a system to survive for some specified (finite) time
  • Swale: a channel made from earth with excavated soil placed downslope (forming a bank or bund) either on the contour to hold runoff water for infiltration, or on a slight gradient to divert it for water harvesting or safe disposal
  • SWAT: the Soil and Water Assessment Tool is a model used to predict the effect of management decisions on water, sediment, nutrient and pesticide yields with on large, ungauged river basins
  • SWOT Analysis (of Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats Analysis): a structured process to evaluate the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats involved in an initiative
  • Strengths, Weakness, Opportunities, Threats (SWOT):  a participatory exercise used to evaluate a system, activity, project, organisation etc. Usually a SWOT is developed and depicted on a wallchart divided into four sections
  • Tied Ridges: low earth ridges separated by furrows which are blocked at intervals by soil (= ties) to capture rainfall where it falls. A form of in-situ water conservation
  • Tillage: working the soil by plough or hoe. Minimum Tillage implies reducing the amount of tillage as much as possible.  Zero-Tillage or No-till means no tillage at all
  • Transect Walk: a tool used in participatory processes where a facilitator walks a transect of village/ community land/ a micro-watershed with a group of local people as a means to open discussion on problems and potentials
  • Wastewater: water is water that has been negatively affected in quality by human activity, and can originate from domestic, industrial, commercial or agricultural activities or any combination thereof, including surface runoff or stormwater
  • Water Conservation: the sustainable and efficient management of surface and underground water, drinking water, and water in rivers, streams, reservoirs, wells, dams, canals, channels, lakes or wetlands
  • Water Harvesting:  the collection and concentration of rainfall runoff for productive purposes
  • Water Use Efficiency: maximising productivity in relation to water in a farming system
  • Wetlands: lands characterised by permanent, shallow water, through which (typically) reeds, grasses and papyrus grow
  • Windbreak:  trees planted usually in lines against the prevailing wind to reduce wind damage to crops, lower rates of evapotranspiration and minimise wind erosion
  • Zaï planting pits: shallow but wide planting pits spaces spaced at about 90 cm apart, which collect and concentrate rainfall from the bare land between: a form of water harvesting, originating from Burkina Faso