Skip to content

Water stress is becoming more prevalent as the climate warms and the demands of intensive agriculture and industrial food systems increase. In a season of drought, CLIMAVORE promotes aridity-resistant varieties and builds microclimates and dry-farming structures to harness water from the air.

An experimental gardens providing shading, humidity and breeze tested how to reduce water stress
Based on Mediterranean drystone microclimates, a series of experimental gardens providing shading, humidity and breeze tested how to reduce water stress. They piloted the watering of fruit trees without water in Sicily, Italy, 2018.

In the Mediterranean, most of the driest winters since the beginning of the 20th century have been experienced within the past two decades, but the struggle to cultivate edible produce in water-scarce territories is not new. Dry irrigation techniques, like the Jardinu Pantescu in Pantelleria, have existed for centuries, using microclimates or collective infrastructures to “water without water”. Such technologies exist not only in the Mediterranean. In the Andes amuna structures slow down water runoff from the mountains, while the sunken beds between raised clay walls of the zuni “waffle” gardens retain moisture in Arizona, and buried clay water containers keep the ground moist in arid latitudes from Rajasthan to Burkina Faso. Most of these indigenous practices face broader cultural erasure, but these systems are more needed than ever before when confronted with a perennial season of drought.

As the heat frontier shifts, a growing number of armed conflicts and large-scale exploitative labour practices are driven by water and the access to it. This phenomenon is not new—in Sicily, the origins of the mafia date back to the struggle to control irrigation for citrus in the nineteenth century—but it is accelerating. Today’s year-round demand for fruit and veg exports to northern Europe requires vast acres of polytunnels in Sicily’s “plastic cities,” worked by poorly paid seasonal migrant labourers who are vulnerable to abusive conditions and sexual exploitation.

CLIMAVORE re-introduces 'watering without water’ as a form of emancipation from increasing temperatures and labour extortion. It develops contemporary microclimates to sense and reduce water stress in citrus trees, while reintroducing crop varieties that can cope with heat, from manna sap and pomodoro siccagno to tumminia grain. In contrast to greenhouses—bubbles that separate one atmosphere from another—these prototypes experimented with enhancing or harvesting natural water flows with a view to being implemented in other places during seasons of drought.

Rows of fava beans alternate the spaces between olive trees at XFarm, Puglia, Italy, where confiscated land from the mafia has been turned into a regenerative farm for the common good, transitioning from heavily irrigated crops to drought-resilience.