Bandsar agriculture: indigenous runoff-harvesting &climate change resilience in Iranian dry lands

Document Type: Research Paper


1 Faculty member (retired), Agricultural Research, Education and Extension Organization, Iran

2 Senior engineer, Agriculture and Natural Resources Research Center, Khorasan-e-Razavi, Iran, P.O.Box 91735-488, Mashhad, Iran


Iranians have a very long history of water harvesting to address water scarcity and the consequences of frequent droughts. Among these strategies, Bandsar is a wide spread indigenous practice, which has been utilized in the central and the southern part of Khorasan province (the northeast Iran). Bandsar in Persian means a series of consecutive bands, berms, levees, or dikes. A Bandsar consists of a series of levees constructed along contour lines and adjacent to an ephemeral stream in a way that occasional floodwater flows can be diverted from the stream into the field(s) of the Bandsar system, to temporarily store the water on the upstream side of the levees. Water gradually penetrates into the soil profile and the accumulated moisture can be used for an appropriate cultivation. Bandsar agriculture has been found to be very unique and sustainable with regards to several key factors such as owners' participation, land-use, and water resource management. In this regard, a field survey was conducted in the suburbs of Sabzevar (57o 4'E, 36o 12'N), which are widely covered with Bandsars, some of which are still being used in the present time. Bandsar's components, construction method, operation, and maintenance have been studied and summarized here according to the information gathered from field observations and face to face interviews with some of the most experienced Bandsar owners.