Remote sensing technology for water crop irrigation expands in Africa/Middle East

A $7 million donation by the Dutch government will be used to support the use of remote sensing technology in Africa and the Middle East...

Fao Netherlands

Fao Netherlands

A $7 million donation by the Dutch government will be used to support the use of remote sensing technology in helping water-scarce countries in Africaand the Middle East tomonitor and improve the way they use water for crop production.

The project uses satellite data to find land areas where water use is not translating into optimal agricultural production, identify the source of the problem and recommend different planting and irrigation techniques.

The data tools created under the project, which will be freely available to governments and farmers alike, also aim to help policymakers in taking evidence-based policy decisions.

A key component of the four-year program is an updated data portal of interpreted remote sensing satellite images that show the state of cropped areas in near real-time.

Based on this information, which incorporates rainfall and crop transpiration data, experts can quickly assess problem areas where water and land productivity are low, meaning these areas use relatively high amounts of scarce natural resources for minimal yield.

Using remote sensing rather than country survey data offers a unified measuring tool that allows for easy comparisons between the productivity of land areas -- from the country level to the farm level.

A training component of the project, in turn, aims to improve the capacity of farmers and policy-makers to increase water productivity in local agriculture -- that means producing more value per unit of water.

The data portal will provide information on three spatial scales: the continental level over the whole of Africa and Near East, country and river basin level, and irrigation scheme level.

With the additional funding, the project will be expanding its target countries to include three additional countries - Jordan, Lebanon and Syria.

This is as well as the Jordan River basin - chosen because they are experiencing increased stress on their already scarce natural resources due to severe migration issues. This will bring the total number of participating countries to 18.

"The project uses some of the most advanced technologies and takes into account the ecosystems and the equitable use of water resources," FAO (Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations) director-general José Graziano da Silva said at an event marking the extended agreement at FAO headquarters in Rome.

Permanent Representative of the Netherlands to FAO Gerda Verburg, said: “With this innovative remote sense approach to improving water productivity we give farmers a concrete tool to take decisions about the best use of water and what kind of crops to grow -- but also about the growing season so that they can target their investments.”

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