UN agency develops new tool to save agricultural water and increase “crop per drop”

FAO, the United Nations food and agricultural agency, created an online database that uses satellite data and Google Earth images to help farmers achieve more reliable agricultural yields and allowing for the optimization of irrigation systems, focusing on parts of Africa and the Middle East that are facing water scarcity.

The new tool is named WaPOR and it allows for fine-grained analysis of water utilised through farming systems, generating empirical evidence about how it can be most productively used, the agency said.

WaPOR was presented during a high-level partners meeting for FAO’s Coping with water scarcity in agriculture: a global framework for action in a changing climate.

It sifts through satellite data and uses Google Earth computing power to produce maps that show how much biomass and yield is produced per cubic meter of water consumed. The maps can be rendered at resolutions of as little as 30 to 250 meters, and updated every one to ten days.

FAO’s team of information technology and land and water officers has designed WaPOR – through a $10 million project funded by the Government of the Netherlands – to cover Africa and the Near East, with a focus on key countries that are or are projected soon to face physical or infrastructural water scarcity.

The continental level database is available online, while country level data will be made available in June for Benin, Burundi, Egypt, Ethiopia, Ghana, Jordan, Kenya, Lebanon, Mali, Morocco, Mozambique, Rwanda, South Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, Uganda, West Bank and Gaza Strip, and Yemen. Even more detailed data will come online in October, starting with pilot areas in Lebanon, Ethiopia and Mali.


Source: FAO. Read the press release about WaPOR on FAO’s website.

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(Image: Sprinkler irrigation in the High Plains, Texas. Photo credit: AgriLife Today/Flickr)