The United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has developed the WaPOR, a new high-tech tool to measure how efficiently water is used in agriculture, particularly in water-scarce countries.
The open-access database taps satellite data to enable farmers achieve more reliable agricultural yields and allows for the optimization of irrigation systems.
It was designed by FAO IT, land and water experts through a $10 million project-funded by the Government of Netherlands focusing on countries facing or projected to face physical of infrastructural water scarcity.
FAO’s Deputy Director-General, Climate Change and Natural Resources Maria Helena Semedo said, “Water use continues to surge at the same time that climate change- with increasing droughts and extreme weather- is altering and reducing water availability for agriculture.”
The global water use, majority which is in agriculture, has outpaced the rate of population growth for most of the last century and some regions are close to breaching viable limits.
It is estimated that for each 1 °C of global warming, 7 per cent of the global population will experience a decrease of 20 per cent or more in renewable water resources.
Improved management of water resources is a critical area for intervention in the vast majority of the national climate-change adaptation and mitigation plans submitted to fulfill commitments under the Paris Climate Agreement underlines the need to “increase the ability to adapt to the adverse impacts of climate change and foster climate resilience in a manner that does not threaten food production.”
WaPOR analyzes the water utilised through farming systems and generates empirical evidence about how it can be used most productively.
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.
These will help agricultural extension agents to enable farmers obtain more reliable crop yields, both improving their livelihoods and making them more sustainable.
“Supporting smallholder farmers with access to geospatial information that can optimize water availability and curb their vulnerability to climate change is a key mission for FAO and this is an important first step,” said FAO Assistant Director-General René Castro, Head, Climate, Biodiversity, Land and Water Department.
The continental level database, which also covers the Near East, is live. Country-level data for Benin, Burundi, Egypt, Ethiopia, Ghana, Jordan, Kenya, Mali, Morocco, Mozambique, Rwanda, South Sudan, Tunisia and Uganda will be made available in June 2017.
More detailed data will go online in October, starting with pilot areas in Ethiopia and Mali.