Agriculture is a key sector of the Rwandan economy; it contributes approximately 33% to the gross domestic product and employs more than 70% of the entire labour force. Although some farmers are already using water-efficient irrigation infrastructure, too much of the available water is still lost due to unsustainable use of existing irrigation systems, and/or maximum crop yields are not achieved due to under-irrigation.

Hence, small to medium-sized food producers in Rwanda do not have sufficient access to information regarding optimal irrigation practices. To close this information gap, FutureWater has devised an innovation that can calculate a location-specific irrigation advice based on Virtual Weather Stations, expressed in an irrigation duration (“SOSIA”). The use of the outdated CROPWAT 8.0 method, and the lack of good coverage of real-time weather stations in Rwanda, means that current advice falls short. In addition, existing advisory services are often too expensive for the scale on which small to medium-sized farmers produce. There is a potential to increase the productivity of the irrigation water by up to 25%. Initially, the innovation will be disseminated via the Holland Greentech network, with a pilot in Rwanda consisting of 40 customers. Aside from further refining the SOSIA tool, upscaling strategies will be explored in this second phase to identify other intermediaries that could benefit from the SOSIA service so to realize its optimal impact.

FutureWater has found with Holland Greentech an ideal partner to roll-out this innovation due to their presence in and outside of Rwanda, where they provide irrigation kits and advice. This offers the opportunity to quickly scale-up the proposed innovation. With their expertise in agro-hydrological modeling and the African agricultural sector, FutureWater and Holland Greentech respectively have acquired ample experience to make this innovation project and its knowledge development to a success.

The tools can be accessed through online URLs for the Virtual Weather Stations and for the Irrigation Advisory Tool.

The beneficiaries of this training, provided by FutureWater together with Solidaridad, belong to the Zambia Agricultural Research Institute (ZARI).
ZARI is a department within the Ministry of Agriculture of Zambia with the overall objective to provide a high quality, appropriate and cost-effective service to farmers, generating and adapting crop, soil and plant protection technologies. This department comprises a number of sections, one of which, for the purpose of this training request is the Soil and Water Management (SWM) division. ZARI and the SWM carry out demand-driven research, trying to find solutions to the problems faced by Zambian small-scale farmers, especially considering the near- and long-term impacts of climate change.
The training programme consists of a hybrid approach of e-learning and in-person training sessions and is structured around the following modules:
  1. Remote sensing-based analysis using Google Earth Engine to assess trends in land use, management, degradation and hotspots for intervention.
  2. Data collection and database management.
  3. GIS and remote sensing to assess suitability for SWC.
  4. Effectiveness and prioritization of SWC using open-source tools.
  5. Independent working on case study.
At the end of the training, it is expected that participants have achieved several objectives such as acquisition of technical skills for extracting relevant data from open access remote sensing products and improved knowledge of data collection and database management.

Zambia’s Ministry of Lands, Natural Resources and Environmental Protection is in the process of defining the policy framework and agenda to guide wetlands management. As part of this planning process, The Nature Conservancy (TNC) is partnering with the Ministry and other stakeholders to develop a management plan for the Lukanga Swamps, which is an important biodiversity area and serves as a major hydrological component of the Kafue basin.

FutureWater is contracted to assess the value and contribution of the Lukanga Swamps to the Kafue Basin, which has not yet been evaluated. While the biodiversity value of wetlands in general is widely accepted, evaluating the contribution of hydrological ecosystem services within basin systems is becoming a more commonplace holistic approach. There is need for solid scientific evidence regarding the role the Lukanga Swamps play in water quantity and quality within the Kafue River, and the value this contributes to water security for Lusaka and other surrounding and downstream areas that rely on the inundation and recession of the Lukanga Swamps’ flood waters.

During high flow, Kafue River backs up into the Lukanga Swamps and even overflows into the area during the highest flows, returning to its normal course as the high flows dissipate. The amount contributed and the importance of the Lukanga Swamps and Lukanga river overall to Kafue River flows as a whole is not well understood, making management planning for the area a challenge. Water quality of the Kafue river improves downstream between Kitwe and Ndola bridge gauge and Lubungu stream gauges. As with flows, the role of the Lukanga Swamps has in influencing Kafue river water quality requires determination.

It is assumed that the Lukanga Swamps plays a role in attenuating mining pollution in the Kafue river. If this is the case, then there is a basis to engage mining houses in payment for ecosystem services schemes to help support management of the Lukanga Swamps and its watershed. This would ensure the Lukanga Swamps continue to provide vital ecosystem services, such as water purification. Water quantity (flows) in the Kafue river is also affected by the Lukanga swamps. The extent to which this happens, and will happen is a function of the utilization and health of the Lukanga swamps.

With the Ministry of Lands, Natural Resources and Environmental Protection in the process of developing the overarching policy framework for wetlands, and Water Resources Management Authority (WARMA) defining the Kafue Catchment Plans, TNC planned interventions in the Lukanga will serve as a vital opportunity to inform both processes.

FutureWater will apply a combined approach of (I) remote sensing, (ii) SWAT hydrological modelling, and (iii) WEAP modelling of uses and fluxes of water and contaminants. Based on these tools, the main water fluxes, erosion, sediment loads, and flooding characteristics (extent, duration and number of floods) will be assessed of the swamps. The following resulting key indicators will be derived (combining RS-based and model-based estimates):

  • Water levels
  • Flooded extent, duration and frequency
  • Inundation storage volumes
  • Reliance of the swamps on surface waters versus groundwater
  • Overall health of the system
  • Residence times (related to regulation of flows, and settling of sediments)
  • Infiltration periods (related to filtering of contaminants)

Ultimately, the hydrology and ecosystem services valuation of the Lukanga Swamps will be assessed under current management and different future scenarios.