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 The use of the outdated CROPWAT 8.0 method, and the lack of good coverage of real-time weather stations in Rwanda, means that current advice falls short.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.

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.

UNCCD is the sole legally binding international agreement linking environment and development to sustainable land management. As some of the most vulnerable ecosystems and peoples can be found in arid, semi-arid and dry sub-humid areas, UNCCD especially addresses these drylands. Productive capacities in drylands are threatened by megatrends such as climate change and land degradation, where changing precipitation and temperature potentially exacerbate processes of degradation and where degraded lands make productive systems more vulnerable to impacts of climate change.

UNCCD therefore aims to support the reorientation of productive capacities towards sustainable and resilient patterns, in order to reverse the impact of land degradation and mitigate climate change impact. To this end, UNCCD is interested in the identification of regions and crops at a particularly high risk of land degradation and climate change impact. The outcomes of this activity should support informing of national governments of risk profiles of their main cash crops and, subsequently, support identification of alternatives for value chains that are projected to become insufficiently productive in the future.

Subsequent work will link towards opportunities around other megatrends such as population changes, consumption patterns, energy and shifting geopolitical patterns present in the identification of new value chains.

The practice of using remote sensing imagery is becoming more widespread. However, the suitability of satellite or flying sensor imagery needs to be evaluated by location. Satellite imagery is available at different price ranges and is fixed in terms of spatial and temporal resolution.

TerraFirma, an organization in Mozambique with the task to map and document land rights, hired FutureWater, HiView and ThirdEye Limitada (Chimoio, Mozambique) to acquire flying sensor imagery over a pilot area near Quelimane, Mozambique. The objective of this pilot project is to determine the suitability of using flying sensor imagery for cadastre mapping in an area of small-scale agriculture in Mozambique.

Flying sensor imagery is adaptable and can be deployed at any requested time. The suitability of these remote sensing approaches is piloted in this study for a small-scale agricultural area in Mozambique. A pilot area is used as case study with flights made during a period of a few days in December 2020, by local flying sensor (drone) operators in Mozambique (ThirdEye Limitada).

The flying sensor imagery was acquired over the period of a few days in December 2020, for a total area of 1,120 hectares. This imagery was used as input for various algorithms that can be suitable for classification and segmentation, namely R packages (kmeans, canny edges, superpixels, contours), QGIS GRASS segmentation package, and ilastik software. This study shows some initial results of using flying sensor imagery in combination with these algorithms. In addition, comparison is made with high resolution satellite imagery (commercial and publicly available) to indicate the differences in processing and results.

With the conclusions from this pilot project, next steps can be made in using flying sensor imagery or high resolution satellite imagery for small-scale agriculture in Mozambique. The time and effort needed for the delineation of field boundaries can be largely reduced by using remote sensing imagery and algorithms for automatic classification and segmentation.

The NARC (National Agricultural Research Centre) is the governmental agricultural research institution at the national level in Jordan, and is the national umbrella for the applied scientific research and agricultural consultation.

Training courses, conferences, and specialized workshops are organized by NARC at their research centers throughout the country. This extension service can be improved with information on spatial data and near-real time observations, as can be generated through remote sensing technology. In particular, flying sensor (drone) technology provides added value to agricultural extension services. Flying sensor technology has observed a growing interest and demand in the agricultural sector of Jordan. To meet these training needs, IHE Delft is collaborating with FutureWater and HiView in providing this TMAT (tailor-made training).

The overarching objective of this TMAT program is to provide participants with practical knowledge on flying sensors and its relevance for the agricultural sector. The modules and topics are structured as follows:

  • Module 1: Basic Understanding of Flying Sensors (background, technology, and setting up drone units).
  • Module 2: Imagery Processing (with ICE, Metashape, and ODM software).
  • Module 3: Crop monitoring
  • Module 4: Advisory services and data dissemination.

In irrigated agriculture options to save water tend to focus on improved irrigation techniques such as drip and sprinkler irrigation. These irrigation techniques are promoted as legitimate means of increasing water efficiency and “saving water” for other uses (such as domestic use and the environment). However, a growing body of evidence, including a key report by FAO (Perry and Steduto, 2017) shows that in most cases, water “savings” at field scale translate into an increase in water consumption at system and basin scale. Yet despite the growing and irrefutable body of evidence, false “water savings” technologies continue to be promoted, subsidized and implemented as a solution to water scarcity in agriculture.

The goal is to stop false “water savings” technologies to be promoted, subsidized and implemented. To achieve this, it is important to quantify the hydrologic impacts of any new investment or policy in the water sector. Normally, irrigation engineers and planners are trained to look at field scale efficiencies or irrigation system efficiencies at the most. Also, many of the tools used by irrigation engineers are field scale oriented (e.g. FAO AquaCrop model). The serious consequences of these actions are to worsen water scarcity, increase vulnerability to drought, and threaten food security.

There is an urgent need to develop simple and pragmatic tools that can evaluate the impact of field scale crop-water interventions at larger scales (e.g. irrigation systems and basins). Although basin scale hydrological models exist, many of these are either overly complex and unable to be used by practitioners, or not specifically designed for the upscaling from field interventions to basin scale impacts. Moreover, achieving results from the widely-used FAO models such as AquaCrop into a basin-wide impact model is time-consuming, complex and expensive. Therefore, FutureWater developed a simple but robust tool to enhance usability and reach, transparency, transferability in data input and output. The tool is based on proven concepts of water productivity, water accounting and the appropriate water terminology, as promoted by FAO globally (FAO, 2013). Hence, the water use is separated in consumptive use, non-consumptive use, and change in storage.

A complete training package was developed which includes a training manual and an inventory of possible field level interventions. The training manual includes the following aspects:

  1. Introduce and present the real water savings tool
  2. Describe the theory underlying the tool and demonstrating some typical applications
  3. Learn how-to prepare the data required for the tool for your own area of interest
  4. Learn when real water savings occur at system and basin scale with field interventions

For smallholder farming systems, there is a huge potential to increase water productivity by improved (irrigated) water management, better access to inputs and agronomical knowledge and improved access to markets. An assessment of the opportunities to boost the water productivity of the various agricultural production systems in Mozambique is a fundamental precondition for informed planning and decision-making processes concerning these issues. Methodologies need to be employed that will result in an overall water productivity increase, by implementing tailored service delivery approaches, modulated into technological packages that can be easily adopted by Mozambican smallholder farmers. This will not only improve the agricultural (water) productivity and food security for the country on a macro level but will also empower and increase the livelihood of Mozambican smallholder farmers on a micro level through climate resilient production methods.

This pilot project aims at identifying, validating and implementing a full set of complementary Technological Packages (TP) in the Zambezi Valley, that can contribute to improve the overall performance of the smallholders’ farming business by increasing their productivity, that will be monitored at different scales (from field to basin). The TPs will cover a combination of improvement on water, irrigation, and agronomical management practices strengthened by improved input and market access. The goal is to design TPs that are tailored to the local context and bring the current family sector a step further in closing the currently existing yield gap. A road map will be developed to scale up the implementation of those TPs that are sustainable on the long run, and extract concrete guidance for monitoring effectiveness of interventions, supporting Dutch aid policy and national agricultural policy. The partnership consisting of Resilience BV, HUB, and FutureWater gives a broad spectrum of expertise and knowledge, giving the basis for an integrated approach in achieving improvements of water productivity.

The main role of FutureWater is monitoring water productivity in target areas using an innovative approach of Flying Sensors, a water productivity simulation model, and field observations. The flying sensors provide regular observations of the target areas, thereby giving insight in the crop conditions and stresses occurring. This information is used both for monitoring the water productivity of the selected fields and determining areas of high or low water productivity. Information on the spatial variation of water productivity can assist with the selection of technical packages to introduce and implement in the field. Flying sensors provide high resolution imagery, which is suitable for distinguishing the different fields and management practices existent in smallholder farming.

In May 2020, FutureWater launched an online portal where all flying sensor imagery from Mozambique, taken as part of the APSAN-Vale project, can be found: futurewater.eu/apsanvaleportal

Project video: Portrait of the activities on water productivity

This tailor-made training aims to build capacity in using tools to support climate-smart irrigation strategies to improve salinity control and enhance agricultural production. The training provides participants with relevant hands-on experience and cutting-edge knowledge on innovative solutions in earth observation technologies and apply this to assess measures for increasing water efficiency in agriculture, increase production and achieve water and climate-smart agriculture.

The training programme will consist of two e-learning training periods, that are separated by a 3-week period of regular on-distance support. The main e-learning training will take place over a 6-week period and is structured around 3 training modules that are divided into several training sessions. These training sessions are comprised of plenary video conferences and include assignments that can be worked on pairwise of individually. Attendance and progress are monitored through the FutureWater Moodle School. Each training module is tailored around different tools for gaining insight into salinity issues, improving salinity control, and enhancing agricultural production in Iraq:

  1. Geospatial mapping of climatic variables, soil salinity and irrigated areas using remote sensing and cloud computing.
  2. Soil-water-plant modeling to determine optimal irrigation water allocations to control water tables and soil salinity.
  3. Crop water productivity options to achieve real water savings in irrigated agriculture.

It is expected that the obtained knowledge and capacity in better mitigating soil and water salinization problems will be embedded into the organization(s) of the participants. This will contribute to a further increase in the agricultural productivity and food security in Iraq.

Geodata tools have been developing rapidly in the past years and are vastly adopted by researchers and increasingly by policy-makers. However, the is still great potential to increase the practical application of these tools in the agricultural sector, which is currently applied by a limited number of ‘pioneering’ farmers. The information that can be gained from geodata tools on irrigation management, pest and nutrient management, and crop selection, is a valuable asset for farmers. Key players for providing such information to the farmers are the extensions officers. This project aims at training extension officers in the use of these geodata tools. The beneficiaries in Egypt are: Tamkeen for Advanced Agriculture, FAODA, IDAM, Bio-Oasis, and LEPECHA. The selected participants will receive a training programme which consists firstly of several session on the background and theory of the geodata tools, provided through our online teaching platform (futurewater.moodle.school). Starting from May (2021) field schools will be set up to use the geodata tools for decision-making in these demonstration plots. In addition, modules are taught on the quality of the data, and profitability of such tools. Altogether, a group of carefully selected participants will receive training on these innovative tools and create a bridge to providing this information to farmers specifically the smallholder farmers.

In Sub-Saharan Africa, population growth, associated food demand and pressure on natural areas have all increased greatly. Agricultural intensification – more production from the same acreage – remains a key solution to these challenges. One of the cornerstones of intensification is that of a higher and more productive use of inputs, such as fertilizer and water. So far, the average production has remained low and a significant yield gap still exists, mainly among small scale producers (SSPs). The limiting factors are (partly) caused by weather and climatic changes but also by a lack of agronomical knowledge, proper inputs, fertilizers and (climate smart) irrigation techniques. Thanks to the digital revolution Africa is going through, many commercial farmers already have access to a wide range of agricultural services. However, such solutions are not yet accessible to SSPs due to their costs.

A consortium led by FutureWater will collaborate with ETG agronomists and the Empowering Farmers Foundation (EFF) to work together with 60 selected maize, coffee, and tea farmers from around the country to implement Climate Smart Agricultural practices, such as crop rotation to rejuvenate soil nutrients, or mulching to reduce weeds and water erosion. By using drones to monitor the application of these sustainable crop interventions from the selected farms, the project team will also be able to use the data to assess crop productivity improvements, create crop calendars to increase harvest yields, and understand land use changes to protect encroachment into biodiverse areas. Soil samples will also be collected and analyzed to identify soil nutrition deficiencies and design appropriate soil enhancement measures that will be implemented on demo farms. The success of this pilot project will provide learnings on how it can be scaled up to reach more farmers and assess its replicability across different geographic locations.

Over the past years FutureWater and HiView managed to develop a low-cost agricultural drone technology which revolutionized the applicability of geo-information services for African farmers: ThirdEye. With the flying sensor service successful local enterprises were established that provide a low-cost drone service to small- and largescale farmers, both in Mozambique and Kenya. ThirdEye’s young agronomist-drone operators support farm decisions based on the flying sensor crop mapping that is viewed on a tablet. Integrating crop nutrition advisory and other improved agronomic practices into the ThirdEye service will bring the (extension) service up to the next level. In this project, we complement the work of flying sensors by ThirdEye with the agronomic service model of Holland Greentech including input distribution, demonstrations and field days, farmer training and coaching and soil testing.

By merging agronomic advisory services making use of low-cost flying sensors, soil testing, climate smart inputs, farmer coaching and an interactive online planning & monitoring portal, the farmer is able to improve his/her:

  • Planning: What crop to grow in the season based on expected weather, crop prices and market demand;
  • Cropping: When to sow the seed based on the type of crop and predicted weather
  • Management: When and where to irrigate, fertilize and apply pesticide. This can help reduce the amount of inputs used in the farm and increase yields, thus helping with profitability.
  • Harvest: When to harvest the crop based on market prices and predicted weather.
  • Market linkage: The ability to make informed decisions on where to sell their produce, which may increase their income.
  • Climate resilience: Option to order climate smart inputs and technologies from different suppliers. These technologies include hybrid seeds, propagation units and greenhouses, (drip) irrigation equipment, soil analysis, biological soil enhancers and biological pest control products.

This project is a collaboration between ETG Kenya, Empowering Farmers Foundation, Eco-Business II Sub-Fund Development Facility, HiView, FutureWater, Holland Greentech and ThirdEye Kenya. For more information visit: https://www.ecobusiness.fund/

Recently, the Central Asia Regional Economic Cooperation (CAREC) Program introduced agriculture and water as a new cluster in its strategic framework. Recognizing the complexities of the water sector and the existing landscape of cooperation activities, the strategic framework proposes a complementary approach that uses the strengths of CAREC to further promote dialogue on water issues. A scoping study was commissioned, supported by the Asian Development Bank (ADB), to develop a framework for the Water Pillar for further consideration by the governing bodies of CAREC. It was agreed that the initial focus of the Water Pillar should be on the five Central Asian states with consideration given to expanding to other CAREC member countries over time.

The objective of the study is to develop the scope of a Water Pillar Framework that includes a roadmap of national development interventions for each of the five Central Asian Republics that responds to the prevailing challenges and opportunities in water resources management.

The framework will be derived from three specific outputs:

  • Output 1: Projection of future availability and demand for water resources for the Central Asia region up to 2050 including implications of climate change.
  • Output 2: Identification of future water resources development and management opportunities in the form of a sector specific framework for water resources infrastructure taking into consideration sustainability issues through a comparative assessment of cost recovery mechanisms and operation and maintenance (O&M) practices.
  • Output 3: Preparation of a framework for policy and institutional strengthening that addresses common themes and issues related to national water resources legislation and the capacity and knowledge development needs of water resources agencies with an emphasis on economic aspects and sustainable financing.

For this work, several consultants were recruited. FutureWater provides key inputs on the climate change and water resources aspects, including desk review, stakeholder consultations across the five regions and across all sectors, and analysis of climate change risks and identification of adaptation options that have a regional dimension and can be taken up through regional or bilateral cooperation.