Agriculture is one of the most prevalent forms of livelihood in the Middle East and Northern Africa region, although arid and semi-arid regions dominate the agricultural landscape. As such, irrigation is a necessity for agricultural production in many regions. But groundwater resources are currently being depleted due to inefficient irrigation practices. Additionally, poverty is exacerbated by limited access to water resources, and climate change is affecting the natural resource base. Government policies are unfortunately mainly geared towards urban needs.
Bridging the gap
For rural populations, smart irrigation may provide a great opportunity for combatting water scarcity and mitigating the impact of climate change on the region’s dwindling water resources. However, the technology associated with smart irrigation is often times a barrier that the farmer may not be able to overcome. Little information on real-time agricultural water use is currently available in Lebanon. This makes planning for water allocations and drought impacts nearly impossible. Efficient use of the limited water resources in the country will require better and more effective planning processes to implement the long- term management actions and other interventions’ strategies necessary to achieve sustainability. Agricultural water use data should be publicly available to farmers and other stakeholders on a continuous basis and remote sensing provides a promising tool for gauging water use on a continuous basis.
Save water, energy and enhance food production?
The project “Integrating time series ET mapping into an operation irrigation management framework” (ITSET), led by Professor Hadi Jaafar at the American University of Beirut, aims to create savings in water, energy and to enhance food production and livelihoods of farmers in the MENA region by mapping daily water use, daily vegetation indices, and eventually yield and water productivity in the context of a field-scale agricultural monitoring system for improved water management. Consequently, the project aims to contribute to helping improve small-scale farmer-led irrigation development by providing reliable water use/requirement information to the farmer on a daily basis.
AgSAT: calculating and forecasting crop water requirements
To help farmers irrigate their lands more precisely and save on energy and water while simultaneously improving their yields, and with additional funding from Google.org and the Tides Foundation, the project developed and launched the first mobile application in the world, AgSAT, which calculates and forecasts crop water requirements in near-real-time by using remote sensing technology. AgSAT is a smart irrigation application that calculates crop water requirements in near-real time based on satellite imagery and weather data. It can be used anywhere by farmers at the field scale as it utilizes Sentinel-2 5-day imagery and global gridded weather data (reanalysis and forecast).
The application can be downloaded from the Google Play Store, and the iPhone version is in progress. The app was validated in the field and excellent potato yields were obtained in the Bekaa when using the app for irrigation scheduling. Appreciate disseminating it among farmers in your respective countries. It is free for public non-commercial use, and available in Arabic and English.
For more information on the project, visit their website.