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.

This project is part of the technical-innovation support provided by FutureWater to ECOPRADERAS, an EIP-AGRI Operational Group led by Ambienta Ing. and co-funded by the EU and the Spanish Ministry of Agriculture. As a general objective, ECOPRADERAS aims to improve the sustainable management of grasslands located at the Alagon Valley (Extremadura, Spain) through: (1) the transfer and implementation of innovative technologies, (2) the identification and strengthening of good cultural practices, and (3) the dissemination of the most relevant information and results among end users.

In the frame of ECOPRADERAS, FutureWater is tasked with the development of an operational monitoring tool able to inform, at the regional scale, on the health status of the grasslands by using satellite data of moderate spatial resolution. The ECOPRADERAS monitor includes the following innovative features:

  • Generation of a categorical index indicative of the health status of grasslands based on the combination of indices of spatial and temporal greenness anomalies.
  • Higher spatial details by using satellite images of moderate spatial resolution (collection of Landsat-8TM of 30 m resolution)
  • Large improvement for collecting and processing large satellite datasets by using the Google Earth Engine cloud-based geoprocessing platform (collection of Landsat-8TM from January 2014 onwards)
  • A user friendly web-mapping interface to visualize outputs

The methodology used by FutureWater uses massive data processing technologies in the cloud (Google Earth Engine) to compute a pixel-based categorical index that result of the combination of a spatial and a temporal anomaly of the greenness index (NDVI). After a local calibration that needs to be adopted, this qualitative index, called the Combined Index of Normalized Anomalies (ICAN) (figure), classifies the status of grasslands in the region of interest into different categories that informs on the health grasslands and how are they being managed. With the ICAN, land managers and local actors can early detect those portions in the landscape in which management practices may pose a risk for the sustainability of the agropastoral system and then would require special attention for improving them.

Logic diagram for computing the Combined Index of Normalized Anomalies (ICAN) in the ECOPRADERAS Monitor.The specific tasks developed by FutureWater included: the definition of a methodological framework for monitor the health of grasslands at the regional scale, the design of a processing and web-mapping platform and its practical implementation in the Alagon Valley (182 km2) from September 2019 to July 2020, and the calibration-validation of the results by comparing outputs with field observations collected in different pilot sites by other project partners.

An evaluation of the results points out to the strength of the methodology. The processing architecture is also easily scalable to other regions and rangeland landscapes. Further improvements have been also envisioned. The ECOPRADERAS Monitor stands as a very powerful tool to guide landscape managers local stakeholders on better decisions.

ECOPRADERAS Monitor at the Alagon Valley (Extremadura, Spain)

In 2017, AFD approved to finance the Water Resources Management and Agro-ecological Transition for Cambodia “WAT4CAM” Program Phase 1. This program will contribute to reduce poverty, develop the economy and reduce the vulnerability of rural populations to climate change by implementing a hydro-agricultural infrastructures rehabilitation program through an integrated approach, targeting the whole chain of water resources management, water services and agricultural production.

The strategy is to achieve intensification of cropping, modernization and climate smart practices to provide farmers with secure access to water. This is a challenging objective and a good understanding of the hydraulics of water flows in dry and wet season is needed. A consortium led by FutureWater was hired to perform WAT4CAM subcomponent 3.1, which concentrates on providing this understanding of both flood and dry season flows, demands and balance in the Preks intended for rehabilitation.

The initial stages of the project include the identification of current data, models and previous work, as well as a field survey with stakeholders. This information will be used to create an accurate and reliable modelling ensemble that makes maximum use of existing capacity in Cambodia. In addition, the consortium will use satellite-derived data products to (i) provide input to the simulation models, and (ii) calibrate and validate model results. Various sources of satellite imagery will be explored to map floods and irrigation practices, to implement an integrated “space hydrology” approach.

The modelling and knowledge generation from this study must support the other WAT4CAM components for the successful implementation of the Prek irrigation system improvements. The modelling itself is thus not the ultimate purpose, but rather the understanding and knowledge imparted to MoWRAM and the other components of the WAT4CAM program.

FutureWater’s role in the project is the overall project coordination and administration, as well as the implementation of satellite remote sensing and climate change analyses in support of the modelling components.

Aim of the training

The training will enhance capacity of Egerton educational staff in accessing and using innovative data and tools in the public domain, to analyse crop performance and irrigation management. During the training, university participants will be specifically supported in developing course modules based on the skills gained. To maximize the impact in addressing the need for increased quality of higher education in the agricultural sector, representatives from other institutes, ministries and private sector companies will also be invited. The training will allow the staff to gain advanced skills in working with flying sensors (drones) and satellite-derived data to support agricultural and water-related challenges, such as pests and diseases, water efficiency in agriculture to enhance food security, and drought monitoring. They will acquire insight in and knowledge on analyzing the performance of crops, making the right intervention decisions and giving irrigation advice. For public sector representatives, the training objective is to obtain skills that can be directly and sustainably implemented in their respective organizations.

Overall, the Kenyan society at large will benefit from improved food security provided by well-educated agricultural researchers and professionals. This project forms an important step in the capacity building strategy as it focuses on strengthening the universities and preparing them to provide high quality education to the future generation agronomists and agricultural managers, as well as upgrading the knowledge of current professionals.

The training costs of four stages: an online training course, followed by an in-country training program, symposium and post-training support.

Stage 1: eTraining course

The first stage involved a weekly online training course that will start in January 2021, with a total of six sessions in six weeks. Participants will be consisting of University and TVET faculty members, university students, PhD candidates, researchers, Kenya Agricultural & Livestock Research Organization (KALRO) staff members, Agriculture Extension Staff from the County Government who are already involved in agricultural research and training and other private sector partners. Staff members from the university will be those that are involved in teaching agronomy, horticulture, agriculture engineering and agriculture extension courses and programs, i.e., soil, nutrient and water management, dryland farming, irrigated agriculture and crop protection. Non-university attendants will be technical staff who are close to the decision makers within their organizations. This will enhance the impact of the training by embedding the use of flying sensor and satellite-derived data for agriculture within these organizations and make sure that Kenya will pursue its activities in making use of this kind of information.

This first stage of the training course will be online and will focus on:

  1. Real Water Savings in Agricultural Systems including potential field interventions
  2. The use of WAPOR to access remotely sensed derived data
  3. The use of flying sensors (drones) in agriculture

The course will end with a test and evaluation and graduates will receive a certificate.

Stage 2: Targeted in-country training

After the first stage training a second in-country training will take place with a smaller group, focusing on the use of drones in agriculture. Here a selected group of 12 to 18 members will be trained. Focus will be on staff with lecturing responsibilities, to ensure impact on higher education provision and transfer of the new skills to students.

The in-depth training will consist of:

  1. Operating flying sensors manually and automatic, the processing of the collected data using open source software, interpretation and the subsequent decision making (recommendations to increase productivity) for (smallholder) farmers and actors
  2. Use satellite derived (precipitation) products to run crop growth models to provide advice on when and how much to irrigate in agricultural fields

Participants will work on hands-on exercises related to crop performance analyses, water demands and crop growth modelling. Application of the new skills will be further stimulated by assigning the participants clear, tailor-made goals at the end of the second training session, to be worked on during the distant-support period.

Stage 3: Symposium/knowledge sharing

Right after the second training session, a symposium will be organized for a larger audience including the superiors/managers (who most of the times are the final decision makers) of the training participants and representatives of similar organizations. During this knowledge sharing event, trainees and trainers will actively provide contributions to showcase the newly gained skills and their added value to the respective institutions and the Kenyan agricultural sector in general. By acquainting the responsible decision makers in these organizations with the potential applications of flying sensor and satellite-derived data relevant to them, this event will be crucial in ensuring a sustainable impact of the TMT.

Stage 4: Post-training support

In this period, progress will be actively monitored and the trainers will provide post-training support to the participants. The support will be both remotely (e.g. through Skype) by the Dutch training providers but also in-person by ThirdEye Kenya staff visiting the participants for Q&A sessions and to evaluate the implementation of the skills they obtained.

The Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, a UNESCO-declared Biosphere Reserve, is an isolated mountain complex encompassing approximately 17,000 km², set apart from the Andes chain that runs through Colombia. The Sierra Nevada has the world’s highest coastal peak (5,775 m above sea level) just 42 kilometres from the Caribbean coast. The Sierra Nevada is the source of 36 basins, making it the major regional ‘water factory’ supplying 1.5 million inhabitants as well as vast farming areas in the surrounding plains used mainly for the cultivation of banana and oil palm. The main problems to be solved in these basins are: i) Declining availability of water for irrigation, ii) Declining availability and quality of water for human consumption, iii) Increasing salinization of ground water and soils, iv) Increasing incidence of floods.

This is a feasibility study on the adoption of more efficient irrigation techniques by oil palm farmers in the Sevilla basin (713 km²), one of the key basins in the Sierra Nevada. The general objective is to identify the local environment at basin scale, the limiting factors and suitable field interventions in oil palm areas to improve the water use. A preparation and implementation phase was developed including an initial baseline assessment of the basin on climate, water availability, drought hazard, soil characteristics, land use, and topography. The agronomy (e.g. cultivars) and current field practices (e.g. nutrient management and irrigation practices) of the oil palm areas were characterized, and the crop water requirements determined. In addition, costs and benefits associated to the implementation of efficient irrigation technologies such as fertigation and water harvesting were assessed. Potential locations, risks and opportunities for water harvesting were evaluated with the idea to store water in the wet season to be able to use the resource in an efficient way in the dry season. A range of GIS and satellite-based datasets (e.g. CHIRPS, MODIS-ET, MODIS-NDVI, HiHydroSoil) were used to evaluate the environmental conditions, and local data and information was provided by local partners Cenipalma and Solidaridad to generate a comprehensive assessment at basin and field scale. The expectation is that fertigation and water harvesting techniques can be adopted in the Sevilla basin, but also in other basins in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta to reduce the environmental impact of oil palm production.

The Asian Development Bank supports Tajikistan in achieving increased climate resilience and food security through investments in modernization of Irrigation and Drainage (I&D) projects. A Technical Assistance is preparing modernization projects for two I&D systems in the Lower Vaksh river basin in Tajikistan. In line with this, the TA will prepare a holistic feasibility study and project design for the system (38,000 ha), as well as advanced designs and bidding documents for selected works.

FutureWater is part of the team of international experts, working together with the local consultant on the climate risk and adaptation assessment that accompanies the feasibility projects. For this purpose, past climate trends will be analyzed, climate model projections processed, and a climate impact model will be used to assess how the project performs under a wide range of future conditions, to assess the robustness of the proposed I&D investments, and identify possible climate adaptation measures.

In Angola, more and better-quality data is required to improve crop suitability assessments over large extensions of arable land to ensure sustainable food and income security. For example, environmental data on soil texture, soil water storage capacity, vegetation growth, terrain slopes, rainfall and air temperature are key to develop reliable crop suitability assessments. These datasets are available from state-of-the-art satellite-based products and machine learning observations (de Boer, 2016; Funk et al., 2015; Hengl et al., 2014, 2017). The benefit of these data products is that data can be obtained for any province, municipality, or farm in Angola. On top of that, data can be shown in maps to easily visualize spatial variation and identify the most suitable location and area to grow desired crops. Land-crop suitability maps are obtained by calculating a weighted average of the environmental variables that influence crop growth (e.g. rainfall, air temperature, soil water storage capacity), providing an integrated and complete assessment on where to plant. Also, potential crop yields are determined for desired cropping seasons using the FAO AquaCrop model to provide more information about potential income.

Irrigated agriculture in Angola has been developed in commercial farms using mainly central pivot and drip irrigation systems. The installation of new irrigation systems is foreseen in large extensions of land over 5000 hectares. Irrigated agriculture results in higher crop yields and allows higher incomes to farmers. However, commercial farms must invest in high energy supply to operate irrigation systems with water pumping stations. The challenge for irrigation system operators is to know exactly when and how much to irrigate during the cropping season. If better information about irrigation volumes and intervals are provided a significal reduction in energy costs could be achieved. The objective is to predict irrigation demand volumes during the cropping season and provide a user-friendly decision tool to irrigation operators. To achieve this, weather forecasts, remote sensing, and the SPHY model will be used.

The project should increase agricultural water use productivity in the selected agricultural districts in Uzbekistan through a threefold approach: (i) climate resilient and modernized I&D infrastructure to improve measurement, control and conveyance within existing systems; (ii) enhanced and reliable onfarm water management including capacity building of water consumers’ associations (WCAs), physical improvements for land and water management at the farm level and application of high level technologies for increased water productivity; and (iii) policy and institutional strengthening for sustainable water resources management. This will include strategic support to the Ministry of Water Resources (MWR) and its provincial, basin and district agencies.

The project supports the Strategy of Actions on Further Development of Uzbekistan (2017), which includes: (i) introduction of water saving technologies and measures to mitigate the negative impact of climate change and drying of the Aral Sea; (ii) further improvement of irrigated lands and reclamation and irrigation facilities; and (iii) modernization of agriculture by educating areas of cotton and cereal crops to expand horticulture production.

FutureWater focuses on the climate risk and adaptation assessment that accompanies the feasibility projects, and will analyze climate trends, climate model projections, climate impacts on the projects and assess adaptation options.

Watch the video below to learn more about the management of Climate Adaptive Water Resources in the Aral Sea Basin in Uzbekistan (source: ADB)

Cambodia is currently improving in economic standing, however the benefits of this are largely contained to urban areas. As a major contributor to GDP, ensuring the sustainability of Cambodia’s agricultural sector is highly important, especially when coupled with the increasing awareness of the dangers of climate change. Access to water for agriculture, fisheries and domestic supply is an issue, with many rural communities competing for resources. Coupled with the effects of flood and drought activity in recent years, the need for adequate and reliable water resource management in rural, agricultural areas is prominent. This project focuses on the North- Western Cambodian provinces of Oddar Meanchey (OMC) and Banteay Meanchey (BMC) and the neighbouring North-Eastern Thai provinces of Surin and Sisaket.

In order to protect rural livelihoods and maintain agricultural production, communities must be supplied with permanent and regulated water year-round. Analysis of recent flood and drought histories and their effects in the provinces are first necessary to determine the most vulnerable areas both in terms of agriculture and households. In addition, water resource assessments of supplies and demand will identify the most crucial areas to ensure supplies are increased and sustained both for crops and domestic use. Socio-economic studies will also ensure ‘cross- cutting’ issues are considered in WR planning, such as: gender, economic vulnerability and cultural factors related to WRM. Furthermore, meetings with stakeholders at multiple levels can address issues in water infrastructure, alongside assessment of the capacities of those managing monitoring systems for example. From this, future recommendations for improvements in infrastructure can be made with an awareness of the necessary knowledge capacities to ensure proper maintenance and sustainability.

Initially, an analysis of the current water resource situation in the study area will be conducted through collection of available data on water resources, flood and drought histories and socioeconomic issues in the area. Following this, areas for more detailed analysis will be established and strategies to improve WRM supporting agricultural livelihoods can be developed. FutureWater is involved in the implementation of the WEAP model, for evaluation of various water resources management strategies in the catchments under baseline and projected future conditions.

The scope of the project work is as follows:

  • Train selected NCBA Clusa PROMAC staff on drone operation, imagery processing software, and crop monitoring;
  • Provide technical assistance to trained NCBA Clusa staff on drone operation, imagery processing, and interpretation of crop monitoring data;
  • Present technical reports on crop development and land productivity (i.e. crop yield) at the end of the rainy and dry season

The trainings and technical assistance for the NCBA Clusa staff are provided in collaboration with project partners HiView (The Netherlands) and ThirdEye Limitada (Central Mozambique). Technical staff of the NCBA Clusa are trained in using the Flying Sensors (drones) in making flights, processing and interpreting the vegetation status camera images. This camera makes use of the Near-Infrared wavelength to detect stressed conditions in the vegetation. Maps of the vegetation status are used in the field (with an app) to determine the causes of the stressed conditions: water shortage, nutrient shortage, pests or diseases, etc. This information provides the NCBA Clusa technical staff and extension workers with relevant spatial information to assist their work in providing tailored information to local farmers.

At the end of the growing season the flying sensor images are compiled to report on the crop development. The imagery in combination with a crop growth simulation model is used to calculate the crop yield and determine the magnitude of impact the conservation agriculture interventions have in contrast with traditional agricultural practices.