Looking at global climate change patterns and its increased pressure on natural resources, West African countries like Ghana will be hit very hard. In particular, agriculture, which is the largest water user in Ghana, will be affected by high temperatures and changes in the variability of rainfall. This variability in climate makes crop production and yield more uncertain, as well as farm income. The periods of droughts in Ghana are getting longer and there is increased pressure on water availability from the river basins due to climate change, putting many people and farmers in risk of having too little water. Therefore in this project, we will develop and pilot in the field an innovative tool that will significantly enhance water security in Ghana by reducing the quantity of water needed for irrigation per hectare (up to about 40% less of current water use).
To support the Ghanaian farmers in making the transition to a water secure future, they expressed a need for locally adapted, climate smart irrigation technologies and innovative advice to improve their irrigation practices. To develop such a smart irrigation service, FutureWater is working together with knowledge institute TU Delft, horticulture company Holland Greentech, and social enterprise TAHMO to develop this innovative tool and implement it in the field. This smart irrigation service should be able to translate various weather parameters and data (historical but also real-time data) into crop specific irrigation advice in volumes, but also in minutes for small-scale farmers. The unique and innovative part of this smart irrigation service, called SOSIA+ (Small-scale Open source, Satellite based Irrigation Advice), will be the algorithm to provide advice on how many minutes a farmer should irrigate a specific crop – based on the combination of the TAHMO local weather data and real-time data (normally not taken into account), that will be tailor-made for small scale farmers (normally these services are only for large scale farmers while the predominant type of farmers in Ghana are small scale) and is linked to the innovative drip irrigation systems that Holland Greentech Ghana already sells to farmers (so closely linked to an existing customer base of farmers and a product).
SOSIA+ will initially focus on the city of Kumasi and the Ashanti region, targeting more than 500 farmers and a growing population of more than 4 million people that needs to be fed and are affected by the changing weather patterns and increased water demand. In the long-term, the goal is to transform the horticulture sector in Ghana towards a smart and sustainable practice. By developing the Irrigation Advisory Tool, we can prevent over-irrigation to reduce water use and hence work towards the desired situation of sustainable food production and water security. This project will focus on gathering better weather information, piloting an innovative irrigation tool that is linked to a drip irrigation system to reduce water losses and implement this in the field with lead farmers. This will change the current traditional practices of the farmers leading to less water and energy losses, hence increasing availability of water and the sustainability of food production in light of climate change.
Earlier this year FutureWater and Holland Greentech developed a very first draft of the irrigation advisory application ‘SOSIA’ for Rwanda, with promising results. As one of the main problems in many African countries is that there is no ground network of weather stations, making it very difficult to efficiently manage water resources or generate weather forecasts that are localised and essential for food production, the initial SOSIA project used satellite remote sensing data to overcome this problem. But given the rapidly changing weather patterns due to climate change, the collection of ground data is also essential. This is why TAHMO has been set-up to develop a dense network of weather stations all over Africa and using their data will be very valuable to use for the irrigation tool.
The video below gives a brief summary of the tool created in the previous SOSIA project.