FutureWater has kicked off a new RVO project: A Practical Farmers’ Toolkit. The project is ongoing in 2021 and the consortium consists of Dutch and Egyptian partners. The Dutch partners are DelphyIrriwatch, and HiView. Among the Egyptian partners are Cairo University and Bio Oasis.

Water management in Egypt needs to cope with the increasing water scarcity issues. Especially the agricultural sector, being the largest water consumer, is pressured to decrease its water demands. This project and the proposed capacity-building activities are perceived as game-changing in bringing innovative remote sensing tools to farmers and increasing the adoption of the tools amongst the farming community, ultimately increasing water productivity in the agricultural areas of Egypt.

After conducting online lectures in April, FutureWater and HiView traveled to Egypt in the month of July and August to supply workshops in the context of the so-called Field School Days. The workshops entailed, amongst others, an introduction to the use of UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles) for agricultural purposes. Four different irrigation schemes, scattered around Cairo in a circle of 120 km, have been visited. The workshops had a very practical bias. Several activities were undertaken during the Field School Days: capturing aerial pictures (with the help of a 6 m long telescopic stick as drone flights were prohibited), on-the-fly processing, and finally the practical application of the crop stress maps.

Participants were very content with the workshops. At the same time, it has been an outstanding opportunity for FutureWater and HiView to link up with farmers in Egypt.

Showcasing UAVs
Collecting data with a telescopic stick
NDVI Output

The new project, with the name “Consultancy Services for Integrated Strategic Water Resources Planning and Management for Rwanda” has the general objective to develop integrated strategic water resources plans and management guidelines in order to meet Rwanda’s National Strategy for Transformation (NST1) and Vision 2050 targets. Specifically, the assignment will:

  1. Assess and evaluate the availability and vulnerability of the country’s water resources up to around 2050 taking climate change into consideration,
  2. Formulate sustainable and environmentally friendly water resources investment plans towards the year 2050 and guidelines for green development for each 20 Level two catchments,
  3. Prepare a revised water resources policy that is in line with water security and SDG 6,
  4. Carry out a cost benefit analysis of the proposed investment plans and prepare quick win projects

In order to meet this objective five tasks have been defined. The main activities of those Tasks are:

  • Task 1 (detailed hydrological assessment) will result in the water availability per sub-catchment up to 2050. This task is technically oriented and will use available data and models as developed over the last decade by various studies.
  • Task 2 (detailed water allocation assessment) will address water needs for the various users and will result in water needs up to 2050. This task is technically oriented and will use available data and models as developed over the last decade. It is expected that this component will need major upgrades compared to previous studies.
  • Task 3 (strategic water resources conservation and development) will rely on Task 1 and Task 2 and can be considered as the scenario analysis task. Based on various projections water availability and demands will be evaluated. Focus will be on dry years and dry periods as it is known that the overall water resources are in general sufficient for Rwanda. From the evaluation, a selection of potential artificial and strategic storage development sites will be done.
  • Task 4 (strategic water resources management options) will be stakeholder driven where stakeholders include technical water experts as well. Based on the results of Task 3 various options will be discussed and most likely some refinement of Task 3 (scenario assessment) is needed. The latter might include different priority settings fine tuning of demands and refinement of strategic storage development sites.
  • Task 5 (revised national policy for water resources management) will focus on defining new policy statements and actions informed by the results from the previous tasks and developing a new water resources policy that will guide the country towards achieving the NST1 and Vision 2050 targets.

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.

We are proud to announce the publishing of the FAO Water Report No.46, which results from the work done in a FAO-funded FutureWater project on Real Water Savings. This publication provides clear and practical guidelines on realizing real water savings and selecting crop water productivity interventions.

The approach for “following the water” is presented as a sustainable approach for implementing water savings technology. Frequently water savings measures are implemented assuming that water use is reduced, however, this publication argues the significance of considering real water savings as reductions in water consumption (evaporation and transpiration) and non-recoverable return flows. The impact of various water productivity interventions on water use and crop yield is evaluated with an elaborate literature review of 240 references. Practical guidelines for the implementation of these interventions are provided considering water management, land management, and agronomic interventions.

Download the publication here.

 

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 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

On the 22nd of February we had the Kick-off event of the training on “Flying Sensors for agricultural purposes”. IHE Delft Institute for Water Education and the National Agricultural Research Center of Jordan (NARC) are collaborating with FutureWater and HiView in providing this tailor-made training.

With a grand opening by both IHE Delft and NARC representatives, this training has started and will continue until April. Modules will be provided through an eLearning platform (Open Course Ware), where trainers and participants (25 total) are actively engaged throughout the training. The four modules provided in this training will be both practical and technical with information on how to set up a drone unit (including selection of equipment and operational management), hands-on imagery processing, and advisory services to farmers. We are looking forward to sharing FutureWater’s and HiView’s experience and knowledge with NARC experts in Jordan through this training. Below a screenshot of the first session with a live demonstration of the various drones used in our projects.

Screenshot of the Kick-off Meeting
Live demonstration of the drone by Jan.

 

Does drip irrigation lead to real water savings? What is the impact of changing the irrigation efficiency on basin scale water flows? How can water managers implement water savings technologies that lead to real water savings? FutureWater provided eTrainings to water managers from Vietnam and Malaysia about these subjects. A training manual and several supporting material such as presentations, videos, reports and papers were provided to train the water managers on water productivity and real water savings in agricultural systems.

FutureWater with the support of FAO-RAP (Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific) provided eTrainings on Real Water Savings to water managers in Vietnam and Malaysia. The training package developed under the on-going FAO project was implemented. Interactive video sessions, weekly activities, and educational videos were provided through the FutureWater Moodle School platform.

Over 30 participants from Malaysia, and over 25 participants from Vietnam successfully followed the eTraining on real water savings in agricultural systems. Participants learned about the impact of field scale crop-water interventions on basin scale water savings and learned how to determine the water productivity and real water savings with the REWAS tool.

Testimonies:

  • “Thank you for conducting this very useful course. This course really opened my eyes on the important of water security in hydrology cycle. I learnt so many new things and new elements in calculating the water saving in water budget”
  • “Learning sessions are great, and the information/technical approaches shared from the speakers are very useful. Extremely appreciate it. Thanks”
  • “I am the leader of some academic projects about the establishment of water-saving irrigation process and after this course am going to apply the knowledge to my projects.”

 

Screenshot of the eLearning training using the FutureWater Moodle School platform.

 

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.

Usually we travel all around the globe to provide tailor-made trainings to our local partners. We find it important to share the knowledge and tools we develop at FutureWater that benefit water management. During COVID-19 times and the coinciding travel restrictions we need to adapt, which has resulted in putting trainings in an online environment. We are excited to launch our newly developed FutureWater Moodle School (Figure 1).

With the expert support of Delft Digital Learning we set-up the Moodle platform and already provided our first training successfully with >30 participants. Feel welcome to browse the newly launched FutureWater Moodle School, and visit https://futurewater.moodle.school/ or click on the button at the top of the FutureWater website (see Figure 2). You can log-in as guest and check out the courses currently available, more will be coming soon. If you are interested to request an online training tailored to your organisation, you can contact us for further details.

 

Figure 1. Screenshot of the FutureWater Moodle School website with a few courses.

 

Figure 2. This button at the top of the FutureWater website gives direct access to our FutureWater Moodle School.