We are proud to be part of the winning consortium for a PRIMA-EU Innovation Action project. With 16 partners (academia and SME’s) under the lead of Bioazul we gathered in Málaga on 18 and 19 May for a successful, in-person Kickoff meeting of  BONEX (Boosting Nexus Framework Implementation in the Mediterranean).

It was an energetic and dynamic two-days of lively discussion, sharing of experience, and identifying the upcoming project activities. FutureWater colleagues (Sergio, Johannes, and Jonna) participated in this workshop and provided a presentation on the REWAS (Real Water Savings) tool that will be upgraded and piloted in the BONEX project as an effective diagnostic tool for the WEFE (water, energy, food, ecosystem) framework. We are excited to be working on this project the upcoming three years with this strong consortium.

More information on the project can be found on the project page.

FutureWater colleagues during the kickoff event
Presentation on REWAS tool provided by FutureWater colleague Jonna van Opstal

This project is part of the PRIMA programme supported by the European Union.

The Mediterranean Region is facing growing challenges to ensure food and water supply as countries experience increasing demand and decreasing availability of natural resources. The nexus approach aims at managing and leveraging synergies across sectors with an efficient and integrated management of the Water, Energy, Food, and Ecosystems Nexus (WEFE).

BONEX objectives are to provide practical and adapted tools, examine concrete and context-adapted technological innovations, enhance policies and governance and facilitate WEFE Nexus practical implementation that balances the social, economic, and ecological trade-offs.

The project aims at producing a novel, transdisciplinary, diagnostic WEFE Bridging Framework, which combines methods in a context-specific manner and going beyond disciplinary silos. The diagnostic tools supporting the framework will be developed and tested in seven selected demonstration projects in the region which pilot innovative technologies (agrivoltaics, wastewater reuse systems, etc.).

As a result, BONEX will provide policymakers and practitioners with an interactive decision-making tool to evaluate trade-offs, synergies, and nexus solutions approaches in a transdisciplinary manner. Further, it will produce valuable experiences with tailoring innovative WEFE Nexus technologies that provides new business opportunities. The WEFE nexus approach is required to implement sustainable agri-food systems and preserve ecosystems.

Within BONEX FutureWater will actively contribute to the package of diagnostic tools. A simple water accounting tool (REWAS) will be used to evaluate if ‘Real Water Savings’ are achieved with innovative technologies. The water accounting tool evaluates water flows at field level and irrigation district scale and determines if any ‘real savings’ are achieved. The tool also incorporates the aspects of food production (crop yield) and will introduce components for evaluating energy and water quality aspects to complement the WEFE Nexus aspects. The seven demonstration projects will be used to demonstrate and iteratively develop this water accounting tool. A hydrological analysis is performed in selected locations to also evaluate the impact at basin (watershed) scale. Eventually the results from these analyses will be translated into policy implications and achievements of SDG’s (sustainable development goals).

This project is part of the PRIMA programme supported by the European Union.

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.

In April, Vera Hollander, Water Management Expert at FutureWater, visited Mozambique for the APSAN-Vale project. This project will demonstrate what the best combinations are of adoption strategies and technological packages, with the largest overall impact in terms of Water Productivity, both at the plot-level, sub-basin as well as basin-level.

The project has as its overall aim to increase climate resilient agricultural productivity and food security, with a specific objective to increase the water productivity and profitability of smallholder farmers in Mozambique, prioritizing small (family sector) farmers to increase food and nutritional security. The main role of FutureWater is monitoring water productivity in target areas (both spatial and seasonal/annual variation) using Flying Sensors in combination with a water productivity simulation model and field observations.

The visit consisted of various activities around the project. In Chimoio, FutureWater worked together with the three operators that are responsible for the Flying Sensor flights, and met with the local consortium team that implements the project. In addition, the team travelled to the three project locations: Barue, Nhamatanda and Moatize.

During these visits, several appointments took place with the project team on the ground in each district and with the farmers that participate in the project, to see their fields and hear about their experiences. It was a very nice and fruitful trip and we look forward to continue our work on the project!

Farmers in the fields
Project team
Farmers advisory in the field

Last month, FutureWater concluded training programs on Real Water Savings for Bangladesh, China and Indonesia.
This training was part of the project ‘Delivering Training on Real Water Savings (ReWaS) for the Regional Water Scarcity Program in Bangladesh, Indonesia, India, Thailand and China’ that FutureWater is rolling out in cooperation with the Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific (RAP) of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).

In this project, FutureWater offers a training program on Real Water Savings (ReWaS) to water management professionals from five different countries. ReWaS is a simple tool developed by FutureWater, to estimate the potential for generating real water savings from various agronomic, water management and technical practices in irrigated agriculture.

The training offered a tailored training package that facilitates an assessment of the impact of field scale crop-water interventions at the basin scale.For all the trainings so far, we had an enthusiastic and ambitious group of water experts ranging from university students to government officials. All participants were actively involved and worked very hard during the interactive live sessions and the homework assignments.

For each country, we provided a tailor-made case study that combined all the knowledge gained over the training program:
  • China: Towards groundwater neutral cropping systems in the Alluvial Fans of the North China Plain
  • Indonesia: Agronomic Performance and Economic Benefits of Sugarcane (Saccharum officinarum L.) Under Drip Irrigation for Sandy and Clay Soils in East Java, Indonesia
  • Bangladesh: Effect of drip irrigation and mulching on yield, water-use efficiency and economics of tomato

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.

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 project ‘A Practical Farmers Toolkit – Geodata for climate smart agriculture in Egypt’ has successfully finished last month. An exciting video was made, which gives a short overview of this agricultural project.

An interactive training programme started in April 2021 with online training, field schools, and group projects. The ‘toolkit’ provided in this project consists of several geodata innovative tools: flying sensors, satellite-derived irrigation advisory services, open-access water productivity data from WaPOR, and climate impact assessment. Together with consortium partners, IrriWatch, Delphy , HiView , and Prof. Ashraf Ghanem from Cairo University, this training program was provided to beneficiary partners (extension officers and agricultural consultants): Tamkeen, BioOasis, FAODA, LEPACHA, and IDAM. A true highlight of this project was running field schools at five locations, which were used to gain practical experience on using geodata tools for day-to-day farm decision-making.

Watch this project video to get an overview of the project and hear about participants sharing their experience from the field schools and the overall project. Downloadable one-pagers give a short summary of different success stories from the field, using the geodata tools: grounded ‘flying’ sensors, WaPOR apps, and IrriWatch advisory services.

Links to downloadable one-pagers:

  • Grounded “flying” sensors – Near-infrared cameras for vegetation status monitoring. Download here.
  • IrriWatch irrigation advisory – Applications for irrigation and farm management. Download here.
  • WaPOR open access data – Data portal and smartphone apps for improved farm management. Download here.

The project video:

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

The “Integrated Strategic Water Resources Planning and Management for Rwanda” consultancy project will assess and evaluate the availability and vulnerability of the country’s water resources up to around 2050 taking climate change into consideration.

Based on this, prioritization of investment options in grey and green infrastructure will take place, in order to formulate water resources investment plans. A revised water resources policy will be prepared that is in line with water security targets and SDG 6.

In more detail, the hydrological modelling assessment will result in update water accounts per sub-catchment up to 2050. Field work for assessing groundwater resources in key areas across the country is also performed. A detailed water allocation assessment will be performed using a water resources system model (WEAP), addressing water needs for the various users up to 2050. Water allocation plans will be developed from this modelling work, incorporating stakeholder inputs.

Then, a scenario analysis is performed to evaluate the potential of additional storage in the landscape: grey (reservoirs) and green (through Nature-based Solutions). This analysis will be complemented by field work and a pre-feasibility analysis will be performed on the prioritized options. A SWOT analysis will then lead to a number of possible flagship projects which of which a concept note is prepared.
Support to the revised national policy for water resources management will also be provided by 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.