UN Tool Uses Satellite Data to Help Farmers Save Water

Workers harvest grapes at the La Motte wine farm in Franschhoek near Cape Town, South Africa in January 2016.(Reuters Photo/Mike Hutchings)

By : Umberto Bacchi | on 11:59 PM April 21, 2017
Category : International, World

Rome. A new Google-powered online tool that uses satellite data to map water consumption in Africa and the Middle East aims to help farmers produce more crops with less water, the United Nations said on Thursday (20/04).

WaPOR, an open-access database developed by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) enables countries to easily monitor how efficiently farms use water, allowing for improvements in irrigation and food production, the agency said.

Climate change and a growing global population, set to reach more than 9 billion by 2050, are putting additional pressure on the world's ever scarcer water resources.

As agriculture is responsible for 70 percent of all water used on the planet, it will be critical to increase "crop per drop," experts say.

"Water use continues to surge at the same time that climate change  with increasing droughts and extreme weather  is altering and reducing water availability for agriculture," FAO's deputy director general, Maria Helena Semedo said.

"That puts a premium on making every drop count," she said in a statement.

WaPOR uses complex satellite data on weather, temperature, soil and vegetation to calculate how much crop yield is produced per cubic meter of water consumed.

The tool allows users like governments or farmers to spot areas where water is used inefficiently and take action by changing the irrigation system or switching to a more water-efficient crop, FAO said.

"You can compare with your neighbor and say: 'Look he is planting his wheat field one month ahead of me or using this kind of irrigation system or fertilizer and he is doing much better'," FAO technical officer Livia Peiser, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

The project funded by the Netherlands went live with data on Africa and the Middle East. FAO said more detailed information on countries facing water scarcity, including Mali, Ethiopia, Jordan and Egypt, will be made available later this year.

Two-thirds of the world's population live in areas experiencing water scarcity at least one month a year, according to the United Nations.


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