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ICTs and management of water resources in agriculture

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In this blog,

  • The water sources worldwide are dwindling, the SDGs and the Paris agreement have an overaching policy guides on the use of water
  • FAO focuses on water in 3 main categories; information and knowledge,policy advice, and technical support to member countries.
  • The role of ICTs in water management and examples of ICTs application in the agriculture domain

‘Water is life’ goes a common adage. Water is needed by all living organisms. To produce food, farmers need water and agriculture is the largest user of water in the world.

According to the UN World Water Development Report, by 2050, at least one in four people is likely to live in a country affected by chronic or recurring shortages of freshwater (UN,2015)

The demand for water at personal, household, enterprise needs has increased the competition for water use and the world water resources are under increasing stress due poor management, climate change and pollution.

The Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Agreement on climate change are some of the international high level policy guides for water use. Water is specifically mentioned on SDG 6; Clean Water and Sanitation.

In this short blog, l look at the role played by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) in water, thereafter look at the role of ICTs in water management, then append some few case studies on ICTs and water issues.


FAO’s programme in water

FAO’s main concern is the sustainable use and conservation of water in agriculture and also in the technical aspects of water in sustainable crop production, aquaculture, livestock watering, forestry and watershed management.

While thematically FAO looks at Water Governance, Water Management, and Water Scarcity.

FAO’s water activities can be classified in three main categories:

  • Information and knowledge
  • Policy advice
  • Technical support to countries and their constituents

The specific details are covered in this information note


The role of ICTs in water management

ICTs are an enabler in the management of water as a natural resource. ICTs can facilitates the collection and analysis of data and information on water sources and potentially improve their management and enumeration.

Technologies such as remote sensing and geographical information systems have been used by water authorities to track water usage and forecast river levels.

Recently these technologies are also applied in irrigation and water based early warning systems.


Examples on the use of ICTs in water management within agriculture

Below l encountered a few projects that are utilising ICTs in various aspects of water management

FAO Water Productivity Open-Access Portal (WaPOR)

The WaPOR monitors and reports on agriculture water productivity over Africa and the Near East. The database uses satellite data to help farmers achieve more reliable agricultural yields. This tool provides open access to the water database over underlying maps - the tool allows quering of data; time series analyses, area statistics related to water and land use assessments. The database searches through satellite data and its computation-intensive calculations are powered by Google Earth Engine. Read more

 

FAO-SWALIM Flood Risk Management System (FRRMIS)

The FRRMIS is a web-based information dissemination and sharing platform that brings together the essential information on floods under a single user interface.The system is based on GIS Major flood years in Somalia and web technology and contains various types of flood information. It promotes flood preparedness and contingency planning, as well as rescue and response operations. Read more

FAO SWALIM Water Resources Map

The Water Sources Live Map is a web application that has features for both data management and data visualization through the internet. This map shows various ground water sources and their status. Read more 

FAO CHINA and China Agricultural University - Case Study on ICT Application for Rural Groundwater Management 

The case study focuses on the application of ICards in groundwater irrigation management in China. This is against a problem be facing China –a country with scarce per capita freshwater resources. This research focused on four townships in Sanhe City, Hebei Province, China as research sites and conducted fieldwork studying groundwater management in six villages using the ICard and two villages without ICard use. The research suggested that Information and Communication Technology (ICT) is promising with significant economic benefits when applied in the management of rural groundwater. Read more 

FAO AQUASTAT

Thus AQUASTAT started, with the aim to contribute to FAO's goals through the collection, analysis and dissemination of information related to water resources, water uses and agricultural water management, with an emphasis on countries in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Caribbean. Read more

Nano Ganesh – a revolutionary ICT tool for farm irrigation

Nano Ganesh is an electronic modern simple and low-cost solution in e-irrigation that empowers farmers to control water pumps with the help of a mobile phone. “After installing the Nano Ganesh unit at the pump end, a farmer can switch it on or off with the help of a mobile phone from any distance. His phone also displays the availability of the power supply at the pump end as well as on/off status. Hence, farmers are not needed to physically visit sometimes hazardous pump sites in remote locations all the time”…(FAO, 2015) .Nano Ganesh was developed by Santosh Ostwal

ICTs application in Irrigation

As can be seen from the above examples, ICTs are applied in various aspects of water management. FAO Asia-Water organised a conference on Irrigation ICT e-Conference on 20 December 2016 to 26 January 2017.

The irrigation ICT e-conference was based on the review of 4 country reports from Bangladesh, China, India and Nepal which analysed the existing ICTs and their trends to improve irrigation management. The following country reports are also interesting to peruse

The major objective was to understand the application of ICTs in water management and to design community responsive technology and mitigate the negative impacts on the rural poor.

There still exist a wider opportunity to implement ICTs in the smart management of water resources. The ITU Technology Watch Report gives further information


References

  1. FAO.2017. Case study on the use of Information and Communication Technology in the Management of Rural Ground water in China. Rome
  2. FAO.2017  FAO offers water-scarce countries a new satellite tool to boost agricultural productivity.
  3. FAO Asia-Water. ICT Irrigation e-Conference
  4. FAOSWALIM website
  5. FAO programme in Water.
  6. FAO.2015. Towards a water and food secure future. Rome : FAO and WWC