More crop per drop, thanks to a new FAO data portal

Photo credit: FAO

Farmland along the banks of Rwanda’s Lake Sake.

Open-access database will help water-scarce countries get more crop per drop

Satellite data can provide new insights into how agricultural water use can be made more efficient and productive

A new open-access data portal to be developed by FAO will use satellite imagery to help water-scarce countries in the Near East and North Africa better manage this precious resource.

Currently all countries in North Africa and the Near East suffer from severe water scarcity, with significant consequences for irrigated agriculture, the region’s largest water user.

This situation is expected to further intensify as climate change leads to more frequent and longer droughts, with severe impacts on food production.

The aim of the new data portal is to collect and analyze satellite information that can be used to improve land and water productivity and boost the sustainability of agricultural systems. All information will be openly available for countries and users who need it.

“Reporting on water productivity is lacking at country level in water scarce regions and this data will be key to creating sustainable agricultural systems in areas with scarce resources,” said Jippe Hoogeveen, project coordinator and technical officer in FAO’s Land and Water Division.

Remote sensing satellite images offer governments near real-time information regarding the use of natural resources for food growth and production, making assessments and improvements to existing agricultural practices more efficient and cost effective, he added.”

FAO presented the new project at the start of the annual World Water Week conference in Stockholm, Sweden (23-28 August).

Assessing productivity gaps, recipient countries

Remote sensing technologies have revolutionized the possibilities for assessing land and water productivity through greater coverage and data capture, however many countries lack the capacity and resources to analyze and work with this data.

The new database will be developed at three spatial scales: the continental level over the whole of Africa and Near East, country and river basin level and, irrigation scheme level. This will allow experts to cross check results at the various levels ensuring appropriate recommendations for improvements in different settings.


Published by

Willem Van Cotthem

Honorary Professor of Botany, University of Ghent (Belgium). Scientific Consultant for Desertification and Sustainable Development.