(June 18, 2020) More crop per drop: Farmer-learning and the promise of improved water use in agriculture

In a two-year field program under the Remote Sensing for Water Productivity (WaPOR) project, the International Water Management Institute (IWMI) exposed a large number of water users, water user group leaders and irrigation managers in Koga, Ethiopia to technical innovations to enhance on-farm irrigation management decisions. This was done by providing farmers and block leaders with tools that allow them to “look beyond the soil” and assess whether the land should be irrigated or had been irrigated too much.  Two tools were introduced developed by scientists at the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO): the Wetting Front Detector (WFD) and Chameleon Soil Water Sensor

Farmers in the 54 water user groups were introduced to these instruments and taught how to use them. The results were spectacular. Within one or two seasons of becoming comfortable with the tools farmers reduced their field irrigation supplies. According to key farmers, they typically extended the irrigation cycle from the local storage reservoirs from 8 to 11 days, or 9 to 12-13 days – effectively a water use reduction of 35%. Part of this high-water wastage earlier related to the need to make ploughing easy. With reduced water applications the wheat crop yield went up: by 10 to 20% according to farmers’ estimate. Further soil nutrient loss was reduced considerably.

All in all, a spectacular increase in water productivity was achieved through joint learning and farmer-led action resulting in a large group of farmers advocating for better water management.

In this open webinar, Lisa Maria Rebelo and Petra Schmitter from IWMI  share experiences and learnings from the project, and discuss their implications for irrigation development in Ethiopia (and other developing countries). They  also discuss the linkages between on-the-ground behavioural changes in water use, and water productivity monitoring tools like WaPOR. Sasha Koo-Oshima, Deputy Director, Land and Water Division, FAO introduces the webinar, and Frank van Steenbergen, Director, MetaMeta  provides special remarks.


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July 3, 2020  
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