The Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) has developed a portal, known as WaPOR – Water Productivity through Open Access of Remotely sensed derived data. WaPOR processes satellite data to provide information that can help farmers optimise irrigation systems and achieve higher, more reliable agricultural yields.
WaPOR provides near real-time data that can be used for a range of applications in agriculture and water resources management. The portal presently offers data that, at the coarser resolution, covers Africa and the Middle East.
A recent additional funding of $4.95 million from the Foreign Affairs Ministry of the Netherlands will allow for a global expansion of the database and the addition of two new partner-countries in Asia and Latin America. Currently, WaPOR works with Agro Global Group as well as 10 partner-countries to help build their capacity to use the data for optimising water management.
Satellite data to optimise irrigation systems
WaPOR processes satellite data to provide information that can help farmers optimise irrigation systems and achieve higher, more reliable agricultural yields. According to the FAO globally, agriculture accounts for 72 percent of all fresh water withdrawn from rivers, aquifers, and lakes; therefore, it is a major water user.
Among other data, WaPOR provides evapotranspiration data, relating to a key phase in the natural water cycle consisting of water that directly evaporates into the atmosphere and water that returns to the atmosphere after moving through a plant and emerging as vapor exuded by foliage. This metric offers an accurate assessment of how much water a crop consumes during any given period, such as a growing season.
When related to the biomass and harvestable crop yield, it offers a way to measure the water productivity, which is a measure of output in relation to water used as input, and of specific crops in specific places.
Water productivity maps
The tool produces maps – which show biomass and its yield per cubic meter of water. In short, water productivity is offered at scales as fine as 30-meter grids which is updated every one to 10 days, with data queries going as far back as 2009.
According to the FAO WaPOR is applicable in a variety of contexts such as in the assessment of irrigation performance of a sugarcane estate in Mozambique; the assessment of water resources in the Nile River basin (in a water accounting process); the monitoring of conflict impact on agricultural areas in Syria.
Currently, WaPOR data is being used in Mali and Burkina Faso, in combination with local data, to assist transhumant herders in assessing animal feed production.