The 3 unusual (but key) elements of water resource management
Modernized farming systems have changed the way we look at and manage vital water resources.
According to this article by the World Bank, Irrigated agriculture contributes 40 percent of the total food produced worldwide and is on average, at least twice as productive per unit of land as rain-fed farming practices.
In the past, many farmers made decisions regarding the management of our water resources on legacy (knowledge handed down) as well as experience, rather than on scientific analysis and planning. In some cases, this has been successful but mostly it has worked out to be unsustainable. At worst, this has led to overdrawn rivers and groundwater aquifers, pollution and degraded ecosystems.
Various forecasts suggest that by 2050 global water requirements for agriculture will increase by as much as 50 percent to meet the increased food demands of a growing population.
The World Bank states that ‘improving the efficiency of water use in agriculture will also depend on the matching of improvements main system (off-farm) with appropriate incentives for on-farm investments aiming to improve soil and water management.’
Here are three ways in which a farmer can easily increase his irrigation efficiency and increase his yield:
1. Improving soil conservation
Using soil conservation techniques, including variable-rate agriculture (among others), the farmer can increase his yield per land, which will improve water-usage efficiencies. Using VRA has made it possible for the farmer to optimize so he can plant these specific areas at a lower seeding rate. These farming techniques could, in turn, lead to an increase in the amount of water that land can hold, and improve crops’ ability to use water resources efficiently. Learn more about variable rate agriculture, here.
Studies by the International Fund for Agricultural Development and International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas show that around 60 percent of water used for irrigation is wasted due to inefficient irrigation practices. The IFAD suggests alternate methods such as drip irrigation. While this method does come with a bigger initial capital investment the studies show that they can improve irrigation efficacy by as much as 40 percent.
3. Smart Irrigation
As in all aspects of the modern, digital world, smartphones have become invaluable tools for farmers. From the likes of Santosh Ostwal, who developed a system that allows farmers in India to use mobile phones to turn their irrigation systems on and off remotely some years back to the whole arsenal of apps now available to the tech-savvy farmer, the phone is a resource. Good examples of Apps which help with irrigation efficiency include FarmHQ from CODA Farm Technologies in the USA and DropControl from WiseConn, a mobile solution that allows farmers to track the weather and soil moisture conditions, and control their irrigation systems efficiently.
While many of these are only now becoming available and compatible with the African market and its irrigation technology, the smart farmer today will do well to simply make good use of weather forecasting apps. These have improved greatly in the past few years and go a long way to improving irrigation efficiencies by assisting farmers to adjust irrigation systems to work in better harmony with natural rainfall patterns. There are numerous weather apps available that provide highly localized reports in real-time.
Farmers are increasingly under significant pressure to accelerate productivity and quality to meet the rising demand. Unitrans Africa is strategically positioned to offer commercial agricultural entities smart farming solutions built on years of knowledge and experience. Services include providing suitable mechanization solutions for key farming activities, such as water resource management.
Find out more about Unitrans Africa by contacting them via email.
Photo by Jordan Opel on Unsplash.