FAO to assist Iran with water scarcity challenges

TEHRAN, Aug. 26 (MNA) – FAO Satellite data can provide new insights into how agricultural water use can be made more efficient and productive in Iran.
A new open-access data portal to be developed by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) will use satellite imagery to help water-scarce countries in the Near East and North Africa better manage this precious resource.

“The portal will contribute to provide significant insight that will assist countries afflicted by water scarcity to get more crops for every drop of water,” the FAO Representative to the Islamic Republic of Iran, Serge Nakouzi said.

“This new portal will prove to be an invaluable tool from which, countries such as Iran that are faced with the existing challenges of securing greater effectiveness in managing available water resources could undoubtedly benefit,” he add.

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.

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

The four-year project to develop the data portal is being financed by the Government of the Netherlands and implemented by FAO in collaboration with the UNESCO-IHE Institute for Water Education and other partners. The development of the database is expected to begin in October 2015.

“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.

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.

FAO technical support will include assisting countries in monitoring land and water productivity, identifying productivity gaps, proposing solutions to reduce these gaps and contributing to a sustainable increase in agricultural production.

Globally, water use has been growing at more than twice the rate of population increase for most of the last century, and an increasing number of regions are reaching the limit at which reliable water services can be delivered.

Today, agriculture uses 70 percent of all freshwater withdrawals worldwide and up to 95 percent in several developing countries.

By 2025, 1.8 billion people are expected to be living in countries or regions with “absolute” water scarcity, and two thirds of the world population could be under “stress” conditions.

By Mehr News Agency