How technology help with irrigation in Africa
10-05-2023 06:30:00 | by: Bob Koigi | hits: 2726 | Tags:

Today humanity is facing two major problems — lack of food and water to provide for the constantly growing global population. And if in the first case irrigation is one of the means to help increase production, in the second case, it only increases the shortage of water resources, creating a vicious cycle.

All the more important is a competent and rational approach to it.

Numerous developed solutions for irrigation automation simultaneously solve the problems of optimal irrigation of crops, saving water resources and simply easing the work of agricultural producers.

Innovations in irrigation appear regularly as environmental requirements change. More and more countries are taking a closer look at agricultural water consumption. Farmers now already control their irrigation systems through displays.

And that is possible due to innovations, most importantly in space tech and data analysis. Modern solutions enable remote collection and analysis of data for making smart reliable decisions when it comes to precision irrigation in agriculture and more.

Irrigation Issues in Africa

Being the second-driest continent after Australia, Africa experiences huge challenges with agricultural development, including irrigation. Despite this, farming plays a critical part in the national economies of African countries in terms of employment and food supply, which makes effective water management one the most important factors in the industry. 

Agriculture already is the largest user of water globally, and in such a hot climate as it is in Africa, water consumption is the highest. In such cases farming requires modern, tech-driven solutions for water management to ensure crops are irrigated enough but no water was wasted where and when not necessary. Such solutions imply constant collection and analysis of various data on crop state. Soil condition, and weather conditions.

Technology In Solving Water Management Issues

The only key to finding a solution is information. What do we know, for example, about coastal currents or how much water is diverted for agricultural needs or consumed by people? Our ignorance undermines effective resource management. In addition, the lack of detailed information on rainfall, especially in remote areas, hinders efforts to assess flood and drought risks.

In addition, accurate data is needed to design the right precision irrigation systems, dams and dikes, not to mention building them where they will have the greatest impact in terms of climate change mitigation.

Technological improvements in water management also include the development of climate resilient crops that can withstand drought thanks to genetic modification and genome editing. This is especially important in the climates of African countries. However, one of the most promising technologies that irrigation management relies on today are remote sensing and GIS.

GIS

Geographic information systems provide an opportunity to visually, quickly, and realistically contemplate the phenomenon on the map, and provide a vision not only in two-dimensional, but also in 3D format. In the past decades, it used to take a week or more to survey the area by experts, but the latest technology enables remote sensing data processing to control farming activities and reverse the failures in agriculture.

Remote sensing is a central element in controlling agricultural lands. It’s a method of obtaining information about objects without direct contact with them. Non-contact gathering and analysis of information is possible thanks to modern sensors and advanced data analytics with AI.

Basically, GIS allows users to combine multiple data types, create maps, visualize scenarios, solve issues, integrate data, and develop effective solutions. Alongside related technologies, GIS is used to provide valuable insights for reliable and smart decision-making. 

Remote Sensing

Remote sensing technology allows for obtaining information about objects using mostly aircraft or satellites.For instance, satellite sensors collected data by detecting energy reflected from different objects on the Earth. Thanks to this, satellites can quickly collect data on precipitation, ground temperature, and even groundwater levels — data that might take months to obtain with other methods.

Together with physical measurements in the field, it can help gain more accurate information about water resources, prepare for droughts and floods, and plan for future water use, including applying precision irrigation technology. In farming, remote sensing and GIS offer visualization of field data, allowing for monitoring crop state almost on a daily basis. 

How They Work Together

The development of new technologies for spatial data collection — drones, digital cameras, satellite data, display sensors and more — their analysis with GIS provides enhanced capabilities and significant impetus to address and solve today's challenges facing agriculture as well as environmental sustainability, ultimately food security.

New and innovative sensors mounted on Earth observation satellites, field machinery, etc, can gather multitemporal and multispectral, high-resolution data that complement data collected through more traditional approaches. GIS and other geospatial technologies turn this data into information that growers can access and interpret to make effective and informed decisions.

As satellite data becomes more available and accessible, covering wide geographical areas in a short time, it also turns into an alternative way for smallholder farmers in Africa to monitor and assess their fields. For example, AI algorithms applied to satellite pictures can help assess crop temperature for determining the soil moisture status of irrigated crops, since if the crop is irrigated sufficiently, the surface temperature will be low.

Overall, with water resources stretching dangerously thin, smart water management that involves a precision irrigation system and modern irrigation techniques is a necessity globally, especially in hot climates like Africa. To tackle the issues of under- or over-irrigation, as well soil degradation, the irrigation must be carried out with the help of geospatial technologies, information systems, and decision support systems.