FAO Regional Office for Near East and North Africa

Digital maps of agricultural crops contribute to improved water accounting application and assessment of water productivity in Egypt

5 April 2021, Tanta, Egypt - The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) works with the Egyptian government represented by the Ministry of Water Resources and Irrigation (MWRI), and Ministry of Agriculture and Land Reclamation (MALR), to ensure that water use in agriculture is more efficient, productive and eco-friendly, in addition to supporting Egypt's capabilities in adopting scientific and modern methods and standards in water accounting.

Mapping agricultural crops using satellites is considered as one of the most important and useful methods for water accounting and assessment of water productivity. Engineers from the irrigation and agricultural ministries were trained in a series of initial exercises on the basics of crop mapping using remote sensing, which included training on the methods of remote sensing, geographic information systems, data collection, and image classification.

Ninety irrigation and agricultural engineers from the three governorates: Al-Minya, Sharkia and Kafr El Sheikh, benefited from the first phase of the training program, which took place early 2021, implemented under the framework of the regional project "Implementing the 2030 Agenda for water efficiency/productivity and water sustainability in the Near East and North Africa (NENA) countries". This project is implemented by FAO in cooperation with MWRI and MALR, with funding from the Swedish International Development and Cooperation Agency (SIDA). A team of specialists from the two ministries led the training aiming to provide the three governorates with the latest tools to monitor changes in crop structures and their effects on water consumption.

The second and final phase of the crop mapping training took place in April 2021, over a five-day training workshop in Tanta governorate, Egypt, which gathered 22 engineers from MWRI and MALR from the three governorates with the aim of determining the precise needs of water for agricultural crops and maximizing the use of every drop of water. The training included methods of crop mapping combinations using satellites, identified the exact water needs of agricultural crops, and the method of maximizing the utilization of each drop of water.

“The aim of these exercises is to form a mutual team from both the Ministry of MWRI and MALR, capable of producing a crop map for different locations in the governorates of Al Minya, Kafr El-Sheikh and Sharkia. In addition to training specialists in other governorates while providing appropriate support for them, on the condition that these modern scientific methods be circulated in the rest of the Egyptian governorates, in a way that would contribute to a major change in water use for agricultural purposes” quoted Nasredin Hag El-Amin, FAO representative in Egypt.

Sessions to support boosting crop combinations using satellites images activities were implemented on the control of 54 thousand feddan in Al Minya governorate, 58 thousand feddan in Kafr El-Sheikh governorate and 147 thousand Feddan in Sharkia governorate. Crop combinations have also been raised/boosted in the three governorates for the previous five seasons during both winter and summer seasons.

Necessity of applying digital transformation and implementing the modern irrigation strategy

“Obtaining a digital crop map is necessary for the digital transformation process in MWRI, as a large part of this transformation has been done through the automation of the network of canals, drains, wells, and all the elements of the network are now presented digitally on databases and on a website available to decision-makers. This project helps identify the indicators necessary for water management, and the section on uses and drawing of cropping structures serves the ministry's direction to develop a strategy for the transformation of modern irrigation by setting priorities for areas that will transform from flood irrigation to modern irrigation according to the crops that will be grown” said Iman Al-Sayed, Head of Planning Sector at the Ministry of Water Resources and Irrigation.

This activity is implemented under the regional project “Implementing the 2030 Agenda for water efficiency/productivity and water sustainability in NENA countries”, under FAO’s Water Scarcity Regional Initiative, which aims to support Egypt and a number of countries in the NENA region to develop strategic plans for managing and distributing water resources in a sustainable manner. The project aims to bring together three main domains: establishing a robust water accounting system that provides information on the status of water resources and their uses; enhancing knowledge of water efficiency, productivity status and opportunity for improvement in Egypt's diverse agricultural systems; and ensuring a higher return per drop of water by 2030.