WaPOR, remote sensing for water productivity

WaPOR phase 2 kick-off event “From satellites to fields. Innovations supporting farmers”, Q&A


On the 22nd of November, the Land and Water Division at FAO hosted the webinar “From satellites to fields. Innovations supporting farmers” to officially kick-off the second phase of the WaPOR project. 

Thank you to those of you who showed interest and attended the event.

WaPOR data, at 250 m resolution, covers the whole of Africa and the Middle East. Yet, there was interest and participation from 359 of you from all over the world with attendees from as many as 81 different countries, 53 of them being outside of the current area of coverage of WaPOR data! Thank you! 

These figures show the global pertinence of the topic of water productivity. 

Mr. Hoogeveen presented amongst other things on the main outputs of WaPOR 2, one of them being a compendium of implementable and user-centered solutions and tools to improve agricultural production systems, to de-risk investment, to support water management and water governance and to improve agricultural policies in river basins and countries. This compendium is meant for the partner countries, without a doubt, but it is meant also to enrich the knowledge of the global community of practice around water productivity, water accounting and water management at different scales. As highlighted by H.E. Mr. Beukeboom, Permanent Representative of the Kingdom of the Netherlands to FAO and host of the event, we really hope that the products and methodologies developed in the projects will be used in other projects and continents”. 

During the event, Mr Hoogeveen talked about WaPOR in the past (WaPOR 1), present and future; Mr. Bossa spoke about the FAO multidisciplinary fund project “Improving land and water productivity in the Sudano-Sahelian Belt” that leaned on 100m resolution WaPOR data; Mr. Morteo spoke of the integration of WaPOR data with other FAO geospatial data; Ms Klaasse brought the private sector perspective talking about how it too can contribute to covering pressing needs such as natural resources and climate monitoring. 

In addition to that, FAO representatives from Jordan, Sénégal, Sri Lanka and Sudan spoke about how WaPOR data have been used in those countries and how those activities fit with national priorities for water and agriculture. The session was opened and closed by Mr. Lifeng Li, Director, Land and Water Division at the FAO, and H.E. Mr. Marcel Beukeboom, both chairs of the event.


Transcript of the Q&A section: 

How can WaPOR data contribute to work related to climate change in Africa?

The catalog of WaPOR applications include examples of use of the data in relation to climate change. Recent FAO publications that make reference to that include: https://www.fao.org/documents/card/en/c/cb6941en and https://www.fao.org/3/cb5359en/cb5359en.pdf and more information on FAO work on climate change is available at https://www.fao.org/climate-change/en/. Another relevant example is the Drought Observe tool developed by the WaterPIP project: https://waterpip.un-ihe.org/drought-observe.   


Could we associate our technology with yours? We did an experiment in UAE with the International Center for Biosaline Agriculture (ICBA) and it has been demonstrated that we save 82% of water on palm trees (average need 150 liter per tree) and increase yields by 20 to 50%. Moreover, we developed the first machine to rehydrate trees with our hydro-retaining technology. Perhaps, spatial means (WaPOR) + our technology could be a good synergy…

Thank you Yann. UAE is covered with WaPOR data at 250 m resolution and FAO offices in the region are partnering with countries for further application of the data in national context. Please email [email protected] and we can put you in contact with colleagues for possible collaboration.


Is WaPOR data for water available in raw data format or it is just provided in aggregated statistics only?

WaPOR data is available in raw data in GeoTiff format at different levels of resolution (250 m to 30 m). Everything can be downloaded from the portal or through the API. 


Is it possible for other countries in the Sahel (such as Niger) to join the program?

Yes, it is possible but subject to availability of financial resources. At the moment Niger is not included among the 10 countries of WaPOR Phase 2, nor among partner countries of other projects that use WaPOR data and methodologies, such as the German-funded KnoWat project https://www.fao.org/in-action/KnoWat/en/.


Are local entrepreneurs knowledgeable in ICT (Information and Communication Technologies) involved in the development of services and products? If yes, how do you consider doing it?

In WaPOR phase 2 partner countries, WaPOR national teams will connect with local entrepreneurs together with IHE Delft and IWMI. Furthermore, under the WaterPIP project customized apps are being developed with the private sector in Ethiopia, Sudan and Kenya. The irrigation performance indicator toolbox is open-source and will be available for any ICT knowledgeable local entrepreneur to develop services and products, and will also include other generic tools to assess, aggregate, analyse, and visualise WaPOR data.


What are the initiatives proposed for the development of irrigation infrastructure in the mainly rain fed areas of production?

Irrigated agriculture is increasingly important, also to be able to adapt to climate change. In that sense WaPOR data can help assess where this is more needed and provide some evidence for decision-making, for example for investing in supplemental irrigation [the question was also answered live]. 


Is it possible to collaborate and implement the WaPOR program in Asian countries, such as Indonesia? Considering the wide expanse and the varied topography of Indonesia, agricultural systems and water productivity might be affected. 

WaPOR project currently covers Africa and the Near East but other projects and donors have been partnering with FAO to apply the methodology in other continents. For example, the KnoWat project provides WaPOR data for Sri Lanka. Expansion to other areas is subject to financial resources availability and, while the goal is to reach a global extent, we don't know yet when this will be possible. The Copernicus Programme of the European Commission is interested in providing the data for such expansion, but no concrete plan exists yet. 


Do you have a project in Sudan?

Yes, phase 2 of WaPOR is active in Sudan. The inception workshop took place on 11 September https://www.fao.org/in-action/remote-sensing-for-water-productivity/news-and-events/news/news-details/en/c/1442248/. In addition, the WaterPIP project (https://waterpip.un-ihe.org) is also planning activities in Sudan. Please email [email protected] and we can put you in contact with the team in Sudan.


Are you considering Satellite Communications for bringing the internet to local rural communities ? Examples: Eutelsat Konnect Africa https://www.eutelsat.com/en/satellite-communication-services/satellite-internet-broadband.html?#konnect-africa  or Starlink?

This is beyond the scope of this project and, more in general, the FAO mandate. We would very much welcome improved internet infrastructures in our partner countries as we see that this is sometimes a barrier in adoption of our methodologies and for capacity development activities.


Does WaPOR land cover classification data discern evergreen trees from deciduous ones?

WaPOR Land Cover data at continental (250 m) and national (100 m) level builds on Copernicus Global Land Cover product, which makes a distinction between evergreen and deciduous. Please refer to https://land.copernicus.eu/global/index.html for more information.


Is the WaPOR platform ready to use? Where can it be accessed?

WaPOR data can be accessed through the WaPOR platform (https://wapor.apps.fao.org) and the FAO Hand in Hand geospatial platform (https://data.apps.fao.org), both are ready to use. 


Is it right that crop water requirement data is available only for areas with 30m resolution? 

There are apps that provide irrigation scheduling advice outside sub-national areas at 30 m, please see https://www.fao.org/in-action/remote-sensing-for-water-productivity/capacity-development/field-level-activities/en/ for some examples. 


How to calculate the agricultural water demand?

FAO provides different tools for assessing crop water demand. The tool shown by Karl Morteo is available through the AQUASTAT website at https://www.fao.org/aquastat/en/geospatial-information/climate-information. In addition, through the WaPOR programme, specific smartphone apps were developed to provide advisory services for farmers in assessing irrigation demand https://www.fao.org/in-action/remote-sensing-for-water-productivity/capacity-development/field-level-activities/en/.


Does the WaPOR program cover Lebanon? If not, is there potential in the near future for a project there?

WaPOR data covers Lebanon at 100 m resolution and the Bekaa valley at 30 m resolution. During the first phase of the project, FAO and IWMI partnered with LARI to deliver specific activities. Please see https://www.fao.org/in-action/remote-sensing-for-water-productivity/capacity-development/field-level-activities/en/ for further information.


Does WaPOR also contain climate change data?

WaPOR does not contain climate change data as it uses satellite observations from 2009 to date. However, it can be used to monitor the impact of climate on vegetation and water resources. Furthermore,  the FAO Hand in Hand platform allows for further integration of WaPOR with other FAO and external data, including climate change data.


How do we extend the use of WaPOR to all FAO members?

The expansion of the database to cover all FAO members depends on the engagement of additional resource partners, as mentioned above. The application and use of the data in countries that are not among the 10 currently included in WaPOR Phase 2 will be facilitated by the development of a compendium of applications, through which other countries can select the most relevant examples and apply them following the same approaches and methodologies. 


Could you please elaborate if and to what extent machine learning is used in your services? And what type of data proved to be the most impactful in reaching solid insights to farmers?

Thank you for your question. The main challenge in getting WaPOR data to farmers is to connect on-the-ground information to the geospatial data. Field boundaries would be very helpful. Also local partners to translate the data into meaningful information is critical.


The loss of land under irrigation is an issue of land tenure rights change and the need for good practises around water resource development needs to be implemented... What are those best practices and where are they discussed in the scheme developments?

WaPOR can be used to evaluate good practices as it will show the impact of farm management on water productivity. The implications of land and water tenure arrangements for irrigated agriculture are being explored though the KnoWat project https://www.fao.org/in-action/knowat/en/ 


Are there any collaborating institutions in Uganda at the moment in terms of project implementation/capacity development? What criteria are used in the selection of countries with activities?

Uganda is not currently included among WaPOR partner countries. Please direct proposals for collaboration to [email protected].


Does WaPOR or will it in the future provide information good enough for precision irrigation? Meaning at least 3% accuracy in determining daily soil water deficit?

Although information like WaPOR data can be used for precision irrigation, the application is still limited due to a lack of information from the ground (e.g. irrigation applications, type of irrigation system, farming objectives). To better evaluate if the current accuracy level are suitable for the different types of applications, the project has been supporting independent evaluation of the database (see quality assessment reports avaialble at https://www.fao.org/in-action/remote-sensing-for-water-productivity/resources/publications/wapor-publications/en/) and will continue doing so in this second phase, in partnership with IHE Delft. 


How can WaPOR support Iraq in implementing a series of technical assessments of present measurements and weaknesses for decreasing drought impacts in risk management processes?

Iraq is among the ten countries of WaPOR phase 2. The inception phase started and the inception workshop will take place in December 2021. The activities and topics to be addressed by the project will be discussed with national stakeholders at the inception workshop. Please email [email protected] if interested. 


How is Actual Evapotranspiration calculated in WaPOR products? 

The WaPOR methodology document describes how it is calculated, please see https://www.fao.org/3/ca9894en/CA9894EN.pdf  In addition, the recording of a webinar describing the model in detail is avaiable through the https://www.fao.org/in-action/water-efficiency-nena/webinars/rs-et/module-1/en/  


In what ways can WaPOR information be useful for the farmers?

WaPOR data has to be converted into applications or used in solutions to farmers problems to be of use to them. Some of the ways in which WaPOR data was used to that end can be found on the catalogue of WaPOR applications.