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Water-Food Nexus // Programme "Remote Sensing for Water Productivity"

This programme will assist the Member Countries of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) in monitoring water productivity, identifying water productivity gaps, proposing solutions to reduce these gaps and contributing to a sustainable increase of agricultural production, while taking into account ecosystems and the equitable use of water resources, which eventually should lead to an overall reduction of water stress.

The programme will allow generating a solid and validated pixel based methodological framework to assess and monitor land and, more specifically, water productivity. By providing near real time pixel information, the methodological framework will open the door for service-providers to assist farmers in obtaining more reliable yields and improving their livelihoods. At the same time, irrigation authorities will have access to information to modernize their irrigation schemes and government agencies will be able to use the information to promote and increase the efficient use of their natural resources.

FAO will be responsible for the implementation of the programme, which will last until October 2019. The main partners for the implementation will be UNESCO-IHE Institute for Water Education and the International Water Management Institute (IWMI).


The programme outcome will consist of an action framework to provide relevant and specific information on water and biomass status for stakeholders at different scales - from the policy level to the farm level - to develop workable solutions to sustainably increase agricultural land and water productivity. 

The framework is based on robust state of the art Remote Sensing and Information and Communication Technologies, combined with in-situ data. It will be used to assess the terrestrial soil water balance and related biomass production to monitor agricultural land and water productivity, as well as the uptake of carbon dioxide by vegetation. 

The programme foresees four outputs:  

  1. An open-access database, covering Africa and the Near East, with (mainly) Remotely Sensed data, to monitor, in near real time, agricultural water and land productivity as well carbon dioxide uptake by vegetation;
  2. An assessment, in space and time, of agricultural water and land productivity, productivity gaps and capacity development to close these gaps;
  3. An assessment, through water accounting, of the consequences and sustainability of possible increases in water productivity in agriculture;
  4. Capacity development of stakeholders to increase water productivity sustainably.

Countries and Regions

The area to be covered will be, for Level I, Northern and sub-Saharan Africa and the Near East (roughly a square of -30W, -40S, 65E, 40N, as represented by the yellow dot square in the map below).

National and sub-national level activities will be implemented in the following participating countries and areas:

Countries (Level II)

Morocco, Tunisia, Egypt, Lebanon, Syrian Arab Republic, Jordan, Ghana, Kenya, South Sudan, Mali, Benin, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Burundi, Mozambique, Uganda, West Bank and Gaza Strip, Yemen

For these countries, land and water productivity will be monitored while distinguishing several main crops under irrigated or rainfed agriculture. 

River Basins (Level II)

Jordan / Litani, Nile, Awash, Niger

For these river basins, water accounting through Remote Sensing will be applied to assess the extent to which water productivity increases have an effect on different water users.

Irrigation scheme/sub-basin (Level III) - tentative

Pilot areas to be selected in the Jordan/Litani River Basin, Nile Basin, Awash River Basin, Niger inner Delta.

In these pilot areas, capacity development activities will be carried out, providing knowledge and experience to replicate and scale up interventions for improving water productivity in other areas and countries.

More Information

FAO programme website

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