The Basque Institute for Agricultural Research and Development, Neiker-Tecnalia, has been selected to run a project on irrigation efficiency based on new technologies; it will be applied in Ghana and Senegal. The proposal has been selected by the African Union from among over 400 projects submitted by various international bodies. The overall aim of this move is to modernise the irrigation practices to take maximum advantage of water resources and increase agricultural production, which will contribute towards improving the diet of the population and reducing poverty.
The new Information and Communication Technologies (ITCs) constitute the core of the Neiker-Tecnalia proposal to obtain new irrigation systems that will adapt to the climate and agricultural needs of the two African countries. Cereals -mainly rice- and vegetables are the essential crops being targeted by the move, as they are the most widespread in western Africa. By means of sensors located on the plots of arable land it will be possible to know the water level existing in the soil, which will enable the irrigation requirements to be accurately determined without wasting the available water.
The Neiker-Tecnalia experts will be designing and implementing a network of sensors that will gather various environmental parameters like temperature, rainfall and air humidity. The information obtained will enable the irrigation to be adapted according to the needs at each moment. All the work developed by the experts will be transferred to the local farmers and to the public bodies of Ghana and Senegal dealing with agriculture.
The project will allow the harvest yields to be increased and the consumption of water, an increasingly scarce resource on the African continent, to be reduced. Bearing in mind that the feeding of the local population basically depends on harvest yields, the Neiker-Tecnalia proposal is adding a significant humanitarian contribution to the project's scientific interest. In fact, the project also aims to transfer its outcomes to other African countries in order to contribute towards improving the living standards of the farming communities.
Apart from the populations where the new irrigation systems will be introduced, various research centres in Ghana and Senegal, the foodstuffs industry of these countries as well as their public administrations are set to benefit from this initiative, since it will provide an irrigation system that is effective as well as suited to the agro-climatic conditions of these countries.