Satellites and SMS help Pakistan’s farmers with smart irrigation

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Using knowledge from Nasa, Pakistan’s water analysis agency is sending rain forecasts to 10,000 farmers, serving to them to irrigate more successfully and building up their crop yields. It remains to be beyond farmer Mohammad Ashraf’s comprehension that individuals in Islamabad can are expecting that it is going to rain within the next two days in his village. He may be astonished that, in response to this prediction, they are able to tell him how much he must water his rice and sugarcane plantations.

Currently, we are totally dependent on whatever the sellers of agri-products tell us about using pesticides and seeds. We just accept whatever they say,” he says. “If it comes from the government agency, it would be authentic

“I marvel at this science of being able to predict something that is unknown and in God’s hands,” says the 36-year-old farmer, Every Friday, he reads the simple Urdu messages despatched to his telephone, pronouncing things like: “Dear farmer friend, this is to inform you that between 21 and 28 July 2017 in your area (Bahawalnagar) the crops used this much water (cotton 1.6 inch, sugarcane 1.7 inch). Next week, rain is predicted in some parts of your region. Therefore please water your crops accordingly.”.

The textual content messages (or SMS) are sent via the Pakistan Council of Research in Water Resources (PCRWR), a central authority company that carries out water research. Ashraf can be much more flabbergasted if he knew the scientists get this information from space

“Using satellites and models that take the pulse of the earth, we can identify the amount of water a given crop requires at a specific location and a specific time,” says Faisal Hossain, head of the Sustainability, Satellites, Water, and Environment (SASWE) research group on the University of Washington which developed the programme for, “estimating crop water requirement in a cost effective and sustainable manner for the whole country”.

Dear farmer friend, this is to inform you that between 21 and 28 July 2017 in your area (Bahawalnagar) the crops used this much water (cotton 1.6 inch, sugarcane 1.7 inch). Next week, rain is predicted in some parts of your region. Therefore please water your crops accordingly.

Ashraf, who lives in Hayatpur in Punjab’s Sargodha district, now takes these messages critically. Five years ago, he met water mavens from the PCRWR who were doing a box survey to explore how to enhance groundwater conservation and crop yield. During their surveys, the professionals found that farmers were over-watering their vegetation. They put in a water meter on Ashraf’s 12-acre farm and defined that if the arrow became in opposition to the golf green at the dial, it meant that his land had sufficient water. When the arrow became towards the crimson mark, it was time to water.

Using satellites and models that take the pulse of the earth, we can identify the amount of water a given crop requires at a specific location and a specific time

Faisal Hossain

“Like every farmer in the village, I did not believe them. We have been farming for generations and know what works and what doesn’t,” Ashraf informed thethirdpole.net. But the following yr, he determined to only water his field when the marker pointed towards the pink. That season he produced extra, spent less on diesel to run the tubewell, and made more profit than somebody within the village. “The others watered their sugarcane fields three times more than I did and not only did my plants grow taller, I had less disease in my crop than the rest.”

Ashraf says that an acre of his land yielded 1,000 maunds (1 maund = 37 kilogrammes) of sugarcane. Each maund offered for PKR 180 (USD 1.70). “I sold my crop for PKR 180,000 (USD 1,700) while most villagers could only sell between PKR 80,000 and 100,000 (USD 755-944). Now a convert, he says he plans heed to every word from PCRWR. “I’d say that 99% of the time they are right on the mark about rain,” he says.

Since remaining year, the PCRWR has sent weekly information to farmers like Ashraf via textual content messages, telling them how a lot water their vegetation want. They also ship them climate forecasts.

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“We started with 700 farmers in April 2016, all across Pakistan, and since January this year the number of farmers receiving the messages has increased to 10,000,” says Ahmed Zeeshan Bhatti, deputy director of PCRWR. The company has submitted a proposal to a couple organisations to beef up it in improving the recommendation and expanding the carrier to 100,000 farmers.

I think the information they send is quite useful for us as by conserving water, our profit margins will be greater

37-year old farmer Mohammad Tariq from Faisalabad

“We carried out a survey to gauge the response of the farmers to our advice and the feedback was encouraging,” he says. Between 25 and 30 farmers would name again immediately for additional knowledge. “Our initial telephone survey revealed that farmers are saving almost 40% of water by rationing irrigation,” he says, adding that the carrier is saving round 250 million cubic metres of irrigation water according to 12 months. In the following phase of the programme, the PCRWR desires to train the farmers, as well as the ones operating in the agriculture division, to use research and the meteorological recommendation properly.

“I think the information they send is quite useful for us as by conserving water, our profit margins will be greater,” says 37-year old farmer Mohammad Tariq from Faisalabad. He, alternatively, wishes for more sorts of information akin to when to sow, when to spray with insecticides, how time and again and what seed is just right for which crop.

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“Currently, we are totally dependent on whatever the sellers of agri-products tell us about using pesticides and seeds. We just accept whatever they say,” he says. “If it comes from the government agency, it would be authentic.”

“When the British designed the Indus Basin Irrigation System (IBIS) between 1847 to 1947, it was to turn 67% of the basin area into farmland,” said Azeem Shah, regional researcher at Lahore founded International Water Management Institute.

Even after the British left in 1947, the federal government irrigation engineers were adding new dams, barrages, link and department canals to the previous gadget. Today IBIS has three large dams, 80 5 small dams, nineteen barrages, twelve inter-river link canals, forty-five canal instructions and nil.7 million tube wells. Still, say experts, canal irrigation water efficiency may also be greater from the current 33% up to 90% (within the evolved international locations) by repairing leakages in the system, good metering and growing efficient solutions for decreasing the call for for water and on the similar time expanding agricultural productivity.

Further, as of late, stated Shah, the cropping intensity has increased through 150% compared to 1947 with farmers not wanting to depart any fallow land. They also cultivate two or 3 vegetation. “Over the last 70 years, the quantity of the water has remained the same but agriculture is competing with other sectors, such as industry, as well as the growing population,” says Shah. Today, says Shah, kind of 50% of irrigation wishes are met via IBIS canals and 50% is extracted from the ground.

The SMS programme is supported technically and financially by way of the University of Washington’s Global Affairs Department, NASA’s applied sciences programme, the Ivanhoe Foundation and the Pakistan executive. When it began, the PCRWR was providing week-old knowledge, but is now in a position to forecast for the present and the long run. Hossain issues out, however, that even supposing long-term forecasts weren’t presented, temporary weather data would still have value. “Soil moisture has memory and inertia, so knowing how much it has rained and stayed in the soil the previous week is necessary to plan the coming week’s irrigation,” he defined.

The PCRWR is able to get entry to global climate model forecasts with the assistance of the University of Washington, the use of a Chinese type and collaborating with the Pakistan Meteorological Department. “It is thus able to provide quite accurate information,” says Bhatti.

With Pakistan among many nations liable to local weather change and excessive weather prerequisites, using clinical the way to help farmers irrigate their land extra efficiently is all the more important. Will this advice help farmers adapt to or fend off excessive climate phenomena in the years to come?

“That’s the idea,” says Bhatti, including that the advice must assist farmers tackle local weather aberrations like heatwaves, and increased frequency of heavy and intense rainfall.

Hossain is a extra wary: “The skill of general circulation model projections – say into 2040 – is poor and of little empowering value to farmers. We are more focused on providing tactical information, rather than long-term strategic information for adaptation.”

Nor is this the only cellphone-based initiative going down in Pakistan. In the province of Punjab, the Punjab Information Technology Board (PITB) at the side of the Agriculture Department of Punjab, is partnering with Telenor, a cellular company offering financial services and products to farmers who do not have financial institution accounts. “Not only are we providing interest free loans to smallholder farmers we are providing them advisories on how to improve their yield by using modern agriculture practices and linking them to agriculture experts, research institutions, agriculture extension workers and input providers,” said Uzair Shahid, senior programme manager on the PITB.

Step via small step, the farmers of Pakistan would possibly end up seeing telephone generation as an very important a part of a extra productive long term.

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