Smart Water Management
Location : Burkina Faso or Palestine
Duration : 4- 6 months or according to availability
Availability : As soon as possible
Hosting structure: CODEV (Cooperation & Development Center)
Background: Despite worldwide efforts to eradicate hunger, FAO states that about 795 million people were still undernourished globally in 2015, and severe acute malnutrition kills more than 550 000 children each year in the Sahel. In 2014, agriculture in Burkina represented 35.67 % of GDP, more than twice the value in Sub-Sahara Africa (17.35 %) and almost 10 times the value of the world’s agriculture share of GDP: 3.91 %. In a context of climate change and growing pressure surrounding water resources, the EPFL’s Cooperation & Development Center (CODEV), along with its North and South partners, from private sector businesses and universities in Switzerland, Burkina Faso and Palestine, is developing a technology to support irrigation for family farming in (semi-)arid regions and contribute to food security and resilience to climate change.
(Semi-) arid regions in sub-Saharan Africa rely on irrigation for agricultural activities during the dry season, characterized by extreme temperature and dry wind conditions, and an almost total absence of precipitation. Agriculture traditionally takes place during the rainy season, but the impacts of climate change, the shift of rainfalls to the South, the great variability of inter-annual rainfall and the severity of drought pockets have made dry season agriculture crucial for food security. Water is a scarce resource in semi-arid regions, and high yields are difficult to obtain. FAO estimates that, in 2014, 80% of the food was produced by family farmers in a sample of 30 countries. While technologies such as drip irrigation kits reduce the time spent to irrigate the crop and improve water allocation by only irrigating near the root zone, estimating adequate water needs and timing to maximize yields remains a challenge. Irrigation is usually done on a visual assessment of the soil and plant state, and producers mostly rely on their own experience, often resulting in over-irrigation and water losses. In this context, the recent development of autonomous wireless sensor networks offers new perspectives for precise triggered irrigation.
Project Description: Improvement of a wireless sensor network to optimize irrigation and increase agricultural productivity in (semi-)arid regions. The student will run field tests in Burkina Faso or Palestine and combine the data with an agronomic model. For more information, read the tasks presented below.
Info4Dourou2.0 has developed an autonomous, robust and tailored to extreme climate conditions technology. The flexible, wireless sensor network measures and transmits eco-hydrologic data using a simple format: when the soil gets too dry, famers receive a text message alert telling them it’s time to irrigate. The information is also available on the Internet for remote users. The support system couples autonomous monitoring with agronomic models to provide a simple to use and install irrigation management system.
The technology, which has been tested throughout Burkina Faso in combination with a drip system since 2012, allows for significant water savings while improving production and has received positive ratings from farmers. It has likewise been tested in Palestine since 2016.
Phase 3 of Info4Dourou2.0 focuses on wider use of this irrigation management system for improving food security and helping to sustainably manage groundwater water resources and in adapting to different climate change scenarios. Research is underway to generalize the system with surface irrigation and watering cans for a stronger impact on farmers’ quality of life.
Master project goals:
The student(s) will be required to:
- Investigate and understand relevant literature regarding irrigation: micro and drip irrigation, surface irrigation, manual irrigation with atering cans, soil measuring techniques, measure based irrigation and irrigation in developing countries.
- Get a working understanding of the current system: sensors, measurement, models, and data transmission, current installation and deployments.
- Investigate and implement agronomic models to provide simple to use irrigation management information:
o Model analysis: advantages, expected improvement vs requirements, implementation costs
o Data analysis: compare model with current collected data
- Analyze collected data
o Collect and analyze experiment data
o Compare current results with the new proposed model
- Field work
o Follow/supervise/set up field experiment
o Analyze field data
o Investigate and understand how multi-user-gardens are organized to exploit their garden, to irrigate, etc.
o Work with local farmers to propose ways to optimize garden exploitation when several farmers are sharing the same garden.
Supervisor: Dr. Silvia Hostettler (Cooperation & Development Center), Prof. François Golay (ENAC SIE)
Contact : Clémence Bouleau, email@example.com / 021 693 31 96