The Challenge

In Western Honduras, more than 60% of the population lives with less than US$2 per person per day, and most farmers practice rain-fed subsistence agriculture. Variable and limited water access constrains agricultural production and poverty alleviation. The effect of climate variability and change on rainfall patterns exacerbates the vulnerability of the agricultural system.

The Government of Honduras needs to scale-up irrigation systems for smallholders to decrease agricultural losses and reduce their vulnerability to poverty. However, information on water supply in the area is limited, constraining implementation of efficient irrigation systems.

CIAT’s Role

In 2015 and early 2016, researchers from CIAT responded to this need by developing AGua para RIego (AGRI), an automated tool to address water captures, which can be extrapolated to any country affected by water scarcity. This tool can be used by decision makers to geographically determine sites for water management and agricultural investments.

AGRI is a geospatial tool that analyzes the availability of water resources through the simultaneous use of satellite imagery, mathematical models, software and digital mapping. It identifies surface water sources for small-scale irrigation projects; potential water intake points and sites for rainwater harvesting, and displays viable route options to carry water by gravity (without the use of fossil fuels) from the source to where it will be used. The tool also shows the condition of vegetation cover and soil use in a drainage area where potential projects are located, providing basic information for management activities.

What has changed?

In April 2016, 33 participants from 15 institutions attended a capacity building workshop at EAP Zamorano to learn how to use the tool. Twenty-two participants joined CIAT researchers through a virtual network to answer questions and doubts about the use of the tool.

Currently, four major industry organizations use the tool to identify water intake points, rainwater harvesting sites and appropriate routes for irrigation systems and aqueducts. About 250 feasible sites for water harvesting and water intakes from streams have been identified with AGRI. Before AGRI, it took technicians from these organizations more than two months to identify a single point through field recognitions and a test-and-error process, expensive and ineffective.

Feedback from different stakeholders has expressed satisfaction with the AGRI tool since it allows them to save time and reduce uncertainty of possible site locations for water works. For example, Fintrac is using the tool to design local aqueducts for poor communities.

Implementation of AGRI, with a range of decision makers (from universities to development agencies), provides a clear example of how collaboration can lead to the successful scaling of development tools for the benefit of smallholder farmers.