U.N. tool uses satellite data to help farmers save water

U.N. tool uses satellite data to help farmers save water.
ROME, April 20 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – A new Google-powered online tool that uses satellite data to map water consumption in Africa and the Middle East aims to help farmers produce more crops with less water, the United Nations said on Thursday.
WaPOR, an open-access database developed by the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) enables countries to easily monitor how efficiently farms use water, allowing for improvements in irrigation and food production, the agency said.
As agriculture is responsible for 70 percent of all water used on the planet, it will be critical to increase "crop per drop", experts say.
"Water use continues to surge at the same time that climate change – with increasing droughts and extreme weather – is altering and reducing water availability for agriculture," said FAO’s deputy director-general Maria Helena Semedo.
The tool allows users like governments or farmers to spot areas where water is used inefficiently and take action by changing the irrigation system or switching to a more water-efficient crop, FAO said.
"You can compare with your neighbour and say: ‘Look he is planting his wheat field one month ahead of me or using this kind of irrigation system or fertilizer and he is doing much better’," FAO technical officer Livia Peiser, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
Two thirds of the world’s population live in areas experiencing water scarcity at least one month a year, according to the United Nations.
(Reporting by Umberto Bacchi @UmbertoBacchi, Editing by Katie Nguyen.
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