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Knowledge assessment on sustainable water resources Management for irrigation

Final Report Summary - KASWARMI (Knowledge assessment on sustainable water resources Management for irrigation)

Global food production depends on the availability of water, which is a precious but scarce resource. Irrigated land represents only 20 % of the total agricultural areas; nevertheless irrigation is the principal water consuming activity. Water demand for food production is expected to increase rapidly in the future; hence the need to develop more efficient, cleaner and integrated irrigation practices became a major research challenge.

The main objective of KASWARMI project was to build up a comprehensive knowledge base through assembling international experience in an interdisciplinary scientific network on sustainable, integrated water resources management (IWRM) for irrigation. Thus, the project delivered fundamentals for future research activities. KASWARMI focused on six Latin American irrigated areas whose socioeconomic, environmental, institutional and technical aspects were analysed. Knowledge gaps, users' needs and strategies for collaboration of potential stakeholders were therefore identified. The acquired knowledge was disseminated via numerous activities throughout the project elaboration.

The project was structured in four distinct, yet interrelated work packages (WPs) which undertook the following activities:
1. management and communication;
2. development of a base for sustainable IWRM irrigation practices based on the inventory, assessment and critical analysis of existing knowledge;
3. analysis of the current conditions in the selected areas, so as to collect all necessary information regarding existing environmental problems and significant socioeconomic parameters;
4. preparation of necessary joint international research activities in order to fill the existing gaps, concentrating on the analysed areas.

The evaluation of existing methods and practices pinpointed that the existing institutional approaches were based on farm management economics, peasant economics and peasant and livelihood strategies. Therefore agriculture was already incorporated in the undertaken analyses. In addition, IWRM in irrigated lands was facilitated by numerous existing decision support models and innovative remote sensing techniques.

KASWARMI stressed out the impact of irrigation on water resources quality, due to the extensive use of agrochemicals. Moreover, efficient design and water management at a farm level was highlighted as being crucial for the system overall effectiveness. The lack of reliable information on water and soil quality was also noted. Finally, the main constraints, problems and demands from different stakeholders' perspectives in the selected study areas were identified. As a result, research priorities were identified, regarding the irrigation systems' design and management, socioeconomic and institutional impact of irrigation and environmental impact of irrigated agriculture.

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