Journal Article

A GIS-based methodological framework to identify superficial water sources and their corresponding conduction paths for gravity-driven irrigation systems in developing countries

The limited availability of fresh water is a major constraint to agricultural productivity and livelihood security in many developing countries. Within the coming decades, smallholder farmers in drought-prone areas are expected to be increasingly confronted with local water scarcity problems, but their access to technological knowledge and financial resources to cope with these problems is often limited. In this article, we present a methodological framework that allows for identifying, in a short period of time, suitable and superficial water sources, and cost-effective water transportation routes for the provisioning of gravity-driven irrigation systems. As an implementation of the framework, we present the automated and extensible geospatial toolset named “AGRI’’, and elaborate a case study in Western Honduras, where the methodology and toolset were applied to provide assistance to field technicians in the process of identifying water intake sites and transportation routes. The case study results show that 28 % of the water intake sites previously identified by technicians (without the support of AGRI) were found to be not feasible for gravity-driven irrigation. On the other hand, for the feasible water intake sites, AGRI was able to provide viable and shorter water transportation routes to farms in 70 % of the cases. Furthermore, AGRI was able to provide alternative feasible water intake sites for all considered farms, with correspondingly viable water transportation routes for 74 % of them. These results demonstrate AGRI’s potential to reduce time, costs and risk of failure associated with the development of low-cost irrigation systems, which becomes increasingly needed to support the livelihoods of some of the world’s most vulnerable populations.