Identifying water sources for smallholder farmers with AGRI

Identificación de fuentes de agua para pequeños agricultores con AGRI

CIAT and The Zamorano Pan-American Agricultural School, in coordination with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID)/Honduras, began in March the validation and dissemination process of the geographic information system (GIS) tool AGRI (Water for Irrigation, by its Spanish acronym).

What is AGRI?

AGRI was developed in ArcGIS 10.1® for western Honduras with the aim of providing support for decision making in identifying suitable water sources for small drip irrigation systems. These systems cover areas of up to 10 hectares and are part of the U.S. government initiative Feed the Future in six departments of western Honduras (Santa Bárbara, Copán, Ocotepeque, Lempira, Intibucá, and La Paz).

AGRI identifies surface-water sources and sites suitable for rainwater harvesting for agriculture. In addition, AGRI maps the best routes for installing water pipes between the first parcel of the irrigation system and the identified water source. The tool is complemented by deforestation analyses of upstream areas, as an indicator of watershed conservation status.


How was AGRI developed?

Developing this tool required the implementation of a complex framework of spatial analysis that included correcting the terrain Digital Elevation Model (DEM), using weather information derived from remote sensors, hydrological analysis such as estimation of runoff and water balance, and modeling the path with lower costs or fewer difficulties in installing pipes across the landscape. Additionally, it was necessary to do digital soil mapping for some variables.

What does AGRI offer to its users?

AGRI was developed based on the following needs identified by USAID-Honduras in relation to the implementation of small irrigation systems in the country:

  1. To find the closest water source that permits transportation of the water by gravity to parcels.
  2. To search for “permanent and sufficient” water sources to establish water outlets.
  3. To find suitable sites for building reservoirs for the harvest of runoff water.
  4. To take into account the protection of water sources for human consumption and other protected zones and avoid possible conflicts on water use.
  5. The tool needs to be easy to use for technicians and agronomists.
  6. The tool should use information that is readily available in the country.
This application was developed at the request of USAID-Honduras and it responds to the implementation needs of its programs. This implementation was led by the Decision and Policy Analysis (DAPA) area of CIAT with the participation of the soil area, which contributed with the digital soil mapping for the project. Likewise, Zamorano University supported the field validation and the analysis of the legal context related to water use, which serves as a basis for the application of this tool.

From the office to the field: AGRI ‒ a tool with great potential

The first validations were made in March, the driest month in Honduras and after El Niño, and the tool identified water sources in rivers and streams with enough water flow and from where it is easy to conduct water by gravity to the irrigation systems.

In the case of irrigation systems in operation, the tool identified actual water sources in a few seconds, whereas technicians looked for months for a source and the correct position from where to conduct the water successfully. Additionally, agronomists have highlighted the usefulness of the tool to guide pipe installation, a task that consumes a lot of time and resources in these system implementations.

In the case of water harvest, the tool has identified suitable sites for implementation. At the identified sites, their habitants have confirmed the water accumulation during the rainy season. In some cases, the places identified have evidence of water accumulation and small reservoirs now, in the dry season. Zamorano University currently continues the field validation and the results from this activity will be included in the final version of AGRI.

Socialization for decision makers: AGRIS ‒ a tool to be used

AGRI socialization in USAID- Honduras
“This tool, that we call the ‘Water Tool,’ meets our expectations for the work of CIAT. It’s a tool that should be used in the development programs of USAID and other institutions … it isn´t a document or CD to be saved in a file cabinet in any of our offices.”


On 3 March, in a meeting arranged by USAID in Honduras, the demo version of the AGRI tool and the deforestation analysis for upstream areas were presented to government officials and USAID/Honduras staff. Several people attended this meeting: the principal staff from the economic growth office of USAID in Honduras, Jacobo Paz Bodden (minister of agriculture) and Jose Antonio Galdámez (minister of environment), and Marco Bográn and Héctor Tablas, executive manager and rural development manager for strategic investment of Honduras (Invest-H), respectively, in charge of the implementation of water harvest projects in the country (Fideicomiso_CosechaAgua).

After the presentation, Eduardo Chirinos, deputy manager of economic growth from USAID/Honduras, said that the tool meets the expectations for the work of CIAT. Additionally, he proposed that Honduran government ministers and officials use the tool in their initiatives and include it in government plans such as forest-water and soils, and the irrigation master plan.

Likewise, the ministers and Invest-H managers showed interest in using the tool. They considered it a great advance that could facilitate the work developed by their programs. The rural development manager of Invest-H was the first interested in using the tool to identify sites for building reservoirs for water harvest in western Honduras.

Further steps:

Workshop about AGRI will be held at Zamorano University between April 19th and 21st. This workshop is offered for stakeholders or institutions interested in AGRI.


For information about AGRI, contact:

Fredy Monserrate [email protected]
Jefferson Valencia [email protected]
Marcela Quintero [email protected]

For information about deforestation analysis, contact:

Terra-I team:
Ruben Coppus [email protected]
Glenn Hyman [email protected]

For information about digital soil mapping, contact:

Mayesse Da Silva  [email protected]

Workshop about AGRI Tool in Zamorano