Global satellite-based ET products for the local level irrigation management: An application of irrigation performance assessment in the Sugarbelt of Swaziland

Karimi, Poolad; Bongani, Bhembe; Blatchford, Megan; Fraiture, Charlotte de


Remote sensing techniques have been shown, in several studies, to be an extremely effective tool for assessing the performance of irrigated areas at various scales and diverse climatic regions across the world. Open access, ready-made, global ET products were utilized in this first-ever-countrywide irrigation performance assessment study. The study aimed at identifying 'bright spots', the highest performing sugarcane growers, and 'hot spots', or low performing sugarcane growers. Four remote sensing-derived irrigation performance indicators were applied to over 302 sugarcane growers; equity, adequacy, reliability and crop water productivity. The growers were segmented according to: (i) land holding size or grower scale (ii) management regime, (iii) location of the irrigation schemes and (iv) irrigation method. Five growing seasons, from June 2005 to October 2009, were investigated. The results show while the equity of water distribution is high across all management regimes and locations, adequacy and reliability of water needs improvement in several locations. Given the fact that, in general, water supply was not constrained during the study period, the observed issues with adequacy and reliability of irrigation in some of the schemes were mostly due to poor scheme and farm level water management practices. Sugarcane crop water productivity showed the highest variation among all the indicators, with Estate managed schemes having the highest CWP at 1.57 kg/m3 and the individual growers recording the lowest CWP at 1.14 kg/m3, nearly 30% less. Similarly center pivot systems showed to have the highest CWP at 1.63 kg/m3, which was 30% higher than the CWP in furrow systems. This study showcases the applicability of publicly available global remote sensing products for assessing performance of the irrigated crops at the local level in several aspects.