Project by Regional Party
The Jordanian site is the Mafrak area, which is one of the large irrigated agricultural areas in the country. Its main crops are fruit orchards, including some 10,000 hectares of olives, grapes and deciduous fruits. The project plan is to install other stations in various agricultural sites throughout Jordan. The most important one is in the Jordan Valley where in 1991 the irrigated area was about 32,300 hectares and the annual growth rate was 3.2 percent. Due to limited water resources, the Jordan Valley Authority (JVA) had established a pressurized system for the conveyance of irrigation water. This system allowed farmers to convert from conventional gravity irrigation methods to modern drip and sprinkler systems. The pressurized system has enabled the JVA to deliver irrigation water on a continuous basis (24 hours a day). Currently, 29,000 hectares of irrigated land are equipped to receive water from the pressurized irrigation distribution network. Irrigation water scheduling is totally controlled by JVA through the existing distribution system. However, the water allocations do not take into consideration all of the factors needed to determine irrigation scheduling or crop water requirements at the farm level. These include soil type, soil depth, crop type, stage of growth, climatic zone, water quality, and irrigation method. In fact, water is distributed according to allocations which provide special treatment to fruit tree growers based on a license provided by JVA. This license enables farmers to get larger amounts of water than do vegetable farms. Irrigation water use efficiencies for the Jordan Valley are reported to range between 34 and 90 percent. This means that, regardless of the irrigation system being used, some of the farmers are doing an excellent job of irrigation water management while others are over applying the scarce irrigation water.
The National Center For Agricultural Research and Extension (NCARE) has already established an IMIS project to overcome some of the inefficiencies, and the project has begun to improve irrigation water management, crop production and quality, and to minimize environmental hazards. However, this IMIS project has just begun to provide the farmers with real-time recommendations for irrigation scheduling and crop water requirements. The JVA needs two additional weather stations and additional scientific and technical assistance to ensure the success of this pilot project. The Jordan Valley currently retains in its water storage reservoirs less than 20 percent of its average annual water supply, keeping it available for agricultural and urban uses. Success of the IMIS project will likely be determined by this project’s impact in alleviating or minimizing this on-going water crisis.
The Israeli partner in the IMIS project is Elhawakeer . Elhawakeer devotes itself mainly to the improvement of agriculture for those farmers who still have not achieved an acceptable level of irrigation efficiency. It is a non-governmental, not-for-profit organization and included in its project team are scientists from ARO/Volcani Center – of Israel and extension officers from the Ministry of Agriculture. The Israeli sites include 5 stations; an ideal site to focus such an effort for the agriculture of the region. The Tamra and Iqsal areas have the highest priority for development of the IMIS program because results from these areas are applicable to many other irrigated areas within Israel. There are over 2,500 farmers in each area who irrigate at least 20 different crops, consuming a volume of about 40 million cubic meters of water annually.
To ensure the diffusion of the positive results from the project among more villages and farmers, an IMIS center had been established that receives the information from the all weather stations. The IMIS center, with the aid of local extension service experts, distributes the irrigation recommendations to the villages and farmers within the areas.
The final economic contribution of this IMIS project is estimated as an average increase of 15 percent in the efficiency of water use. This means that either the annual production of irrigated fields will increase by 15 percent, or the actual volume of water used by the farmers in Israel will drop by 15 percent. This means saving 6 million cubic meters of water a year. The water price is equal to 30 cents per cubic meter, hence the annual value saved reaches $1.8 million in terms of production costs. This value may increase because as WUE improves, the value of production increases, enabling farmers to offer a higher price for irrigation water.
The Palestinian site for the IMIS project is located in the Jenin area at the north end of the West Bank. The water issue is the chief factor in maintaining a permanent crisis situation in Palestinian agricultural production. Jordanian and Israeli scientists and technical specialists have agreed to help the Palestinian farmers to start an IMIS project. The goal of this project is to use very limited water quantities available for agriculture very rationally and efficiently. This concept is technically described as water-deficit irrigation where the farmer is not attempting to achieve maximum or even a very high crop yield. Rather, the farmers plan to raise as much food as possible with every drop of available water. The knowledge and experience accumulated by the Jordanians, Israelis, and Americans is the basis for a Palestinian IMIS project with very concrete activities. The training and technical assistance requirement for this project is at least three times greater than what is needed in Jordan or Israel. The IMIS training center activities are operated and managed by the Agricultural Development Association (PARC). PARC is a not for profit, Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) that was created in 1983 to work in rural development in 13 regions of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. PARC plans to conduct and assist in the operation of as many as for irrigation water management demonstration projects near Jenin and Jericho.
PARC, over the years, has become the leading organization serving Palestinian farmers and helping them overcome their problems. It has succeeded in reinstating farmers’ confidence in collective work and the values of volunteerism. With a decentralized management philosophy, technical and support departments, and ten branches covering all West Bank and Gaza governates, PARC has managed to establish strong grassroots participation in all of its activities and projects. Thriving on the innovation of its pioneers, PARC is well on its way to becoming a model organization for rural development.
The USDA/Agricultural Research Service cooperates directly with scientists and technical specialists throughout the Middle East in all aspects of implementing the IMIS. Initially, three primary ARS locations participate in the project with an understanding that other locations can be included as additional funding becomes available. These locations are the Conservation and Production Research Laboratory, Soil and Water Management Research Unit, Bushland, Texas the San Joaquin Valley Agricultural Center, Water Management Research Unit, Parlier, California and the Northwest Irrigation and Soils Research Laboratory, Kimberly, Idaho. Scientists at Bushland, Texas are the central coordinators of ARS participation in this IMIS project.
The ARS objectives related to the project include: (1) to develop and improve the water management models that are being used to implement IMIS or irrigation scheduling practices at the field and watershed scale in the United States and in the Middle East;
(2) to develop and evaluate remote sensing technologies that can be used in conjunction with the water management models to fully account for spatial and temporal variability of climates, soils, and rainfall within the irrigated watersheds for both the United States and the Middle East; and (3) to insert crop water use data from the Middle East into a comprehensive database that can be shared with cooperators throughout the region.
The three ARS locations provide models for daily reference ET prediction for grass and alfalfa crops that have been calibrated using state-of-the-art lysimeters in the United States. These reference values ensure that major errors are not being made in the operation and management of the irrigation scheduling models. The scientists at Bushland, Texas, are also leading efforts to demonstrate how remote sensing technologies can be used to discover spatial and temporal variability of climate, soils, rainfall, and other realistic irrigation constraints. This information can be used to provide specific irrigation scheduling recommendations for a particular grower’s field or farm. The scientists at Kimberly, Idaho, assist primarily in developing and improving the irrigation scheduling models with respect to predicting non-growing season ET requirements. This type of data ensures that realistic soil moisture storage values are being used in the model calculations, particularly at the beginning of the cropping season. Researchers at Parlier, California, assist in evaluating IMIS program outcomes and comparing impacts with the CIMIS project in California. This location also has extensive experience in determining ET requirements and scheduling irrigations on specialized fruit and vegetable crops. The scientists at Parlier are comparing irrigation scheduling results for these specialized crops and anticipating what effects precise water applications will have on the management of salts and other toxic trace elements where advanced irrigation methods and scheduling practices are being implemented.