Similarity and Suitability Analysis to Assist the Out-Scaling of Sustainable Water and Land Management Practices in West Asia and North Africa
Ziadat, Feras M.
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Water scarcity and land degradation are among the most important factors that affect agricultural production and sustainability in the West Asia and North Africa (WANA) region. Through the Water benchmarks project, ICARDA has adapted techniques/technologies that can help conserve and better use natural resources (water and land) and hence improve the incomes and livelihoods of farmers. Among the proven interventions are water-harvesting practices in the Badia benchmark sites of Jordan (contour ridges and semicircular bunds using the Vallerani system), water-saving techniques (raised-beds and deficit irrigation) in the irrigated benchmark sites of Egypt, and supplemental irrigation in the rainfed benchmark site of Morocco. Over the past several years, these technical practices were fine-tuned and tested and a number of packages for the best management of water and land, including reducing land degradation, were developed. To achieve better adoption by farmers and ensure positive results from their implementation, suitable techniques/technologies need to be disseminated on a large scale to similar areas of the WANA region. Identifying areas similar to those of the benchmark sites is a tool to facilitate the out-scaling process. Similarity analyses are used to find areas with certain characteristics that match those of the benchmark sites. Similarity maps were generated at the regional level using expert criteria, defined by an interdisciplinary team of researchers from national and international institutes across the WANA region, and using the available datasets. Soil, climate, land use, and water resources are among the factors used to develop these criteria. The similarity maps developed at the regional level were verified using similarity maps developed at the national level based on the same criteria, but with more detailed information. Similarity maps for specific technologies for each benchmark site were also generated. Suitability analyses are used within the similar areas at the national level, to identify areas where the water and land management packages developed can be applied with a high probability of success. The better management of natural resources will sustain more resilient and productive ecosystems. Rural farmers will enjoy more productive farms and will be less dependent on national subsidies for their livelihood inputs, saving the government critical funding in the long term and helping farmers to become more self-sufficient. The professionals, planners, and decision makers can use the information and products generated from this study to target the out-scaling of the improved and adaptive technologies.