In March 2018, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) Representation in the Syrian Arab Republic announced its first wheat and barley production assessment using remote sensing, an advanced information and communication technology. The assessment was carried out by the General Organization for Remote Sensing (GORS), and an innovative partnership between FAO, GORS and two Syrian line ministries – the Ministry of Agriculture and Agrarian Reform and the Ministry of Water Resources – was formed and continues to produce outstanding results.
Recently, FAO sponsored a workshop that was conducted by GORS and the Natural Agricultural Policy Center on the use of remote sensing to evaluate the effect of irrigation on agricultural production. The workshop used case studies as a teaching tool, and the two studies used measured the impact of irrigation system rehabilitation on agricultural production in Homs and Aleppo governorates. The studies took “before” and “after” images to assess changes in land use and found an improvement in crop production after irrigation facilities were rehabilitated through FAO projects in the two governorates. The use of remote sensing technology across different spectral ranges facilitated the calculation of different indices, capturing different aspects of water use efficiency in producing biomass. The workshop also presented a series of compelling posters that highlighted the usefulness of the tools.
About 150 young Syrian technicians and experts have received intensive training on remote sensing methodology and tools to assess the impact of irrigation projects on crop production. Specifically, the technicians and experts were trained on data analysis; remote sensing software ArcGIS and ERDAS IMAGINE; crop area and production assessment through a variety of indices and images, including normalized Difference Vegetation Index, Normalized Difference Water Index, Gross Biomass Water Productivity and Normalized Biomass Water Productivity images; and other topics related to technology and innovation.
Mike Robson, FAO Representative in the Syrian Arab Republic, stated that remote sensing technology is important for the Syrian Arab Republic because “the technology allows the stakeholders involved in the agriculture sector to draw conclusions about the whole farming system above and beyond talking to individual farmers. It also enables access to areas, which would be difficult or expensive to visit”. Robson added, “The challenge now is to use these approaches to support on-the-ground decision making in irrigation management, in crop selection or even in the assessment of plant health across an area. When this information helps better decision making at a field level then farmers will really begin to benefit”.
The training sessions were generously supported by the Government of Japan as part of the FAO project “Technical cooperation for long-term capacity building of Syrian experts - training for all”. The training is aligned with the FAO goal to promote sustainable development in rural communities through investments in innovation and technologies and with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 9 – Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation.