Project aims to improve local and regional management of water and agriculture
Washington, June 9, 2011—The World Bank’s Board of Directors today approved US$4.59 million in grants to improve water resource and agricultural management within, and across, Jordan, Tunisia, Morocco, Lebanon and the Arab Water Council.
The Grants from the Global Environment Facility (GEF) will finance the hardware, software and technical assistance needed for the application of various remote sensing and Earth observation decision-support tools to address water resources and agricultural management. These tools will enhance the capacity of participating countries to monitor local and regional societal issues such as fires, drought, flooding, fresh water availability, evapotranspiration and crop yields. Capacity to study climate change impact on water resources based on long range climate scenarios will also be significantly enhanced.
The scarcity of freshwater in most countries of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region is an increasingly acute problem with significant impact on agriculture, the environment and sustainable supply of water to the increasingly large and urban populations.
Information on water has traditionally been collected through local measurements of major parameters such as rainfall, river flows and reservoir levels. Collecting field data however can be costly, sparse, unreliable and incomplete due to the difficulty of accessing certain terrains, expected human error and the cost and time of labor among other factors. The use of satellites and remote sensing tools offers a solution to these common problems and allows for the systematic, detailed and comprehensive collection of a vast array of parameters. With better data about water location and supply, countries can thus make more informed decisions about how to use the water they have, and how to manage the resource more sustainably.
“The project will increase both access and capacity to monitor, in near real time, the environmental factors that contribute to droughts, floods, forest fires and other serious events. The direct beneficiaries of this program are ultimately Arab farmers and families who will be able to make better informed decisions about when to select, plant and harvest their crops so that they maximize their crop yields and hopefully avoid crop failures. It should also help with decisions on how to better manage and conserve water for all uses“ said Claire Kfouri, of the World Bank. “Participating countries will also benefit from the opportunity to collaborate, under this unique regional project, to standardize local and regional approaches to water and agricultural management”.
“USAID congratulates the World Bank's Board of Directors in making this important contribution to improving water resource and agricultural management in the MENA region,” said Chris Holmes, USAID’s Global Water Coordinator. “The United States Government, through the State Department, NASA, and USAID, will be working closely with the World Bank to develop and apply remote sensing systems to improve water supply and food production in the MENA region”.
“NASA supports free and open exchange of its Earth science and satellite observations and data products throughout the world. NASA land data assimilation tools for combining satellite observations with models and existing in situ networks can effectively fill these observational gaps and provide powerful insights for decision makers,” said Dr. Shahid Habib, of NASA.
The project is the first under the recently launched Arab World Initiative—a World Bank Group partnership with the countries of the Arab world to foster effective cooperation and collaboration in the interest of economic integration and knowledge sharing. The project is also the first under a recent whole-of-government collaboration that the Memorandum of Understanding, recently signed by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and World Bank Group President Robert Zoellick is intended to promote.
In Washington: Dale Lautenbach, firstname.lastname@example.org 
For more information on World Bank Programs in MNA : www.worldbank.org/mna