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DESIRAS – Addressing desertification by efficient irrigation in agriculture

Apr 30th, 2012 |

Project finalized, reaching water savings in irrigation in desertification-areas of over 50%.

Brussels, 30 April 2012. Today is the final day of the DESIRAS project. Within DESIRAS, seven partners work together to test an innovative technology to reduce water consumption in irrigation on three farms and different crops in Cyprus and in Spain (Guadalquivir basin). DESIRAS is supported by DG Environment, as a pilot project on development of prevention activities to halt desertification in Europe.

The direct objective of the project is to show that innovative technologies, like the DACOM technology which was tested, have huge potential for water saving in irrigation. The areas in which the technology was tested face large problems in desertification, which is primarily caused by overexploitation of the available water resources. With irrigation accounting for by far the largest part of the total water use (in Spain ~70%, in Cyprus ~60%), saving water in irrigation could have a large positive effect on the total water use, and therefore on addressing desertification.

The project

In DESIRAS, the DACOM Agri Yield Management System (AYMS) was tested on three farms in Cyprus and Spain. The AYMS relies on soil moisture sensors and local weather stations to provide guidance on the optimum time and quantity of irrigation. (For more detailed information on the technology, please visit This technology was tested on the Plataforma de Robles olive farm in Spain, the Arissandra farm in Cyprus which produces lemon balm, catnip, thyme, sideritis, verbena and lemon verbena and the Oikozoe farm in Cyprus, which produces potatoes and olives. On almost all crops, water savings of over 50% were reached compared to 2010. The AYMS was tested within the framework of the European Water Stewardship (EWS), which provides a practical holistic tool to evaluate the impact of the technology, not just on the farm, but also on the wider river basin.

The results

As a general outcome, the DESIRAS project clearly showed that implementing innovative technologies can have a large impact on water use in irrigation, with savings over 50%. With the large amount of water used for irrigation in the testing-areas, saving water on irrigation can have huge positive effects on addressing desertification. Implementing innovative technologies alone is however not enough. The implementation has to be part of a broader water strategy to ensure concrete and lasting effects and ensure positive effects on the wider river basin. The European Water Stewardship (EWS) provides a practically applicable tool for such a holistic evaluation, assessment and implementation of sustainable water management.


To save water in irrigation and address desertification, governments are recommended to facilitate the implementation of innovative technologies. This implementation should be enabled by:

  • Making clear economic incentives available for farmers, either in the form of water prizing structures or other financial incentives.
  • Methods to communicate efforts on sustainable water management or Corporate Social Responsibility (such as EWS) can provide an added incentive.
  • Promoting awareness on available innovative technologies to reduce water use.
  • Promoting the awareness of the water challenges and the concrete impact of an individual farmer on these challenges. Systems like the EWS can provide a positive support to raising this awareness.
  • Promoting the implementation of broader water strategies at farm level, which always have to accompany the implementation of innovative technologies for the technology to have real and lasting effects. EWS provides a tool to set up and evaluate this broader strategy.

Follow up

The outcomes and recommendations will be presented in further detail to the European Commission as part of the Policy Review on Water Scarcity and Drought. This review is part of the Blueprint to safeguard Europe’s Waters which will be presented by the European Commission at the end of 2012. The final report of DESIRAS will be available very soon on the DESIRAS’ website. If you would like to receive more information on the project, the AYMS technology or European Water Stewardship, please visit or contact the EWP via

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