Committed to the Water Vision for Europe by initiating, supporting and enhancing initiatives and projects, giving water a common voice in Europe.
  • Bookmark and Share
  • Increase Font
  • Decrease Font



This section will be regularly updated with new developments within the DESIRAS project.

DESIRAS – Addressing desertification by efficient irrigation in agriculture

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

Final event DESIRAS

Nicosia, 29 March 2012. On Friday 29th of March the final project meeting of DESIRAS took place in Nicosia, Cyprus. During this event the results of the pilot were discussed and evaluated. The results showed a significant decrease of water use at all farms. Consequently, the farmers were enthusiastic  based on the improvements made by applying the Dacom technology on their fields.
Besides the results also the benefits of the EWS procedure were discussed. In general the procedure was used as a guidance to visualize the use of water and as a tool to create more awareness. Implementation of the EWS procedure could be a perfect tool at a short time span since farmers in Cyprus should register and justify their water use for irrigation in near future.

DESIRAS Stakeholder meeting Cyprus

Cyprus, 18.11.2011. If you like to see what the climate in Cyprus will look like in 20 years if no action is taken, go to Cairo. For 50 years, go to Bahrein.” With these words, Mr. Charalambos Theopemptou, Commissioner for the Environment of Cyprus, concluded the first session of the DESIRAS stakeholder meeting in Cyprus. Climate Change, Water Scarcity and Drought and Desertification are clearly crucial challenges on Cyprus, as was also outlined by Mr. Sofoclis Aletraris, Minister of Agriculture and Natural Resources who focused on the need for strengthening the institutional framework to address water issues as isolated measures won’t be enough and by Mr. Takis Hadjigeorgiou, Member of the European Parliament on behalf of Cyprus, who stated that Cyprus should use the Presidency of the European Council in the second half of 2012 to promote water issues and measures. Urgent and far-reaching measures are clearly needed in Cyprus. In the words of Mr. Theopemptou:We have five years to reduce the effects of climate change – we need to take bold steps to avoid huge problems and avoid becoming climate refugees”.

Against this background the 80 participants in the meeting showed large interest in the potential for water saving and combating desertification in the DESIRAS project, and the parallel MIDMURES and I-Adapt projects. Furthermore, the Water Stewardship approach was warmly welcomed as a method to change the mentality of water-users, as only implementing technologies won’t solve the problems. During the meeting, the Arissandra and Ecozoe farms participating in the project indicated that already this year they expect to save over 30% on their water-use, due to their involvement in DESIRAS.

A full report on the meeting will be made available over the next weeks.

Successful stakeholder events

Amsterdam, November 2011. The stakeholder event in Estepa, Spain on 8th of November was a great success. There were about 10 participants, farmers from southern Spain who are growing olives like our project partner José Luis. All together they own several hundreds of hectares of farmland with olive trees. Thus, we could reach the powerful farmers of the region with this event. Knowledge on how to irrigate the olive trees is present but the problem of water scarcity is an everyday challenge for these farmers.

We talked about the project Desiras, its pilot-tested technology from Dacom and the tested European Water Stewardship. All together we discussed possibilities to further reduce the amount of water used for irrigation. Due to the fact that up to now the amount of irrigation water is not limited by the state, many farmers do not see any need to reduce the water consumption. We concluded that water in Spain is a big political issue and that a regulatory policy is needed. The results of these discussions will be reviewed in the next project meeting to achieve better results within the project during the next agricultural season.

DESIRAS stakeholder event, Spain
DESIRAS stakeholder event, Spain

Upcoming events

Amsterdam, September 2011. During these weeks we are working on the organization of stakeholder events, one in Spain and one in Cyprus. These events will be held on the pilot locations, so that we can visit the pilots besides a morning full of presentations. We invite different stakeholders, whom are interested in the Desiras project and the testing of innovative technologies for irrigation. Participants are coming from the regional governments, from local farmer organizations and farmers themselves. Furthermore, we invite our parallel project to attend the events and to exchange results and new grown knowledge. These two events from the project Desiras will take place in November this year.

Desiras team members will also attend similar meetings from our parallel projects, i.e. in Arad, Romania. And for a good planning of the cooperation, a meeting between the parallel projects will take place in Cartegena during the last week of October.


Amsterdam, March 2011. The DESIRAS project was officially kicked off with a consortium meeting in Cyprus on 21 February, where all partners presented their own organizations. Following the Kick Off Meeting, Dacom successfully installed the weather stations and moisture sensors at the two Cypriot pilot sites: Oikozoe and Arissandra. When the growing season in Spain starts, the system will be installed at Plataforma Robles as well.

Weather station installed at Oikozoe

Weather station installed at Oikozoe


Brussels, January 2011. A consortium led by the EWP has recently been awarded the DESIRAS project –Addressing Desertification by Efficient Irrigation in Agriculture. DESIRAS will be supported by the European Commission, DG Environment, to address the ever more urgent challenge of desertification in the Southern regions of Europe.

Within the framework of the European Water Stewardship Program, DESIRAS will pilot test an innovative technology that firstly minimizes the frequency of irrigation, by identifying the time and amount of irrigation which is best for the crop. Secondly, it minimizes the frequency of using herbicide and pesticide by showing when insects and diseases are most likely to strike. It thereby reduces water-use (by up to 45%) and water-pollution. Furthermore, this pilot test will check more holistic approaches to evaluate the introduction of new technologies in agricultural systems on a river basin scale.

These technologies will be pilot-tested on two farms on Cyprus and one in Spain. DESIRAS has started on the 1st of January and will run for 15 months.

Successful stakeholder events

Feedback Form