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Completed Project – Programme for the Development and Dissemination of Sustainable Irrigation Management in Olive Growing

Although this was a challenging project to begin with, but it concluded with impacts as was intended, if not more. As such this could be categorized as a project worth replicating incorporating modern tools and concepts. Not only wasteful practice of flood irrigation was substituted with elements of precision agriculture like drip and deficit irrigation, while incorporating elements of research and collaborations amongst countries in the region ie Morocco and Syria. Four years of research convincingly demonstrated that, in the case of Morocco, switching from traditional flood irrigation to drip irrigation, on average, reduced water application by 49% and a further saving of 27% was achieved by switching to deficit irrigation. Not only less water was used, but there was also a gain in olive fruit yield of 63%.  Similarly for Syria, there was visible gains in yield as well as savings in use of resources while enhanced income to the farmers.

Project Description

The Program for the Development and Dissemination of Sustainable Irrigation Management in Olive Growing (IRRIGAOLIVO – CFC/IOOC/06) was implemented in Morocco and Syria by ICARDA in partnership with INRA-Morocco and GCSAR-Syria. It was a four-year study (2010-2014) and involved conducting research at two sites in Morocco and two sites in Syria. In Morocco, one site conducted experiments on switching from traditional flood irrigation to a drip irrigation method on mature olive trees whereas the second site conducted research on young olive plantations under same treatments as the mature olive trees. In Syria research was initiated at Sarbaya and Daraa research stations of GCSAR but due to civil unrest research experiments had to be discontinued at the Sarbaya site after mid-2011. At the Daraa site, the national team compared rainfed olive production systems with supplemental irrigated production systems for gains in fruit and oil yields and associated water productivity.

Four years of research convincingly demonstrate that in the case of Morocco, switching from traditional flood irrigation to drip irrigation, on average, reduced water application by 49% and a further saving of 27% was achieved by switching to deficit irrigation at 70% ETc level. There was a gain in olive fruit yield of 63% when the irrigation method was changed from flood to drip irrigation. Similarly for Syria, there was an on-average 100% gain in yields when 175mm of supplemental irrigation was applied to Sorani cv. and 90% gain when same amount of supplemental irrigation was applied for Jlout cv.

If 25% of olive plantation area that is under flood irrigation in Morocco, switches from conventional flood irrigation to drip irrigation (100% ETc), water consumption will reduce by 377 Mm3. The water saved can be used for expanding drip irrigated olive plantation to additional 80,415 ha generating additional olive fruit worth USD 213 million. Similarly in Syria, presently 695,711 ha area is under olive plantation. Based on project results, if 25% of this area starts applying supplemental irrigation, there will be yield increase of approx. 90% for Jlout cv. and approx. 100% increase for Sorani variety. At USD 0.7/kg olive, this translates into approx. USD 646 million additional income for Jlout variety and USD 670 million for Sorani variety. This is a significant achievement that needs to be replicated if possible.

Current status

Project findings and recommendations have been documented and disseminated during field days targeting over 700 farmers and many decision-makers. Flyers, posters, video, website, blogs, newspaper article and other dissemination products were produced during the course of the project. Capacity of the national team members as well as extension agents was enhanced through organization of beginner- and advance-level training courses and visit to Spain to witness and learn from advance-level olive production operations. The project has been linked with CGIAR Research Program on Dryland Systems as well as national programs in the participating two countries. Also, the project findings have been presented and well-received by scientific community during international conferences. The extension agents and progressive farmers mentored by the project team are equipped and trained to serve as ambassadors promoting the project research findings and recommendations. High uptake and significant impact in future is expected to be achieved. The Project Completion Report can be provided upon request.

Project overview CFC-IOOC-06
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Project type: Regular Project Organization: International Olive Council (IOC)
Commodity: Olive Oil CFC Financing: USD 799,460
Country: Morocco and Syria Cofinancier Of which USd 399,730 from the OPEC Fund for International Development (OFID)
Form of finance: Grant PEA International Centre for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA)