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FOWARIM (2015 - 2018)


 
 

Overview


The agriculture sector is the main consumer of water resources on the Maltese islands. Irrigation water is an essential part of the farming practices in Malta and is a vital component for the agriculture sector to meet rising crop-water demands and maintain stable crop yields. In the face of increasing pressures such as the persistence of drought spells and increased instability of the fruit and vegetable market, retaining water security is of utmost importance. Indeed, Malta is ranked amongst the top ten water scarce countries worldwide and freshwater resources are limited to groundwater reserves stored in the island’s aquifers. Therefore, the Agriculture Directorate (AD) has embarked on the FOWARIM project along with MCAST and other project partners to devote more attention to this vital resource and better understand and improve the needs of agriculture sectors vis-a-vis water and irrigation in general.


FOWARIM Objectives & Project Structure


FOWARIM (Fostering Water-Agriculture Research and Innovation in Malta) objective is to strengthen the research capacity of the Malta College of Arts, Science & Technology (MCAST)’s Water Research and Training Centre in 4 crucial themes related to the field of water use in agriculture:
  • Study and Decreasing Water Demand
  • Making Use of Alternative Sources of Water
  • Renewable Desalinization, On-Farm Desalinization and Utilization of Saline Water
  • Decreasing Negative Environmental Externalities Caused by Nutrient-Rich Farm Waters​


This was achieved by creating a favourable environment for capacity building targeting Maltese researchers, research institutions networking, research policy development. MCAST, in close collaboration with national entities along with EU partners, has led the drive towards addressing research deficiencies and networking gaps on the applied science of irrigation and soil management in agriculture.

The project was enacted over a 3-year period, based on a total of 5 different working pillars, including one for management and coordination, involving: capacity building through several targeted and advanced training courses, short-term staff exchanges, summer schools and virtual training; research networking and knowledge sharing through providing technical assistance to establish new demonstration sites to promote innovations and best practices in agricultural water management, helping foster new collaborations through co-design of research questions, and developing a joint strategy for high impact research and dissemination; designing a research strategy and performing dissemination and outreach activities. 

Furthermore, the project has been conceived to enable a long-term approach towards water and soil management. Local consortia, such as MCAST and DOA have operated under a common framework with common goals. As a result, it has strengthened national research and S&T capacity in water use in agriculture, enhanced the dynamism between the different partners, and contributed to an increase in peer-reviewed publications.


 


 Research

Research activities were one of the working pillars of FowariM. A multitude of research studies were conducted both by local entities and also amongst foreign project partners. The aims of the research activities were based around the need to maximise efficient water-use whilst lowering its input in agriculture. Consequently, research was themed on the following pillars:

  1. Develop and study a plausible water-use roadmap that can be implemented for the Maltese context
  2. Assimilation of low water footprint technology and agronomic practices
  3. Study and explore new approaches towards reliable estimation and projection of water use in agriculture. 

Studies complementing these themes ranged from social and economic studies analysing stakeholder perspective to applied research on the adoption of novel agronomic practices that reduce the agriculture-water footprint.

Research studies included:

  • ​​Multi-stakeholder analysis to improve agricultural water management policy and practice in Malta
  • Investigating the cultivation of aubergine and green pepper using different manure sources and rate application – a case study of the Maltese Island
  • Predictive Model of Vegetation Index for the Maltese Islands
  • Estimating Impacts of Land Use Change on Evapotranspiration for Three Agricultural Crops in Malta - A Preliminary Assessment
  • Monitoring Agriculture water use using CROPWAT and in-field measurements.​ 

Role of the AD​


The Directorate of Agriculture Directorate (AD) took an active role during the duration of the three-year project and was responsible for leading two tasks involving the setting up and organisation of training courses in water management. The training courses in water management specifically dealt with the implementation of strategies both on- and off-field meant to monitor and reduce agriculture water inputs. A total of 15 officers from the AD were trained and as a result are now better equipped to safeguard water resources in Malta. The local agriculture sector also benefited from these courses whereby a series of workshops were held across the Maltese Islands with the aim to train farmers and growers on irrigation and soil technology. The field demonstrations have provided the local sector with a unique overview of the current situation as well to promote best practices and innovation in soil and water management, thus positioning the AD and MCAST as focal points on agriculture resource management to farmers and relevant stakeholders.

Additionally, a detailed study has been conducted wherein a series of field studies were monitored for applied water use so as to understand better the dynamics of horticulture and related water use. The study was also stepped up by comparing the collected field data against model generated estimates for local agro-climatic conditions. 

More details can be found here​

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