HANDYWATER project will develop new solutions focused on bottom-up approach, better reflecting the quantitative knowledge of farmers’ current practices in relation to actual and potential crop water use, allowing to translate water efficient practices on a case-by-case basin into farmer practices and adapted to the crop needs. Thus, in the HANDYWATER project, cooperation with water user organisms and small farmers will play a crucial role in learning processes and knowledge sharing. This will open up opportunities to integrate local knowledge and traditional production elements, in order to improve the profitability of irrigation through the adoption of lean irrigation technologies to generate income for smallholders in Mediterranean area.

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Period of Implementation

Jun 1, 2021 - Nov 30, 2024
Total Budget

EUR 1,075,726.54



Specific goals: i) To identify and boost low-cost crop monitoring technologies; ii) To redesign new water-saving solutions for improving irrigation efficiency and economic benefits of Mediterranean crops; iii) To optimise the management of the crop at farm scale; iv) To develop an easy-to-use decision-support tool for enhancing irrigation efficiency at farm scale; v) to test and evaluate the DST in different scenarios; vi) to quantify socio-economic and environmental benefits of the proposed irrigation practices; and vii) to overcome barriers in the adoption of innovative irrigation technologies and practices.


The general objective of the HANDYWATER project is to improve water use efficiency (WUE) in Mediterranean agriculture. In this sense, the project is focused on gaining new knowledge and offering low-cost and lean solutions for enhancing the adoption of efficient irrigation innovations by small farmers, for increasing the environmental and economic sustainability of two different crop productions models, both highly water demanding and widely cultivated in the Mediterranean area, such as citrus (as intensive system) and olive (as rainfed system).

Problems and Needs Analysis

Mediterranean agriculture needs to face with rising food production, due to population growing at fast pace and changing food production patterns. This scenario calls for increasing yields in a more sustainable environmental manner. For reaching a more sustainable water use in Mediterranean agriculture, a number of water policies have been launched, such as the Water Framework Directive (2000/60/EC) of the European Union (EU), the ‘Water’ law (10/95) of Morocco and the Egyptian Water Policy. However, more efforts are needed for transferring these policies and research and innovation outputs in this region, where irrigation, with 30% of the crop-land, is the largest water user in the Mediterranean region, being of vital importance for food security, employment and economic development. In the EU agricultural structure, small farms represent two-thirds (67.6%) of the total share of farm’s utilized land (EUROSTAT, 2018). Thus, smallholders act as a crucial part of the Mediterranean agricultural community. Nowadays, the Mediterranean region could save 35% of water by implementing more efficient irrigation and conveyance systems. To achieve a water-efficient agricultural sector, new irrigation technologies and best practices need to be adopted. However, these new irrigation innovations are only being used on large farms. Thus, the challenge is to widen the use of efficient irrigation technologies and practices among small farmers for increasing their crop production, their incomes, and their household food security. During the last decade, the European research community has put much effort into providing innovative technologies and decision support systems (DSS) to support the implementation of water resources management, however, these innovations have been poorly adopted by the small farmers. It is due, in part, to the chronic structural weaknesses of Mediterranean agriculture, namely, the ageing and less trained farm population, the small farm size and the low level of farm investments that impede the introduction of new irrigation technologies. Evidence coming from the field shows that the decision to adopt an irrigation technology is not only dependent on the nature of the technology itself, but on a host of other factors, such as: i) the costs incurred by a given piece of technology; ii) the lack of perceived (financial) benefits relative to their current practices, which they consider adequate; and iii) the poor design of the DSS and inadequate marketing and dissemination of these tools.

Intervention Strategy(ies)

All these objectives will be achieved by conveying existing and innovative irrigation technologies (micro-irrigation, slow rate drippers, sub-surface systems) and practices (regulated deficit irrigation, supplemental irrigation, mulching), resulting from close cooperation and co-learning strategy between the local stakeholders and the project consortium, into the development of a friendly-user DST and a mobile/PC application easy-to-use based on the “traffic light” recommendation system, for offering a cluster of smart and cheap solutions oriented to water and energy savings.

Impact Pathway

At least N.4 low-cost irrigation innovative technologies and practices for each demo-site will be exported to the Mediterranean farming systems; such as low flow/pressure drippers, sub-surface drip irrigation, RDI/supplemental irrigation and mulching. At least N.1 low-cost soil water content sensors will be implemented and validated for monitoring and scheduling irrigation strategies; At least N.1 low-cost tool based on thermal imaging (from satellite, drone and smartphone) for monitoring crop water status will be developed and tested. N.1 DST including at least N.3 different lean options for reaching water savings, including the widest variability related to the site-specific conditions of the Mediterranean areas involved in the project.