Issue 9
Monday, 06 June 2016
Charles Darwin University
E-news
CDU researchers Professor Ken Evans (rear left) and Dr. Monishka Narayan (rear right) work with (from front left) Ibu Jenny Markus, Pak Utma Aspartria and Pak Norman Riwu Kaho from UNDANA to implement ODK as part of their research
CDU researchers Professor Ken Evans (rear left) and Dr. Monishka Narayan (rear right) work with (from front left) Ibu Jenny Markus, Pak Utma Aspartria and Pak Norman Riwu Kaho from UNDANA to implement ODK as part of their research

New tool aids food and water security

By Leanne Miles

A new tool adapted by Charles Darwin University engineers in consultation with local communities and research partners will help to address food and water security issues in the remote east Indonesian province of Nusa Tenggara Timur (NTT).

CDU Mine Technology Group project leader Professor Ken Evans said the team from CDU had been working as part of an Indonesian and International Research Partnership to address the chronic water and food security issues in the region that threaten lives and livelihoods.

“The province has a monsoonal wet-dry tropical climate, and water resources are limited, with high inter-annual variability,” Professor Evans said. “Most of the people of NTT live in rural areas and rely on agriculture for their livelihoods.”

Professor Evans said the open data kit (ODK) would help improve communication between farmers and authorities to improve irrigation channels system maintenance regimes, that often resulted in poor water flow to communities downstream.

“One of the main impacts is sedimentation in the channels and in engineering terms ’slope mass failure’ results in devastating blockages of primary irrigation channels,” he said. “This results in areas downstream having no water for irrigation and growing food.”

The team recently travelled to NTT to work with research partners from Nusa Cendana University (UNDANA) to trial ODK as a tool to collect information on maintenance needs in poor and remote irrigated farming areas.

Working in a similar way to an app, the ODK has been adapted from technology created by Google and the University of Washington being used to record and track health in developing countries, such as in the case of the recent Ebola virus outbreak.

“We have adapted the technology for the purposes of assisting the community to monitor water channels,” Professor Evans said.

“Using an android phone you can take photos, record the GPS location and also provide details of the issue. This information is then beamed to maintenance managers who can track the location and schedule repairs.”

Professor Evans said the aim of the technology was to empower local communities and improve conditions of irrigation infrastructure in the areas where regular maintenance is required and ensure equitable distribution of water.

This project is part of a larger collaborative project between The Research Institute for the Environment and Livelihoods, the School of Environment and the School of Engineering and IT titled “Improving Infrastructure in Irrigation Areas: Towards Greater Food and Water Security in Eastern Indonesia”.

The team also will travel to West Timor to trial the ODK with communities in the Linamnutu Region this month.