The AgRAIN Project

Improving Rainfall Information and Rainwater Usage for Adapted Agricultural Production under High Climate Variability in Burkina Faso

Climate change is one of the greatest challenges in Sub-Saharan Africa. Projections suggest that an increasingly variable occurrence of precipitation and rising temperatures will lead to considerable harvest losses of up to 50%. This is affecting the African agricultural sector, including Burkina Faso, a country where the agricultural sector plays an essential role in the national economy. Increasing the resilience of agriculture in Burkina Faso to extremely variable precipitation events is an important adaptation measure with great potential. Therefore, the project aims at developing new strategies and technologies to adapt the Burkinian agricultural sector to the negative consequences of climate change by improving a more efficient use of rainwater.

Overall Objectives

With traditional rain-fed agriculture, extreme variability in precipitation and frequent droughts and floods, food production in Sub-Saharan Africa is under severe threat. The frequency of such events is likely to increase due to climate change. New strategies and technologies are therefore urgently needed to help the agricultural sector adapt to the negative consequences of climate change. Burkina Faso is characterized in particular by unpredictable shifts in the rainy season, interrupted by irregular occurrence of dry periods, early precipitation gaps, but also extreme precipitation events. The unreliable and frequently shortened or interrupted growing season is a major reason for crop failures in Burkina Faso. Two interlinked adaptation measures have great potential to increase the resilience of agriculture in Burkina Faso to extremely variable precipitation:

  • the improvement of precipitation monitoring and forecasting for agricultural planning and
  • an optimized collection and storage of rainwater outside the periods relevant for plant growth in order to use it for additional irrigation.

Therefore, AgRAIN project is focusing on:

  • Improving precipitation monitoring and precipitation forecast for agricultural management decisions in Burkina Faso
  • Optimizing the collection and storage of rainwater to reduce the negative effects of the variability of precipitation on agricultural production, using the above mentioned precipitation information in a smart way,
  • Evaluating the effectiveness and transferability potential of the developed information and measures using remote sensing technologies and in-situ measurements, and
  • A prototypical application of the new precipitation forecast combined with the water storage/irrigation systems to increase and stabilize rice yields and to enable a second growing period for vegetable cultivation.

Thus, the project faces the impact of climate change by exploring ways to adapt land use in Burkina Faso in order to minimize the vulnerability of agriculture and food production.

Improving precipitation monitoring and precipitation forecast for agricultural management decisions

Precipitation is determined by analyzing the attenuation effects in commercial microwave link (CML) signals, provided by the cellular company Telecel-Faso, in combination with real-time satellite data (University of Augsburg). Based on these precipitation data, short and medium-term precipitation forecasts are generated to create reliable information for agricultural management decisions (UBIMET). This results in a Burkina Faso-wide high-quality, spatial precipitation data base including short-term precipitation forecasts, available via Internet and/or applications on mobile devices (UBIMET). Regional agriculture gains an essential information, e.g. for the efficient planning of irrigation, sowing- and harvesting dates and the scheduling of other agricultural management decisions.

Optimized collection and storage of rainwater

An innovative, underground rainwater storage system for harvesting irrigation water from surplus precipitation is being developed by INTEWA. The system is adapted to local requirements, especially in terms of cost, water storage and handling, and therefore it has a high potential for dissemination. By using surplus rainwater for irrigation, yield increases, a second crop rotation and a reduction of crop failure due to drought can be achieved. The predictive control of the rainwater storage system using AgRAIN-precipitation information increases the efficiency of water storage and irrigation. In addition, groundwater reservoirs can be permanently replenished through the targeted underground infiltration of surplus storage water. A prototype system for rainwater storage and efficient irrigation will be installed at the Dreyer Foundation and linked to the precipitation forecasts.

Evaluation using remote sensing techniques and in-situ measurements

The effectiveness of the rainwater harvesting system and the possible irrigation with surplus rainwater will be investigated and evaluated from an economic and agronomic perspective using remote sensing methods and in-situ measurements realized by DLR-DFD and WASCAL. Remote sensing based data sets on current vegetation development on agricultural land will be provided for all of Burkina Faso. This information - together with the AgRAIN precipitation information - can be used to improve agricultural management (e.g. irrigation, sowing dates, harvesting times, or application of fertilizer).

Project framework

The research consortium under the leadership of the German Remote Sensing Data Center (DFD) consists of the companies INTEWA (rainwater storage system) and UBIMET (precipitation forecasts) and the University of Augsburg (precipitation monitoring using CML). AgRAIN is a research project funded by the BMBF (Federal Ministry of Education and Research) within the framework of the funding guideline “CLIENT II - International Partnerships for Sustainable Innovations” (Foederkennzeichen 01LZ1904A-C).


For further information, please contact:

Jonas Meier (Project Coordination)

German Aerospace Center (DLR)
German Remote Sensing Data Center (DFD)

82234 Wessling