2019 Winner

Real-time East Africa live groundwater use database

East Africa

Low-cost solar pumps offer the potential for East Africa’s farmers to increase productivity, but data needed to judge the sustainability of these solutions and plan appropriate policies are not available. This project proposes to reduce information gaps by turning the network of solar pumps developed by Futurepump into IoT devices linked to an open, online water information platform at IWMI. The system would then be able to provide real-time information on water withdrawal, area irrigated, and energy use.

While more than 90% of Africa’s agriculture is rain-fed, farmers face some of the world’s highest precipitation variability, which climate change is further exacerbating. Increasing and intensifying crop production to feed Africa’s growing populations will require managing this high water resource variability. Water storage and increased irrigation will be needed, but current surface water storage capacities are small in many sub-Saharan African countries compared to other regions of the world. Water naturally stored in shallow aquifers, is one solution for farmers. IWMI studies have indicated that in many regions there is still much untapped and sustainable groundwater potential, particularly if recharge is managed.

Sustainably managing water resources, whether on the surface or below, and producing irrigation management policies and guidelines, will require detailed information on water demands, withdrawals, availability, flows, and risks. None of this data is available to the extent needed by farmers, water planners, and managers throughout much of sub-Saharan Africa.

This project proposes to narrow the groundwater resource information gap by turning a network of solar pumps developed by Futurepump Ltd. into IoT devices providing shallow groundwater pumping information to a Real-time East Africa live groundwater use database (REAL-GUD). It offers a public-private partnership approach to using IoT to provide accessible, consistent shallow groundwater availability and use data across multiple SSA countries. It will link that information with solar pumping suitability mapping and hydrologic information developed by other ongoing projects to provide previously unavailable data to researchers, farmers, and planning and management agencies alike. This will enable, for example, climate proofing of the agricultural value chain as solar suppliers develop new supply chains embedded in an environmental sustainability context given that now solar abstraction can be monitored.


The Inspire Challenge is an initiative to challenge partners, universities, and others to use CGIAR data to create innovative pilot projects that will scale. We look for novel approaches that democratize data-driven insights to inform local, national, regional, and global policies and applications in agriculture and food security in real time; helping people–especially smallholder farmers and producers–to lead happier and healthier lives.