Joint International Laboratory “Remote Sensing and Water Resources in Semi-arid Mediterranea”

Place: morocco, Africa
Sustainable management of natural resources Sustainable management of natural resources
Total Budget: € 145.000,00 | Period: From January 2011 To December 2015


The TREMA laboratory conducts activities on three interrelated components: Research, Training and Development. Scientific thematics deal with the sustainable water management in the watersheds of the southern Mediterranean with emphasis on the synergy between field measurement, process modeling and  satellite observation. The big strength of this LMI is to associate researchers, professors and the local and national partners in charge of the water management, to insure an efficient transfer of the results in term of operational management tools.
Le Laboratoire TREMA mène des activités sur 3 volets étroitement liés : Recherche, Formation, et Valorisation pour le développement. Ses thèmatiques scientifiques s’articulent autour de la gestion durable de l’eau dans les bassins versants de la Méditerranée du Sud en mettant l’accent sur l’utilisation de l’observation satellite.


Institute of Research for Development - France

Lead applicant

The IRD is a French research organisation that, together with its southern partners, addresses international development issues. To improve sanitary conditions, understanding the evolution of society, preserving the environment and resources are the pillars of its work with a view to achieving the millenium development objectives. As a French science and technology establishment, the IRD is under the joint supervision of the Ministries of Research and Foreign Affairs. It operates internationally from its headquarters in Marseille, and two metropolitan centres of Montpellier and Bondy. Thanks to its collaborative activities in research, education and innovation, it works in more than fifty countries in Africa, around the Mediterranean, in Asia, Latin America and overseas. Based on interdisciplinarity, the projects conducted jointly handle issues crucial for the South: tropical diseases and civilisation, relationships between health and environment, climate change, water resources, food security, tropical and Mediterranean ecosystems, natural hazards, poverty, vulnerability and social inequality, migration, changes in the labour market ... Now embedded within the IRD, the agency for inter-institutional development research is a force of scientific mobilisation that aims to unite the French research organisations and universities to act together with the Southern countries.

Hydraulic Basin Agency Tensift - Morocco

Initiative partner

Regional Office of Agricultural Development Haouz - Morocco

Initiative partner

National Center for Energy and Nuclear Science and Techniques - Morocco

Initiative partner

Directorate of National Meteorology - Morocco

Initiative partner

National Studies and Research Centre on Water and Energy - Morocco

Initiative partner

Center of Biosphere Space Studies - France

Initiative partner

Cadi Ayyad University - Morocco

Initiative partner

Cadi Ayyad University, established in 1978, has 13 institutions which are: Faculty of Sciences Semlalia (1978–79), Faculty of Letters and Human Sciences (1978–79), Faculty of Law, Economic and Social Sciences (1978–79), Faculty of Sciences and Techniques (1991–92); Faculty of Sciences and Techniques (1997–98), National School of Applied Sciences, National School of Commerce and Management (2004–05) and Ecole Normale Supérieure, all in Marrakesh; Ecole Supérieure de Technologie in Essaouira; University Center (2007–08) in Kelaa of Essraghna; Ecole Supérieure de Technologie (1992–93), Faculté Polydisciplinaire (2003–04) and National School of Applied Sciences (2003–04) in Safi

The main objective of the project was to carry out research activities in close relation with local societal challenges. To this objective, managers have been involved in the project definition from the beginning and go on working in close relationship with researchers and professors from University and Research laboratories. For instance, research activities carried out on the: i) water crops requirement, growth and yield fall within the objectives of the green plan for the Moroccan agriculture, and ii) integrated management of the water resources of the Tensift catchment is at the heart of the Moroccan program PDAIRE (the director program of integrated managing of water resources). The laboratory research activities are also closely related to the regional program “plan bleu”.

The main innovation is the development of a tool for irrigation scheduling taking into account plant water needs based on remote sensing observations, with respect to the constraints related to the irrigation network. This tool has been tested in real conditions on the field and has demonstrated potentials for water saving up to 20%. It has been recorded as a free software with ownership shared between the partners.

The creation of the Joint International Laboratory relies on more than 10 years of collaboration between IRD and the partners' network in Marrakech within the framework of the SUDMED program. The laboratory aims at the sustainable management of the water resources for catchments typical of the South of the Mediterranean area; associating mountainous water tower, and intermediate zone of transfer with transient storage (dams or lakes) where the rainfed agriculture and the irrigated zones dominate.  The region of Tensift Al-Haouz is characterized by a semi-arid climate (the potential evapotranspiration is about 1600 mm/year against an average annual rainfall of 250 mm). In this zone, irrigation is highly water demanding: it is estimated that 83% of available resources is dedicated to agriculture with an efficiency lower than 50%. 

A confidence inspiring relation with our managers partners
Training of several PhD students who were hired by the government and have since become our colleagues

Measurement of discharge in the Rheraya Catchment Measurement of discharge in the Rheraya Catchment
Measurement of evapotranspiration on a irrigated orange grove Measurement of evapotranspiration on a irrigated orange grove
Meeting with a farmer and the local agricultural office Meeting with a farmer and the local agricultural office (CMV of the irrigated perimeter R3)
Snow measurement station at the Oukamaiden site Snow measurement station at the Oukamaiden site
Training to the “Satellite Monitoring for Irrigation” Training to the “Satellite Monitoring for Irrigation” tool developed within the frame of the program (December 2011)

Scientific Community
Policy-makers/RTD managers
The main needs that have been addressed come from our managers partners and, in particular, the agricultural office (ORMVAH) that needed a tool to help irrigation scheduling at large scale. The expertise of the research team in terms of remote sensing observation and modeling allows to define all together a tool that has been developed and tested for over 10 years in the region.

The initiative was carried out through the involvement of several human resources, both at the administrative and  scientific level. 

Applicability of our developed tools. To overcome it we have: i) created the commission of beneficiaries, consisting from managers and civil societies. This committee presents queries to the scientific committee, and assists researchers during the development of operational tools, ii) made experiments and field campaigns in close collaborations with end-users (farmers associations and land agents).

The program plays a significant role in structuring the research community in Morocco, in particular by creating links between several research institutions (Metoffice of Morocco and University Cadi Ayyad of Marrakech) and between research institutions and managers (agricultural office and hydraulic agency). In addition, several PhD students have been directed within the frame of the program and have been hired by the government and became our colleagues.

Three main effects can be retained, related to the operational tools, training and research infrastructure:
- Application tools derived from the research activities carried out within the laboratory are in adequacy with the expectations of the decision-makers, the administrators in charge of the water management at the local and national levels and of the civil society . In practice, one tool for irrigation scheduling has been developed and is currently being transferred to the regional office of agricultural development. Another one is dedicated to the integrated water resources management and used at the hydraulic agency of the region.
- Students trained by the laboratory are currently officials in several Moroccan institutions in relation to the water management. - The laboratory has led to the installation of an observatory for monitoring the hydro-agricultural resources of the region of Marrakech. It was an opportunity for the local team to train on advanced sensor.

To disseminate its products, especially tools to help the decision, The LMI TREMA shall, at least, two conventional methods but innovative:

1. The laboratory conducts descriptive and illustrative videos showing the collaboration way between researchers, research-professors and manager engineers, for conducting scientific research with a practical purpose.

2. The collaborates with institutions historically well-recognized in the field. In this context, the LMI TREMA and the AUF remote sensing Network organized training on “management of water resources in irrigated areas by Remote Sensing and Image Processing (Marrakech, December 13-16, 2011). The training helps to introduce and manipulate the SAMIR software (Satellite Monitoring of Irrigation). They received training 27 participants from 6 contries.