About AgWater Challenges

Why agricultural water management?
Agricultural water management (AWM) is a key entry point for reducing poverty and hunger in rural areas. Unless farmers have reliable access to water, interventions to improve soil fertility and linkages to markets and inputs will fail.

AgWater Challenges is looking at how to increase the benefits of rural poverty reduction initiatives and agricultural support programs through the effective inclusion of AWM and how to ensure that benefits are sustainable, particularly in challenging contexts.

What are “challenging contexts”?
The project is looking at agricultural water management in contexts where there are:

  • Institutional or governance related challenges—for example, the situation found in collapsed or fragile States or areas where rapid decentralization has left local institutions unprepared.
  • Infrastructural challenges—not just lack of infrastructure for water services but for transportation and communications-resulting in communities that are isolated from information, markets, and services.
  • Environmental challenges—where extreme rainfall variability, exacerbated by climate change, or land degradation make even subsistence agriculture difficult.
What new knowledge will the project contribute?
Some key questions being addressed by the project are:
  1. What are social, economic, and ecological preconditions for long-term effectiveness of agricultural water management interventions?
  2. How can public and private (including smallholder farmer) investments in AWM accelerate effective poverty reduction?
  3. How can water management interventions be tailored to suit a variety of institutional situations, from emerging economies to failing States?
  4. What is the role of local (and other) knowledge in this tailoring process?
  5. How can “water management for livelihood approaches” be adopted for fragile States emerging from conflict?

What will the project produce?
In addition to key knowledge and timely support to IFAD programs, the project will provide:

  • Guidance on designing appropriate interventions for specific contexts, including tools and methods for analysing AWM opportunities and constraints in challenging contexts.
  • Promising public and private investment opportunities with high impact potential, modest costs and minimal, if any, adverse environmental impacts.
  • Context specific approaches to organizing and strengthening institutions and governing the rural agricultural water sector.

Who can use results from this project?

  • NGOs, program management staff of International Financing Institutions (WB, AfDB, IFAD, ADB), and staff of government agencies can use the project’s tools and recommendations in designing, implementing and monitoring AWM interventions and effectively incorporating AWM into agricultural support programs and projects.
  • Donors and national governments can use the investment opportunities identified by the program to better target resources and strengthen poverty reduction, food security and rural development strategies.
  • Policy makers can use the approaches and recommendations to develop or strengthen institutions and governance structures for the rural agricultural water management sector.

Where is the project working?
Although the project’s tools and recommendations will be applicable to challenging contexts across the globe, initial research is focusing on Nepal and Sri Lanka in South Asia and Burkina FasoEthiopia, and Ghana in sub-Saharan Africa.

What are the main activities?
The project’s activities are organized under four main components:

  1. Contextual analysis: Developing a framework for analysis of challenging contexts and testing it at case study sites.
  2. Analysis of AWM case studies: Documenting case studies of successful AWM interventions and gathering evidence of promising public and private investment opportunities for AWM-led accelerated food security and poverty reduction.
  3. Development of guidelines: Developing and testing guidelines for assessment of risks and benefits of AWM interventions in challenging contexts.
  4. Support for investment decisions: Developing investment scenarios to support informed investment decision making and portfolio management of IFAD partners / operations on AWM issues.

What are the expected impacts?
In the short term, the project’s tools and recommendations will feed into ongoing IFAD funded projects, benefitting 400,000 smallholder households. In the longer term, the project results will contribute to more investment in AWM and higher success rates of agricultural and rural poverty reduction initiatives—ultimately helping to improve the livelihoods of some 65 million farmers.

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