Water is the source of life — for humans as well as the plants and animals we rely on for our food sources. Yet clean water is becoming an increasingly scarce commodity at a time when food production needs to ramp to accommodate population growth. In much of the developing world, agriculture is still mainly rainfed, yet unpredictable rainfall patterns are making this more and more precarious for smallholder farmers reliant on rains for food and income.
This January, Agrilinks is focusing on Water for Food: managing water efficiently and effectively for agriculture sustainability and to enhance food security. Through initiatives such as the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Small-Scale Irrigation (ILSSI) and Securing Water for Food, USAID and its partners are identifying, implementing and disseminating new approaches to agricultural water management, using water in a way that provides crops and animals the water they need, ultimately enhancing productivity, reducing malnutrition and strengthening resilience.
This month, Agrilinks will look at the interlocking issues of weather, resilience, gender, natural resources management, nutrition, agriculture/livestock, policy and more in sustainably furthering water and food security, particularly for vulnerable households across the globe. We will look at both simple and sophisticated technologies, new and old, that have the potential to significantly increase agricultural productivity and reduce risk for smallholders for initial upfront investments as little as $100 — solutions like treadle pumps, solar pumps, drip irrigation kits and rainwater harvesting tools. We’ll also look at some of the important research and policy advances, from drought-tolerant crop varieties to policies aimed at successful groundwater management. Additionally, we will explore the benefits and challenges around multiple use water systems.
To kick the month off, we’d like to share some posts from the Agrilinks archives as well as some great resources from others working on this issue, which you’ll find highlighted below and in the sidebar accompanying this piece.
- Managing Water Resources is one in a set of complementary pocket guides on preparing smallholder families to adapt to climate change, from Catholic Relief Services and MEAS.
- In a recent Agrilinks event, Can Small-Scale Irrigation Empower Women?, leadership from the ILSSI shared what they’ve learned on the question. Read the accompanying brief, What Happens After Technology Adoption? Gendered aspects of small-scale irrigation technologies in Ethiopia, Ghana and Tanzania.
- This brief Q&A with the director of the ILSSI outlines some of the critical issues in small-scale irrigation, a key method to improving smallholder crop yields.
- This post gives a sense of the possibilities and potential pitfalls of drip irrigation with first-hand observations from an evaluation of a drip irrigation program in Senegal, incorporated into a model farm setting with an optimized package of improved inputs and intensive extension services.
- This set of resources from the International Water Management Institute examines whether water user associations produced sustained increases in resource productivity and food security in Tajikistan, even after donor support was withdrawn.
- This post is one of a series of Q&As written in collaboration with Securing Water for Food: A Grand Challenge in Development looking at innovative designs to reduce water use in farming, such as a low-cost, hydro-powered irrigation pump.
- This case study from the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Collaborative Research on Horticulture shows how drip irrigation kits, photovoltaic panels and 12-volt pumps can result in a cost-effective system for supplying water for irrigation, in turn increasing incomes dramatically.
- This post looks at Collaborative Learning, Research and Iterative Design at its best, in this case helping to design gender-sensitive irrigation technology in Uganda.
- Later this month, water experts will convene in Washington, DC for the University of Nebraska’s Water for Food forum and a Symposium on Irrigation in African Smallholder Farming Systems. We’ll be featuring some of the key takeaways coming out of that global convening. In the meantime, do peruse the 2017 conference proceedings, a rich digest of learning from leaders in the field.
Finally, have a look at mini-collection of other resources in the sidebar to the left of this piece, including:
- Globalwaters.org, a global knowledge resource for USAID staff, implementing partners and the broader community working in the international development water, sanitation and hygeine (WASH) sector.
- The recently released Global Water Strategy, developed by the U.S. Department of State and USAID.
- Lessons from Haiti’s Feed the Future West, a multisectoral program working to stabilize watersheds, increase agricultural productivity and strengthen agricultural markets while improving farmers’ abilities to cope with weather-related shocks such as variable rainfall and seasonal hurricanes. This is one in USAID’s Real Impact series highlighting examples of water sector projects around the world.
- Water for Food Security: Lessons Learned From a Review of Water-Related Interventions, a June 2017 report from the Overseas Development Institute in conjunction with the World Food Programme.
- Water for Food Security and Nutrition, an FAO report by The High Level Panel of Experts on Food Security and Nutrition.
- Lastly, check out these resources related to WASH and nutrition from USAID, UNICEF and Concern Worldwide.
Thirsty to learn more? Follow Agrilinks all month to read more contributions on this critical topic. We invite you to share your own learning on Water for Food, too!