The AgWATER Solutions Project
Smallholder farming can and should be an engine for economic growth, poverty reduction and food security. The AgWater Solutions project aims to make this happen by:
- Improving the understanding of agricultural water management (AWM) solutions – especially how farmers can gain access to them and the benefits they provide;
- Showing how they can reach millions of farmers by developing strategies and business models that overcome constraints; and
- Communicating these to governments, donors and the private sector so that they can create or refine their policies, investments and implementation strategies.
Central to the approach and to effective AWM solutions is market access – farmers will only invest in AWM options if they make economic sense.
Why are AWM Solutions needed?
AWM is a promising investment option to improve the livelihoods and food security of the rural poor.
Sound AWM is a proven factor in rural poverty reduction but in many places the rural poor have no access to or limited control over water resources.This project was devised as a 3-year program to evaluate options for improving smallholder AWM and to create and disseminate a portfolio of promising interventions that can be deployed in support of agrarian poverty reduction for female and male smallholders in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) and South Asia (SA).
The majority of the world’s poor-some 1.7 billion people according to the World Bank (Chen and Ravallion, 2007)-live in SA and SSA. Of this number, some 510 million are still considered food insecure, and for SSA in particular this situation is worsening with the number of food insecure in the region nearly doubling from 125 million in 1980 to 200 million in 2000 (Comprehensive Assessment (CA), 2007). A key question is how to reverse this trend and improve the food security and livelihood status of these most vulnerable groups. At present around 70% of the poor in SSA and SA are rural with few immediate options for employment outside of agriculture.
The goal of the project is to stimulate and support successful pro-poor, gender-equitable AWM investment, policy and implementation strategies through concrete, evidence-based knowledge and decision-making tools.
Despite this potential, adoption rates of AWM practices remain low and are often confined to a few farmers or to small areas. The challenge is to achieve large scale adoption in a manner that is sustainable, and that benefits the poorest people, including women.
A particular problem is that too many systems, especially in SSA, have tended to allocate irrigated land and target AWM technologies to the male “heads of household,” ignoring the critical roles of women in food production and their preferences for and the related impacts of different AWM technologies.
While the problem of improving smallholder AWM is generally formulated as one of increasing ‘access to affordable technology’ other factors are involved. Some arise within the community – lack of physical access, unfavorable economics, and institutional bottlenecks.
Others arise from factors outside the target communities – at the level of watersheds, landscapes, and inputs and output markets. Village communities rarely have the power to influence them.
Both internal and external issues need to be addressed.
Developing Solutions Together
The findings from the AgWater Solutions Project provide a sound basis for future investments in AWM interventions. Through a continuing process of dialogue, it is trying to define what, where, and how donors, implementers and policymakers should invest in order to achieve the greatest livelihood benefits sustainably and cost-effectively.
As the project nears completion, we can offer a menu of AWM interventions, and supporting intervention strategies, that are promising in terms of techno-economic feasibility, livelihoods benefits, environmental sustainability, and ease of out-scaling.
The project outputs have been designed to help policymakers, investors, donors, NGOs and national governments in the project’s target countries and regions identify and implement appropriate AWM solutions for equitable, agrarian poverty reduction.