|A Brief History of IWMI
How it all began
The launch of the International Water Management Institute in 1984 was the culmination of a process set in motion by two significant events that took place as far back as 1969. One was a proposal to the Bellagio Group – an international group of experts and donors – stressing the importance of water management in agriculture and the second was a joint proposal by the Ford and Rockefeller Foundations to carry out multidisciplinary research on irrigation technologies, the economics of water management at national and farmer levels and water policy issues at national and international level.
The need for water management research was evident as issues of water management continued to surface through the 1970s at Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) meetings of the US based Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR). This Group, established in 1971, is a strategic partnership of countries, international and regional organizations and private foundations. It currently supports the work of 15 International Centers.
By 1979, water management was one of TAC’s key recommendations to the Bellagio Group for future research funding. Eventually, through the efforts of a CGIAR-appointed team that visited numerous countries and irrigation projects in 1982, recommendations were made by TAC for the establishment of International Irrigation Management Institute (IIMI), funded by the CGIAR.
The CGIAR was reluctant at that time to add to the number of centers already funded by them as the numbers had already increased from 5 to 13 centers between 1969 and 1982. However, the CGIAR promoted the establishment of IIMI without formal sponsorship by them. Interested CGIAR members asked the Ford foundation to act as the implementing agency to establish IIMI and Ford sent a team to India, Sri Lanka, Pakistan and the Philippines to determine how interested those countries were in hosting the Institute.
Sri Lanka -The Host Country
There was strong support for the IIMI proposal from all four countries. The IIMI Support Group that evolved for the purpose of establishing the Institute authorized the Ford Foundation to enter into negotiations with the Government of Sri Lanka and plans were made to select a Board of Governors and identify candidates for the position of Director General. The World Bank was also confirmed as interim custodian of funds contributed by the Support Group with the total budget requirements for IIMI’s first 5 years estimated at US$12 million. The choice of Sri Lanka appears to have been more than just a coincidence. Sri Lanka is a country with a long history of irrigation management, first carried out by its ancient kings and seen in the numerous man-made reservoirs, anicuts and other irrigation structures built across the island. On 1 September 1983 a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was signed by the Government of Sri Lanka and the Ford Foundation acting on behalf of the Support Group. Shortly afterwards the first Board Meeting was held in Colombo and Ralph W. Cummings was appointed Acting Director General with responsibility to establish the Institute in Sri Lanka and in other countries where IIMI might have cooperating and participating units.
The launch of IIMI
The Charter was ratified on 31 May 1984 by executive action through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. On 15 June of the same year, Dr. Thomas Wickham was appointed Director General and IIMI began formal operations. The headquarters of IIMI were established at the Digana Village, 14 kilometers east of Kandy, in the central highlands. On 30 November 1984, the Parliament of Sri Lanka enacted legislation to formally establish IIMI as a corporate body, international in character with legal status, privileges and immunities. This legislation enabled the implementing agency to relinquish its role and on 1 January 1985, IIMI’s Board and staff assumed full responsibility for the Institute and its operations. IIMI’s initial mandate was to improve irrigation system management. Much of the Institute’s work involved a large technical assistance component and research was sometimes only a by-product of that work. Under the leadership of Dr. Wickham, IIMI established projects and placed staff in five countries, namely Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Indonesia, Nepal and the Philippines. IWMI also laid the basis for expansion into more countries.
IIMI Becomes a CGIAR Center
In 1991, IIMI became a member of the CGIAR system and the first External Program and Management Review (EPMR) carried out in 1994 recommended a shift to more strategic research, seeing the potential of IIMI’s work. Dr. Roberto Lenton was the Director General of IWMI at that time. The EPMR recognized IIMI’s impact on national irrigation policy in the two countries where it had its largest and longest established programs- Pakistan and Sri Lanka. Irrigation Management Transfer (IMT) and Participatory Irrigation Management (PIM) were also high on IIMI’s research agenda under its theme of Water Resources, Institutions and Policies. In Pakistan, IIMI’s pioneering research on the problem of salinization led to action at the highest levels of government. By this time IIMI was also working in India and Africa - particularly West Africa.
1991 also marked the relocation of IIMI Headquarters from the Digana Village in Kandy to Battaramulla, which lies on the outskirts of Colombo, the commercial capital of Sri Lanka. IIMI’s new office building was located in a picturesque setting close to the country's parliament. The building was a gift to the Institute from its host country, with the generous assistance of the Governments of Canada, Switzerland, and the Ford Foundation.
IWMI: The New Name and Paradigm
In 1996-2000, under the leadership of Dr. David Seckler who was the Director General at that time, IIMI transformed itself into a “strong science-based organization concerned with the more effective and productive use of water as a key resource for improved food production. This saw the birth of the “More Crop per Drop” concept. The Institute also changed its name from the “International Irrigation Management Institute” (IIMI) to the “International Water Management Institute” (IWMI) with a new mandate to “contribute to food security and poverty eradication by fostering the sustainable increases in the productivity of water through the management of irrigation and other water uses in the river basin.” The research programs began to address water management and irrigation issues at the basin scale with a focus on regional water scarcity.
Beyond More Crop per Drop
While “More Crop per Drop” focused on water productivity, IWMI began to increasingly view it as inadequate and this was expressed in the 2004 to 2008 Strategic Plan. IWMI’s mandate did not cover issues of multiple uses of water beyond crop production. Under the leadership of Prof. Frank Rijsberman who was IWMI’s Director General from 2000 to 2007, IWMI expanded its mission to “Improve the management of land and water resources for food, livelihoods and nature”. The Institute also refined its research agenda to incorporate four themes covering basin water management, land, water and livelihoods, agriculture, water and cities and water management and environment. IWMI built up strategic alliances with national and international partners and CG centers, and aimed to become a world class knowledge center on water, food and environment through knowledge generation, dissemination, brokering and application. At the same time, business systems were reengineered and administrative processes streamlined through quality management procedures. An organizational culture of impact, performance and service was established.
Today, IWMI has an expanded mandate which helps contribute to the Millennium Development Goals of reducing poverty and hunger and maintaining a healthy environment. In these three areas, access to water and land is a contributing factor. IWMI concentrates on water and related land management challenges that poor rural communities face. IWMI also enjoys greater international and national visibility, as water is high on the world development agenda. It is a modern, robust institute that has adapted to the needs of the 21st century through organizational transformation.
A new IWMI Director General, Dr. Colin Chartres, an Australian scientist with over 30 years’ experience in water and land management took office in October 2007. Around 110 researchers currently work for IWMI and the Institute has a presence in more than 10 countries in Africa and Asia. The Institute is well positioned to meet water research challenges of the coming years.
Tuesday, May 18, 2010
1989 - 1996
Project Development Officer and Head, Donor Relations and Project Development
We had some pretty spectacular board members during my time at IIMI, and none more spectacular than Robert McNamara. What an incredible man he was! Looking and acting like a man half his age, he would show up at board meetings in slacks and a polo shirt, with a small piece of hand luggage, straight from the airport, ready for the meeting. He wasn’t interested in formalities or small talk. He would always have read and remembered the relevant materials. He threw away all pages that weren’t useful or of interest to him. Despite his illustrious past and forceful personality, he never tried to dominate the meetings. But on the topics he cared about, he was passionate, and insistent. “Performance!” “Performance!” he would urge. Measurement of results was what he wanted. This was great advice, still highly relevant today – results-oriented R&D is the watchword of almost every research or development organization I visit these days. He was also one of the few board members to take time to check in with those who did not attend the Board Meetings but whose work interested him.
Monday, April 26, 2010
Regional Director, Asia
Currently – Professor, University of Arizona, and IWMI wastewater irrigation collaborator,
The Challenge of Policy-Relevant Science
IWMI’s greatest challenge is to be a catalyst in innovating with national and local partners while responding to rapidly evolving framing conditions. How do we ensure continuity with change? Agriculture and the water needed to support it, with all the tradeoffs we know so well, will be increasingly buffeted by global economic forces, climate change, other environmental processes, urban growth … the list goes on. And for IWMI’s enterprise, a crucial element of change is donor commitment, which can be fickle.
To make progress towards our mission, we must remain focused on harnessing the talents of the NARS, universities, and NGOs in the many locations where we work. For this, the regional offices and country programs are central to IWMI’s effectiveness; headquarters must play a supporting role while sparking innovation. I say this based on the nearly decade I spent working in regional offices (hence, I’m still using the first-person, “we at IWMI”).
The institute has no miracle crop variety or global systems model to distinguish us, which is fortunate, because we’re able to respond to rapidly evolving needs. It’s crucial that we work not just on our partners’ current priorities, but help to shape their future objectives and capabilities to respond to rapid global changes. In the process, we’ll undoubtedly find that our objectives change too in unexpected ways.
IWMI’s research hallmarks are interdisciplinarity and stakeholder outreach. The process of assembling integrated teams is increasingly sought after in the research I’m presently involved in. And to make science relevant to policy-making, indeed to frame science questions based on stakeholder engagement, is the next wave. My time at IWMI prepared me well, though it was difficult finding a ‘disciplinary’ home in US academia. But I’m pleased to say I continue to work today on many of the questions I unexpectedly came upon at IWMI. And I’m keenly aware of how changing conditions drive us to innovate, seek new partners, and remain focused on the broader relevance of our work.
Monday, April 5, 2010
Former Member of IWMI‘ s Board of Governors, currently Consultant, Water Management and Institutions
Making the “water issue” a top priority in the international debate on global development. In my opinion, IWMI’s biggest achievement is its contribution to ‘agenda setting’ in the international debate on water issues in general and on the topic of ‘water scarcity’ in particular. Linking sound scientific evidence with awareness-raising efforts and joining forces with other prominent actors has generated a previously unknown international attention to global water issues. The latest evidence of IMWI’s leading role in this respect is its scientific guidance and coordination of a landmark interdisciplinary work, the “Comprehensive Assessment of Water Management in Agriculture” in 2007.
Emphasizing the importance of ‘water productivity’ and making the slogan ‘more crop per drop’ becoming an internationally accepted guiding principle for water management in agriculture. IWMI’s longstanding efforts and exceptional achievements with respect to issues of efficiency in agricultural water use are legend. They culminated in the propagation of water productivity in agriculture in water-scarce environments and in delivering the scientific knowledge base for such directions. Coining the slogan ‘more crop per drop’ helped greatly in disseminating the message of water productivity in agriculture. Redefining ‘efficiency’ in ‘closed’ river basins added another important new perspective to the efficiency debate in the water sector.
Creating a sound scientific knowledge base on “Agricultural Water Management” in general and “Irrigation Management” in particular. It is hard to imagine today that ‘irrigation management’ was a kind of non-topic in irrigation in the 1960s and 1970s and even in the early 1980s when irrigation attracted the bulk of international investments in agricultural development. It is due to IWMI – the former Irrigation Management Institute – that the issue of “management” and related topics gained access to the international debate on agricultural water development and have been given ever-increasing importance and a sound interdisciplinary scientific foundation since then.
Friday, March 19, 2010
Director General, IIMI (1987-1994)
Largely as a result of high-quality publications and effective outreach, IWMI has now become the most authoritative source of research-based information on the management of water for agriculture, and increasingly, on the management of water more generally. IWMI’s work is quoted regularly, not only in scientific circles but also in broader publications with significant influence.
IWMI's research over the last two decades has played a major role in making the case, especially to the traditional water engineering community, that the management of water, especially for agriculture, is as important as its development. While few people would dispute this today, in the 1980s this was not at all the conventional wisdom.
IWMI's admission to the CGIAR system and its increasing prominence and respectability within the group and beyond (including through the Challenge Programs) have helped make the case to the agricultural research community that research on the management of water for agriculture is not only a vital part of agricultural research, but also provides new methodological approaches and insights that have helped advance agricultural research more generally.
Director General, IWMI (1995-2000), currently Director, Winrock Water
Extension, refinement, elaboration and promotion of the basin perspective in water resources. Of course, IWMI did not discover basins or the limitations of classical irrigation efficiency concepts, but it did do a lot in the way of the above four words.
World Water Supply and Demand Projections. That study was a first and has been followed by many others, including the later IWMI work. It has had a large effect on getting the world to recognize the ongoing and worsening water crisis.
Promoting the use of remote sensing in analyzing irrigation systems. IWMI provided Wim Bastiaanssen with his first substantial opportunity to apply his theories and sponsored several large-scale tests for a technique that is now being used all over the world. The work on the health effects of irrigation in terms of malaria control and use of wastewater in irrigation. I believe that this work started a very important movement of research and action around the world.