In Africa, IWMI conducts research in three sub-regions; the Nile Basin and East Africa, West Africa and Southern Africa. Water scarcity, poverty, and transboundary conflicts in water management, along with land degradation are some of the critical issues Africa faces. IWMI's research in the region aims at improved water management and poverty alleviation focusing on six priority areas:
- Water resources management in the Nile, Volta, Niger, Limpopo and Zambezi Basins;
- Small scale land and water management interventions;
- Improved irrigation management;
- Multiple water use and development systems;
- Achieving the MDGs on sanitation while making an asset out of wastewater;
- Sustainable use of wetlands for improved livelihoods.
IWMI's knowledge roles coupled with its outreach and capacity building activities complement and strengthen its research. These include support to postgraduate students and interns, hosting of visiting scientists on sabbaticals and interns, There is also a strong demand for IWMI inputs on curriculum development with researchers invited as guest lecturers to universities.
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IWMI's Nile Basin and East Africa (NBEA) office is based in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Since its establishment, the IWMI NBEA office has Africa-wide, sub-regional and country-specific projects in Ethiopia and Uganda, Tanzania and Rwanda.
Sub-regional research projects mainly focus on the Nile Basin and vary in coverage from two countries up to ten countries (the entire Nile Basin). Key research projects include: Improving Irrigation Performance in Sub-Saharan Africa, the Impact of Irrigation on Poverty and Environment, a Decision Support System for Improving, Planning and Operation of Large Dams, Multiple Water Use Systems and a Nile Basin Initiative Synergy Project. IWMI's research in NBEA focuses on four priority areas: Nile Basin Water Resources Management; Small Scale Land and Water Management Interventions; Multiple Water Use and Development System and Improved Irrigation Management.
In 2007 there are 7 researchers working in East Africa assisted by research support staff.
IWMI's research portfolio in West Africa, managed by the office in Accra, Ghana, focuses on Basin Water Management (Theme 1) and Agriculture, Water and Cities (Theme 3). Theme 1, activities include transboundary water governance, supporting governments for improving national water and irrigation policies, and providing decision support systems for river basin management. Both the transboundary water governance and small reservoirs ensemble projects are multi-basin Challenge Program Water and Food (CPWF) projects. These projects have close linkages with the "GLOWA-VOLTA" project of the University of Bonn. An integrated decision-support system is being developed for managing the Volta River Basin.
IWMI and its partners (link to partners list) have analyzed the fast emerging informal irrigation sector, in urban and peri-urban areas of Ghana. This sector currently lacks public funding and official recognition and comprises smallholder irrigation along streams, or around small reservoirs. Informal irrigation is crucial for food security, and local livelihoods, particularly for women.
Under Theme 3, IWMI launched the Cities Farming for the Future (CFF) Program to support the development of urban agriculture and its integration into urban planning in West African cities. Another initiative is the recently agreed SWITCH (Sustainable Water Management Improves Tomorrow's Cities' Health) Project that focuses on the Urban and Peri-Urban Agriculture for future cities. Other projects, funded through the CPWF and implemented in Burkina Faso and Ghana, look at the opportunities and risks as well as the impact of wastewater irrigation on human health and food safety
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In 2007 there are 7 researchers working in West Africa assisted by research support staff.
IWMI's research in Southern Africa, managed from the office in Pretoria, focuses on the Olifants / Limpopo river basins. IWMI leads 3 CPWF projects and is a partner in 3 others in the Limpopo. In the Olifants basin, IWMI provides critical inputs to the implementation of the South African government's policies and laws relating to water and agriculture, irrigation management transfer, the formulation of the catchment management agency (CMA) proposal and, most recently, the water allocation reform program. IWMI looks at the hydrology, land and water productivity, and has developed an integrated data base of findings. The Olifants has also been designated as a HELP (Hydrology for the Environment, Life and Policy) 'demonstration basin'.
IWMI completed a major collaborative study on identifying trends and opportunities for innovative investments in agricultural water management in sub-Saharan Africa, which proposed ways of improving the cost-effectiveness and performance of irrigation interventions. Research has shown that "micro-agricultural water management" (micro-AWM) technologies and practices offered a cost-effective and reasonably rapid avenue for improving food security and achieving the MDGs in Southern Africa.
In Southern Africa, wetlands are crucial to the livelihoods of many rural communities. IWMI is developing guidelines and tools for their sustainable use. Wetlands maps of the Limpopo basin have been produced as part of a larger wetlands mapping exercise in Southern Africa using remote sensing and GIS techniques.
The smallholder systems innovations (SSI) project combines multi-disciplinary participatory action research at different scales with capacity building. Eight PhD students and 2 post-docs hosted by five institutions carry out research on adopting and adapting land and water systems innovations to upgrade rainfed agriculture in a sustainable way.
In 2007 there are 10 researchers working in Southern Africa assisted by research support staff.