IWMI's research focuses on the key water challenges poor communities face-issues that affect people's livelihoods and health, as well as the integrity of the environmental services on which they depend. Research thus examines the "water-food-environment nexus", adopting a multi-disciplinary approach and balancing efficiency and productivity objectives with equity and sustainability concerns.
IWMI's research framework defines four main activities: Mapping Water Productivity at basin level for key crops and complementary livestock/fishery outputs, livelihood strategies and environmental values; Mapping Water Poverty to assess spatial patterns of poverty and poor people's access to productive land and water resources; Analyzing High-Potential Interventions to identify, assess and possibly develop technological, institutional and policy interventions that can improve land and water access and productivity, while sustaining the natural resource base; and Assessing Impacts of specific interventions on water and land productivity and water poverty, and the potential impact of interventions under different adoption scenarios on areas like water productivity, livelihoods, health and resource use.
Four key Research Themes help IWMI to more effectively produce impact for the benefit of poor farmers, whose livelihoods depend on agriculture and for whom access to water for productive purposes is a key constraint. IWMI recognizes the scope for a more proactive role in knowledge application to increase impact-particularly by interacting closely with other research institutes, policymakers, donors, partners and user communities.
Impact assessment measures have been adopted to systematically evaluate the extent to which IWMI is meeting its goals. They help monitor impact in the context of specific projects, engender an impact culture within the institute, ensure accountability to donors and funding agencies, and align the research agenda with policy changes and stakeholder needs and feedback.