Water systems science in One CGIAR

“CGIAR’s new ambitions are defined by new impact areas, with water at the heart of each…”

One CGIAR will focus on innovations from genetics to entire food production systems, and on policies and strategies to transform trajectories for sustainable development. And critically, innovations that can be deployed faster, at a larger scale, and with greater impact, where they are needed the most. CGIAR and its partners will deliver ways to grow, catch, trade, and consume healthy and nutritious food. But also the means to manage landscapes and water systems that are inclusive, more equal and resilient. Ultimately a unified CGIAR will help the world to live within planetary boundaries, stop the loss of biodiversity and maintain a safe climate. CGIAR’s new ambitions are defined by a set of impact areas, with water – and therefore water systems science – at the heart of each.

Nutrition, Health
& Food Security
Poverty Reduction,
Livelihoods & Jobs
Gender Equality, Youth
& Social Inclusion
Climate Adaptation
& Mitigation
Environmental health
& Biodiversity
IWMI’s policy and technical innovations promote a food and water secure future. Our work not only improves irrigation and allows farmers to grow a more nutritionally diverse set of crops. But, better water resources management also encourage more equitable access to sanitation and hygiene, critical for public health systems. Our projects span farmer-led irrigation, where smallholders invest in wells and pumps to take control of irrigating their crops, to the use of satellite data to map water resources at the regional level. Discover more…
Livelihoods improve when water becomes more accessible. At a basic level, more water can mean improved agricultural irrigation, leading to increased income generated from smallholdings. And having access to clean water can result in less time spent travelling to pumps and wells, and more time spent in education or work. Much of IWMI’s work aims at poverty reduction, whether that’s helping to reduce floods and thus damage to crops and property or increasing accessibility to sustainable aquifers. Discover more…
IWMI’s research shows that access to water can significantly affect the dynamics of growth and a country’s overall economic development. Real progress cannot be achieved if water investments, innovations and interventions do not respond to the complexities of inequality and social inclusion. It is these inequalities around who has the power to participate in, and make decisions over resource allocation and management, which can determine the winners and losers under conditions of climate change – especially during extreme weather events such as droughts and floods. Gender equality and inclusion are key to sustainable and equitable systems-level solutions. All voices and opinion should be counted for a project to take root and grow, no matter their gender, caste or age. Discover more…
It is largely through water that most people will ‘experience’ climate change: unpredictable rain, droughts and floods, and the disruption this will bring to our food systems and drinking water supplies. IWMI’s research addresses ways to maximize water productivity. This means developing more accurate rainfall predictions to support drought and flood warning systems; promoting ‘climate-smart’ agricultural technologies; increasing water storage, and circular resource and waste systems and water resources modelling, monitoring and scenario planning so we know who and where is using how much water. It also means addressing how watersheds, wetlands and mangroves can provide nature-based solutions to moderate climate extremes and increase resilience to climate change.  Discover more…
IWMI’s goal is to develop a sustainable approach to water infrastructure that supports economic development and human well-being, and safeguards ecosystem services. We work to combine the best aspects of natural and manufactured water infrastructure to support sustainable, resilient and inclusive development. To best support environmental health and biodiversity, we work closely with regional and subregional organizations, river basin organizations, government agencies and investors to influence policy and practices around water management and to ensure that women, young people and other marginal groups are included in infrastructure planning and management at national and local scales. Discover more…
 

Water in One CGIAR Impact Areas

To deliver science and innovation that advance the transformation of food, land, and water systems in a climate crisis.

Videos

International Day for Biological Diversity 2023 | IWMI
IWMI is pioneering new approaches to determining environmental flows (e-flows). E-flows are the quantity, timing and quality of water flows required to sustain freshwater and estuarine ecosystems and the human...
How to develop demand-driven capacity strengthening programs | IWMI
Demand-driven capacity strengthening programs prepare skills and competencies for the young labor force to work in the private sector, filling the gap of suitable workforce.
How to assess client creditworthiness | IWMI
Creditworthiness assessment tool helps input suppliers, financial institutions and other service providers to identify farmers (clients) who fit and credit-and-trustworthy for their business.
Urmul Seemant- Solar IF Grantee | IWMI
This video showcases an innovative and sustainable project by Urmul Seemant (Grantee for IWMI-SoLAR Innovation Funds) Samiti in the western region of Rajasthan, India. The project focuses on promoting soil-less...

Tweets from IWMI

Economics and equity

At IWMI, researching underlying economic and social trends helps us understand why people migrate. They also explain the impact of remittances and loss of agricultural labor, as well as consequences of migration on gender roles and food and water security. For instance, communities with higher levels of income inequality, or relative deprivation, may experience greater levels of out-migration compared to consistently low-income communities. In addition, migration changes intra-household gender-labor composition, which can change the access of smallholders to water resources, affecting the functioning of community-based institutions and consequently household and local food security. IWMI also focuses on circular economy, a strategy to recover and reuse waste, to boost food security and understand how interventions can encourage refugee and host communities to retain scarce resources.

This focus area contributes to the following One CGIAR impact areas:

Nutrition, health and food security Poverty reduction, livelihoods and jobs Gender equality, youth and inclusion

Urban & rural transformation

As agricultural opportunities fluctuate in rural areas, migration, particularly to urban areas, is an adaptation technique to secure incomes and alternative livelihoods. Income generated by migrants is often sent back to family as remittances to support communities at home. At IWMI, we assess linkages between rural and urban areas, as well as the role of agricultural knowledge systems and food and water security. We recognize there are complex push and pull factors such as individual aspirations, economic opportunity, social norms, climate variability and government policies which drive migration and affect rural communities, particularly youth. Our work follows a ‘positive migration’ philosophy, framing migration as an adaptation technique and socio-economic choice (in many cases) rather than a problem to be solved, and focuses on establishing safer, more regular migration by supporting changes to migration governance in sending regions.

This focus area contributes to the following One CGIAR impact areas:

Nutrition, health and food security Poverty reduction, livelihoods and jobs Gender equality, youth and inclusion Climate adaptation and mitigation

Covid-19 disruption & adaptation

Covid-19 has caused a rupture in migration logistics and exposed inequities in the migration system, yet drivers of movement remain. Government lockdowns and closed borders due to the pandemic curtailed movement for migrants, posing complex problems for migrant hosting and origin countries. There have been significant economic shocks, with a sharp decline in unemployment for migrants and an inability to send money home through remittances to support family. Some migrants face social stigma for returning home without an income, particularly if families relied on loans to support their journeys. Consequences have been severe for informal migrants who lack government protection in their host countries. Migrants, particularly those living in crowded, lower-income neighborhoods, have been experiencing stigmatization related to the spread of Covid-19. We look at the impacts of Covid-19 on migration governance and rural areas across seven countries, development planning in Ghana, migration challenges in Southeast Asia, and community-based disaster management and resilience building in South Africa.

This focus area contributes to the following One CGIAR impact areas:

Nutrition, health and food security Poverty reduction, livelihoods and jobs Gender equality, youth and inclusion

Water, climate change and agrarian stress

Migration, water and climate stress are inextricably linked to rural development. Water stress and climate variability can act as a driver of fragility, intensifying pre-existing political, social, economic and environmental challenges. Initiatives designed to address migration-related challenges must tackle inequalities and the exclusion of women, youth and marginalized groups; governance opportunities to better manage water and natural resources and technology and innovations to help communities escape socio-ecological precarity and thrive despite climate challenges. IWMI intends to build climate resilience by implementing projects which tackle gender-power inequalities in the face of dynamic, economic-social-ecological challenges. Our work brings together affected communities, institutional stakeholders and social actors to manage water in response to climate variability and agrarian stress, striving to address complex physical and social variables.

This focus area contributes to the following One CGIAR impact areas:

Nutrition, health and food security Poverty reduction, livelihoods and jobs Gender equality, youth and inclusion Climate adaptation and mitigation

Gender, intersectionality and social inclusion

It is critical to center gender and intersectional identities when unpacking migration phenomena. Gender as a social construct guides social norms and relations, including the decision-making processes and mechanisms leading to migration. We recognize that the intersections between race, age, class, sex, caste and region shape the migrant experience.

IWMI strives to offer transformative approaches and solutions for women, youth and marginalized groups, regarding them as equal partners in our work rather than passive end-users.  For example, within communities that experience male out migration, socio-political systems are restructured to make women, youth and other groups active agents in their own agri-food transformation. Migration patterns contribute to the feminization of agriculture, and women may experience a greater burden of responsibility coupled with an increased ability to access and control resources and policies to build sustainable livelihoods. Acknowledging social complexities helps researchers and communities understand migration trends and address structural power imbalances to build a more equitable world.

This focus area contributes to the following One CGIAR impact areas:

Nutrition, health and food security Poverty reduction, livelihoods and jobs Gender equality, youth and inclusion

Innovation bundles

Farmer-led irrigation development is about much more than installing a pump in a field. It requires access to financing, labor, energy, and input and output markets, so that investments in irrigation translate into sustainable returns. IWMI uses a systemic approach to understand the farming system as well as the factors in the enabling environment that prevent women, men and youth from engaging in and benefitting equitably from farmer-led irrigation. We partner with farmers and the public and private sectors to test contextually relevant innovation bundles that combine irrigation technology such as solar pumps with financing mechanisms like pay-as-you-own or pay-as-you-go, agricultural inputs and agronomic techniques. We also look at ways to improve on-farm water management and nutrient use efficiency and reduce evapotranspiration through digital advances and agricultural extension. We integrate the scaling of innovation bundles into agricultural value chains to enhance the impacts on farmers’ irrigation investments, incomes and livelihoods.

This focus area contributes to the following One CGIAR impact areas:

Nutrition, health and food security Poverty reduction, livelihoods and jobs Gender equality, youth and inclusion Environmental health and biodiversity Climate adaptation and mitigation

Gender and social inclusion

The barriers facing women and men in accessing irrigation technologies are not the same. Neither are the benefits. Social, cultural and religious norms influence inter- and intra-household power relations. These, in turn, affect access to resources such as land, credit, information and training. IWMI carries out cross-dimensional analysis of gender and social inclusion in policy, financing, livelihood assets and access, institutional approaches and interventions as well as gender-based technology preferences. For example, we work with farmers, financial institutions and the private sector to address gender-based constraints in credit scoring and enhance women’s purchasing power. But benefitting from farmer-led irrigation does not stop at accessing and adopting technologies; enabling women and resource-poor farmers to participate in input and output markets is equally important to ensure that investments in irrigation result in improved nutrition and economic empowerment. Other ways we enhance gender and social inclusion include tackling agency issues around financial management and literacy, livelihood diversity and social capital as well as access to infrastructure, extension services and market linkages.

This focus area contributes to the following One CGIAR impact areas:

Poverty reduction, livelihoods and jobs Gender equality, youth and inclusion

Environmental sustainability

Population pressure and increasing water competition in a changing climate require us to take stock of the availability and use of water across scales. Water availability not only influences farmers’ commercial prospects but also irrigation-related enterprises and agri-businesses. Greater water scarcity could jeopardize irrigation and agricultural markets while excessive water use can lead to declining ecosystems, water quality and soil health. IWMI advises development partners and the public and private sectors on all aspects of water resource availability and use through a variety of advanced modeling and remote-sensing products and tools, including Water Accounting+solar irrigation mapping and internet of things. These are complemented by multi-criteria analysis to evaluate the potential of irrigation expansion, taking into consideration environmental flows. With our private sector partners, we are leveraging converging technologies, such as sensors on solar pumps that capture usage data, to encourage better resource management and governance.

This focus area contributes to the following One CGIAR impact areas:

Environmental health and biodiversity Climate adaptation and mitigation

Adaptive scaling and partnerships

The ability of farmers to engage in or expand irrigation depends on the prevailing socioeconomic, ecological and political contexts, which are often complex, non-linear and changeable. Overcoming systemic barriers to farmer-led irrigation development while taking advantage of existing opportunities requires scaling processes to be adaptive. This means diverse actors feed off, adapt to, support, cooperate, compete and interact with each other, forming different multi-actor networks and engaging in collective action to undertake various functions in the scaling ecosystem. IWMI works with farmers and public and private sector partners to co-design and pilot contextually relevant innovation bundles and their scaling pathways or strategies, influence policies and accelerate the transition to scale of innovations with demonstrated early impact.

This focus area contributes to the following One CGIAR impact areas:

Nutrition, health and food security Poverty reduction, livelihoods and jobs Gender equality, youth and inclusion Environmental health and biodiversity Climate adaptation and mitigation

Financing ecosystem

A lack of affordable credit, particularly for women and resource-poor farmers, is one of the main barriers to expanding farmer-led irrigation in low- and middle-income countries. But credit alone is not enough. Financing for irrigation equipment must be embedded in a wider financing ecosystem that bundles credit with inputs and services, market information and access, and technology such as digital payment. In several countries, irrigation equipment suppliers are stepping in to provide financing directly to farmers. In doing so, they increase their own risk. To address this issue, IWMI works with farmers, private companies, finance institutions and development partners such as the World Bank Group to analyze whether credit-scoring tools are inclusive. We also help to identify gaps in the financing ecosystem and de-risk the private sector from testing innovative end-user financing mechanisms that take into account farming system typologies, financial and social capital and crop seasonality.

This focus area contributes to the following One CGIAR impact areas:

Poverty reduction, livelihoods and jobs Gender equality, youth and inclusion

Human capacity development and knowledge exchange

Scaling farmer-led irrigation requires strengthening human capacity and knowledge exchange among all actors and stakeholders involved. IWMI takes an action research approach, working with national and international research institutions, governments, extension agents and public and private organizations to co-develop the scaling ecosystem and strengthen capacity to drive scaling networks and collective action. We support the development of or reinforce national multi-stakeholder dialogues with the aim of sharing scaling experiences and realizing win-win collaboration, interactive learning and capacity development. Other modalities for capacity development include hackathons, innovation research grants for bachelor’s and master’s students, private sector scaling grants and innovation internships with private companies. These all serve to stimulate local and contextually relevant innovation, close the research-private sector divide and enhance job readiness among young professionals.

This focus area contributes to the following One CGIAR impact areas:

Nutrition, health and food security Poverty reduction, livelihoods and jobs Gender equality, youth and inclusion Environmental health and biodiversity Climate adaptation and mitigation

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