Prashanth Vishwanathan / IWMI

WLE 2021 Research Highlights

WLE 2021 Research Highlights

2021 was the final year of the CGIAR Research Program on Water, Land and Ecosystems (WLE) – the culmination of a decade of science and impact. Throughout the year we captured valuable evidence in a series of legacy knowledge products designed to influence future research, planning, policies and investments. A legacy symposium held in December celebrated WLE’s remarkable achievements.

In 2021, we saw the real-world difference made by our flagship projects, and watched solutions unfold at landscape and basin scales. We also saw our research flow into larger processes in a year of international action that included the UN Food Systems Summit and high-stakes meetings of the UN Conventions on Climate Change and Biological Diversity.

WLE participated in all of these, bringing proven solutions to the table. We also helped shape the CGIAR 2030 Research and Innovation Agenda: several new One CGIAR initiatives will build on – and advance – WLE research, including NEXUS Gains: Realizing Benefits across Water, Energy, Food and Ecosystems’, ‘Agroecology‘ and the ‘NATURE+‘ initiative on nature-positive solutions. We also worked with other CGIAR Research Programs to propose a future model for assessing integrated systems research.

Georgina Smith / CIAT

Results with impact

In 2021, results spanned the five impact areas of the One CGIAR Research and Innovation Strategy.

Neil Palmer CIAT

Environmental Health and Biodiversity were boosted by evidence-based tools, including tools to improve water investments in seven countries and decisions by companies using the Agrobiodiversity Index. We advanced use of the water-energy-food-environment nexus framework for basin-level decisions. We created platforms to co-implement environmental restoration, and piloted these interventions to show what can be achieved.

Jim Holmes IWMI

Poverty Reduction, Livelihoods and Jobs gained from water equity, as in Laos, where new policies and investments draw on our assessments, as well as from new research on the links between groundwater and economic well-being. We developed a tool to scale farmer-led irrigation and applied it in four countries, and assessed the benefits of flood-spreading weirs to diversify opportunities in Ethiopia.

Hamish John Appleby IWMI

Nutrition, Health and Food Security contributions progressed in the shadow of COVID-19, with research on responses to the pandemic by urban food systems, water and sanitation stakeholders and migrant communities. We enabled sanitation service reforms at the city level and enhanced capacities of 15 towns and cities to increase food security through city regional resilience, while the World Bank is using our recommendations on nutrition in irrigation investments.

Neil Palmer CIAT

Gender Equality, Youth and Social Inclusion benefited as we helped insurers maximize inclusiveness and reach of flood insurance, while the Innovative Food System Solutions platform connected youth to learn, share and act. We generated guidelines for mainstreaming inclusion in landscape restoration, and evidence on its gendered impacts.

E.L.S.K.E. Photography IWMI

Climate Adaptation and Mitigation efforts grew, from resilience assessment tools for cities to a climate sensitive development trajectory for South Africa and solar-powered irrigation business models. We deployed innovations to reduce climate shocks, from bundled insurance products to satellite data utilization to a smart farming platform for smallholders.

More details on results and indicators from WLE and other CGIAR Research Programs can be found on the CGIAR Results Dashboard.

Georgina Smith / CIAT

Reports and briefs

In 2021, WLE published a series of legacy reports and briefs, capturing learning for future initiatives.

WLE legacy reports

Impact tracking: A practitioner-developed approach to scaling agricultural innovation in Ethiopia

How agricultural research for development achieves developmental outcomes: Learning lessons to inform One CGIAR science and technology policy research

Accelerating rural energy access for agricultural transformation: Contribution of the CGIAR Research Program on Water, Land and Ecosystems to transforming food, land and water systems in a climate crisis

Resilience in agro-ecological landscapes: Process principles and outcome indicators

Gender and inclusion in the CGIAR Research Program on Water, Land and Ecosystems (WLE): An end of program reflection and evaluation

WLE legacy briefs

Restoring degraded landscapes. A synthesis of evidence generated by the CGIAR Research Program on Water, Land and Ecosystems (WLE) to influence planning, investments, research, practice, capacity and policy

Sharing research data in a connected world for connected decisions: Lessons learned from the CGIAR Research Program on Water, Land and Ecosystems (WLE)

Reflections on a decade of innovative research-for-development. Capturing lessons and insights from the implementation of the CGIAR Research Program on Water, Land and Ecosystems (WLE) – to help inform the development of future research programs and the transition to One CGIAR.

Thank you to WLE’s Partners and Donors


WLE is grateful for the support of CGIAR Trust Fund Contributors, including direct support from

  Download the full annual report