December 2023 – February 2024 Research Journal Roundup

A selection of IWMI's recent contributions to global research.

By Laura Keil, Princeton in Asia Fellow

As we entered 2024, IWMI researchers continued to study the interconnected relationships between humans and water systems. Read on to learn why money does not buy happiness, how poo fertilizer is beneficial for agriculture, and how both topics relate to water.

Woman with her cabbage harvest.
Woman with her cabbage harvest. David Brazier / IWMI.

High life satisfaction reported among small-scale societies with low incomes

Location: global

Themes: indigenous peoples, livelihoods, income

Funded by: European Research Council under an ERC Consolidator Grant

Can money buy happiness? Global surveys have previously shown that richer people tend to be more satisfied with their lives. However, these polls overlooked small-scale, nonindustrialized societies. A recent survey conducted by IWMI’s Emmanuel Attoh and colleagues compiles results from nearly 3,000 indigenous members of 19 low-income communities. High levels of life satisfaction are reported, comparable to those of people living in wealthy countries. The results show that human societies can support fulfilling lives without requiring extreme monetary wealth.

Read more here.


Storage duration and temperature affect pathogen load, heavy metals, and nutrient levels in faecal derived fertilizer

Location: global

Themes: sludge, pathogens

Funded by: Sue White Fund for Africa – Cranfield University, Global Challenge Research Fund (GCRF) QR

Is poo fertilizer safe to use? A recent study led by IWMI’s Eric Nartey and Olufunke Cofie examines the safety of fecal derived fertilizer (FDF) by assessing the impact of storage temperature and duration on E. coli growth and nutrient changes. The findings reveal that storage conditions do not affect E. coli re-growth or total nitrogen levels in stored FDF. However, ammonium concentrations decrease by up to 55% with longer storage at lower temperatures. The authors conclude that FDF is safe after storage, with no significant nutrient losses observed. Further research is suggested to explore the effects of moisture on stored FDF.

Read more here.


Risks from solar-powered groundwater irrigation: Emissions reductions may not meet expectations, and groundwater use will likely increase

Locations: South Asia, Sub-Saharan Africa

Themes: groundwater and solar powered irrigation, agricultural emissions, risk analysis

Funded by: World Bank’s Global Water Security and Sanitation Partnership and Global Program on Sustainability, CGIAR Initiative on NEXUS Gains, Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation

Solar-powered groundwater irrigation is on the rise in low- and middle-income countries due to its potential for expanding food production and alleviating poverty. However, much accounting on solar-powered agricultural technology is siloed and does not question unintended consequences such as groundwater depletion and increased carbon emissions. In a policy analysis published in Science, IWMI’s Marie-Charlotte Buisson and Petra Schmitter, IFPRI’s Claudia Ringler and Avinash Kishore and colleagues find that the clean-energy boom will likely make groundwater problems worse regardless of income levels. The authors suggest increasing regulatory enforcement through the implementation of cumulative limits for groundwater depletion and carbon emissions at multiple levels to manage risks as solar irrigation expands.

Read more here.


Amplification of coupled hot-dry extremes over eastern monsoon China

Location: China

Themes: extreme weather events

Funded by: the National Natural Science Foundation of China; the Natural Science Foundation of Hubei Province, China; the Knowledge Innovation Program of Wuhan-Shuguang; the Belt and Road Special Foundation of the National Key Laboratory of Water Disaster; the CRSRI Open Research Program; the Key Laboratory of Meteorological Disaster Ministry of Education & Collaborative Innovation Center on Forecast and Evaluation of Meteorological Disasters; Nanjing University of Information Science & Technology; the Pre-research Project of SongShan Laboratory; the Institute of Arid Meteorology, China Meteorological Administration, Lanzhou

High air temperatures and low atmospheric humidity can lead to natural disasters in monsoon regions. IWMI’s Moctar Dembélé and team find that “hotter days get drier” and “drier days get hotter” in eastern monsoon China. Since the 1960s, this region has also experienced a rise in hot-dry days versus solely hot or dry days. The frequency of severe disasters is projected to increase due to this coupling of hot and dry extremes. The authors suggest the adoption of adaptive measures to mitigate such damaging effects.

Read more here.


Bundled climate-smart agricultural solutions for smallholder farmers in Sri Lanka

Location: Sri Lanka

Themes: drought, floods, climate-smart agriculture

Funded by: CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture, and Food Security

Droughts and floods accounted for 53% of natural disasters from 2000-2019, affecting 2.4 billion people globally, killing 168,000, and costing USD$764 billion in damages. Asian countries are most vulnerable to water-related disasters, accounting for 90% of the affected population and 45% of deaths. In Sri Lanka alone, 27 million people have been affected by floods and droughts and economic losses have exceeded USD$2.62 billion since 1966. Smallholder farmers are extremely vulnerable to natural disasters. IWMI researchers Giriraj Amarnath, Avinandan Taron, Niranga Alahacoon, and Surajit Ghosh researched how bundled agricultural technologies in Sri Lanka may increase farmer resilience to water-related disasters. Their study shows that bundled insurance mitigates financial risks and improves resilience to extreme weather events.

Read more here.


Earth observation-based rice mapping studies in Vietnamese Mekong Delta compared to global context: A bibliometric analysis

Location: Vietnam

Themes: SDGs, rice, remote sensing

Funded by: CGIAR Initiative on Low-Emission Food Systems (Mitigate+)

The global population is projected to reach nearly 9.8 billion by 2050; food production will need to increase. Rice is a staple crop for more than 50% of the world’s population, and for 90% of people in underprivileged and developing countries. Rice cultivation is significant to food security and contributes to UN Sustainable Development Goal target 2 (Zero Hunger). By investigating rice mapping in the Vietnamese Mekong Delta using earth observation (EO) data, IWMI’s Surajit Ghosh, Bunyod Holmatov and colleagues share that EO-based mapping can provide critical information on crop yield.

Read more here.


Limited comparability of global and local estimates of environmental flow requirements to sustain river ecosystems

Location: global

Themes: environmental flows, freshwater ecosystems, SDGs, water scarcity

Funded by: CGIAR Research Initiative Nexus Gains, Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarship, H2O’Lyon Doctoral Fellowship

Freshwater systems are in trouble. Environmental flows (e-flows) are important in sustainably managing water resources. While many countries have policies to protect e-flows, global assessments and implementation efforts at local levels are uneven. Through comparing global and local e-flow estimates in 25 countries, IWMI’s Chris Dickens, Nishadi Eriyagama and colleagues found that while global approaches approximate the volume of water needed for ecosystem sustainability on a large scale, they poorly reflect local variability in e-flows requirements. The authors emphasize the need for improved collaboration to develop new global models that integrate local data for more accurate e-flows management.

Read more here.


Can water, energy, and food policies in support of solar irrigation enable gender transformative changes? Evidence from policy analysis in Bangladesh and Nepal

Location: Bangladesh, Nepal

Themes: gender, solar powered irrigation systems, water policies

Funded by: Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation

Solar irrigation pumps (SIPs) are gaining popularity in South Asia for their ability to address water, energy and climate challenges while benefiting livelihoods and food security. However, the extent to which policies promoting SIP technologies consider gender equality and social inclusion (GESI) is unclear. A study by IWMI’s Manohara Khadka and Archisman Mitra, CGIAR’s Aditi Mukherji and colleagues evaluated 39 water, energy, and food (WEF) policies in Bangladesh and Nepal. They found a gap between aspirational principles and operational implementation. Although policies acknowledge GESI, they often fail to overcome structural barriers, limiting the participation and benefits of women and marginalized groups. This journal highlights the need for transformative approaches in both project implementation and policymaking within South Asia’s WEF sectors.

Read more here.


Production system and challenges of saline aquaculture in Punjab and Sindh provinces of Pakistan

Location: Pakistan

Themes: fish stocking, economic analysis

Funded by: Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR)

Escalating salinity levels in Pakistan are making it difficult for farmers to grow crops. Saline aquaculture is an underdeveloped sector in Pakistan. IWMI’s Mohsin Hafeez, Najeeb Ullah and Sidra Khalid, WorldFish’s Cristiano Rossignoli, Chinedu Obi and Syed Aman Ali and colleagues conducted surveys of 121 low-income saline aquaculture farmers to understand the sector’s landscape, challenges, and investment needs. The study reveals challenges such as high costs, freshwater scarcity, and limited technical knowledge. The authors recommend programs to improve technical skills, establish hatcheries for saline-tolerant species, and reduce reliance on freshwater species to support sustainable development in this sector.

Read more here.

Related Articles