IWMI Success Stories

Empowering rural women with multiple-use water services

Increasingly common around the world, multiple-use water services (MUS) place villagers in charge of the design and governance of their own water infrastructure, with local government bodies and non-profit organizations supporting these efforts by developing villagers’ water-management capacities, supplying materials, and monitoring implementation.

Given that water provides the foundation for all life, it naturally makes sense that water services be designed with this resource’s many uses in mind. The MUS approach addresses water access challenges by implementing community-led water system design and management practices that have been proven to save water, improve health and food security, alleviate labor, and empower girls and women in rural and peri-urban communities across the Global South.

Since its introduction in 2004, the MUS approach has seen success across Africa, Asia, and Latin America. The International Water Management Institute (IWMI), for its part, has been working to expand MUS implementation since nearly the beginning.

IWMI is one of 19 core organization members of the MUS Group, which collects and shares data on over 200 MUS case studies from 30 countries, and IWMI also leads the MUS Theme on behalf of the Rural Water Supply Network (RWSN).

These consortia and networks build on past experiences to support current and future efforts to improve and scale-up MUS. By sharing lessons learned from previous MUS projects, IWMI researchers and MUS networks are able to expand MUS projects and scale benefits to more communities around the world. And with mounting competition for limited water resources, IWMI expands the focus on multi-use infrastructure development to ensure rights-based water resource allocation that prioritizes basic domestic and productive uses.

Photo: David Brazier / IWMI

One country where MUS projects have found particularly fertile ground in recent years has been South Africa. In that country, following the end of the apartheid era, the new Bill of Rights included the right to sufficient water and food, prompting government action on providing first-time access to water infrastructure in many rural communities. However, such actions have slowed over time, and what steps were taken were often led by external entities, like government consultants. Many water systems designed and implemented during this time were planned to meet a specific need of a community, like irrigation for smallholder farmers. The problem with this approach, however, was that locals needed water for many purposes — a fact that should influence the type of water supply, the governance of how it can be used, and the location of access points. But without local input or leadership, many government-led water initiatives were either left incomplete or derailed by mismanagement.

Recently, based on the successes of MUS in six South African villages in the Limpopo Province, IWMI has released guidelines for community-led multiple-use water services for future MUS implementation. In these villages, externally designed and managed water systems had either fallen into disrepair or had failed to be constructed as promised. But the MUS framework helped guide these communities as they began to reimagine their water systems.

IWMI’s researchers tracked the process, successes, and challenges of MUS development and published a detailed Working Paper in 2020, focusing on the first two villages to have MUS fully implemented: Ga Mokgotho and Ga Moela. The data collected on the remaining four villages was published in 2021 in a report for the South African Water Research Commission.

In Ga Mokgotho and Ga Moela, new water services were designed with the multiple water needs and priorities of community households in mind, and benefits were seen across these many uses. In Ga Moela, having access to water closer to houses more than halved the time residents had previously needed to fetch water. And in both villages, the value of irrigated fruit trees increased by at least 60 percent.

While the project was implemented by IWMI, Tsogang Water and Sanitation, and the Water Research Commission of South Africa, and supported by the African Water Facility of the African Development Bank, the initiative was led by local community members, who assessed the current water supply infrastructure, figured out ways to repair it, and installed new pipes, taps, and troughs where needed.

In Ga Mokgotho, local leaders and technicians improved governance, boosted water intake from streams, and enabled infrastructure repairs of a dilapidated, decade-old, NGO-constructed gravity system. Meanwhile, in Ga Moela, where locals primarily used shallow dug wells to access water for household and livestock purposes, the MUS project upgraded existing municipal boreholes to provide first-time access to four neighborhoods.

With MUS, the entire community stands to benefit. Women and girls who spent hours every week fetching water for drinking, cleaning, and cooking are left with more time to explore other pursuits, including caring for homestead gardens and selling the produce they grow. Female and male smallholder farmers can depend upon a more consistent water supply for livestock and irrigation. And all households benefit from greater water security and the public health improvements that entails.

What multiple uses?

Across Ga Moela and Ga Mokgotho, 64 percent of households use water for three purposes. Click on the question marks to learn about how community members used the water from their MUS.

Meet the villages

Ga Mokgotho and Ga Moela are located in the Sekhukhune district of South Africa. Though they are relatively close in location, differing geography and local circumstances present unique challenges to villagers sourcing water.

Ga Mokgotho is a rapidly growing village of around 800 households in a mountainous area that receives an average rainfall of about 800mm each year. In 2007, an NGO began construction on a piped gravity system bringing water from mountain streams down to a large brick reservoir that initially supplied 94 taps throughout the village.

However, with weak communal management that did not represent the needs of the village, service became unreliable. Villagers reported that the reservoir was not cleaned; pipes leaked; water pressure was low; taps were broken, stolen, or at distant locations; and there was not enough water to meet all household needs. Above all, they reported periods of three days, two weeks, or even months without water.

To the south in the Leolo mountains, Ga Moela is comprised of around 118 scattered households. The annual rainfall is between 500-750mm, and its fertile soil supports rainfed agriculture (mainly maize) and livestock keeping. However, poverty has led to out-migration in the village, mainly by young men.

As a result, 60 percent of the adult family members in the households sampled by IWMI researchers were women, and half of the households were female-headed. The main water sources were previously 20 shallow hand-dug wells only 0.5-1 m deep.

These waters were dirty and shared with animals, and the dispersed nature of the households meant that almost all homes relied on water that was carried from sources in buckets or wheelbarrows.

Ga Mokgotho and Ga Moela are located in Limpopo province, in northeast South Africa

Voicing Water Visions: one of a series of participatory videos entirely designed and shot by community members

Household water-use patterns prior to MUS implementation in Ga Mokgotho

Household water-use patterns prior to MUS implementation in Ga Moela

Household water-use patterns prior to MUS implementation in Ga Mokgotho (left) and Ga Moela (right).

By implementing multiple-use water services in these communities, villagers were able to help design water systems that worked for their needs, climate, and geography. They used local water wisdom as a starting point for planning, design, and management, and were subsequently able to enhance the water provisions that were already present in the village.

What are community-led multiple-use water services?

A holistic, participatory approach to planning and providing water services that supports people’s self-supply and their multiple water needs — as identified by the community — and coordinates across government departments as needed.

The six steps of the community-led multiple-use water services (MUS) approach. Click the icons to hear from members of Ga Moela about MUS as a part of the Voicing Water Visions project.

Under the guidance of an NGO, Tsogang Water and Sanitation, community members contributed to every step of the design and governance process, starting with the establishment of water committees to oversee the process and eventually achieving a level of water service that met the many water needs of the rural communities.

In order to implement the MUS in a way that maximized benefits for villagers, they collaborated on every step of the process. Though the process is visualized as a six-step progression, the steps are not rigid. Rather, in the cases of Ga Mokgotho and Ga Moela, the villages and the guiding NGO were constantly assessing the process and were encouraged to return to previous steps as needed to design the most appropriate and successful MUS for the villages.

At the start of the process, Tsogang organized mass meetings in both villages, where all community members were invited to meet the project team, the participatory approach of MUS was introduced, and local water committees were established to oversee the project, creating a link between the community and Tsogang that allowed for transparent reporting on the project’s progress.

Communities appointed committee members among themselves with the aim of reflecting the diversity of the communities they represented, rather than only considering prior experience in such roles. Even so, in Ga Moela — where none of the members had any previous committee experience — villagers said that “without them, water would not be available.”

Committee members, as well as villagers outside of the water committee, worked with Tsogang to assess the pre-project water situation. Participants mapped resources out on the ground, held focus group discussions and additional mass meetings, and measured the flows and geographic makeup of the area.

In both villages, the Tsogang facilitator noted how the men enthusiastically started the mapping, and how the women gently corrected them.

IWMI Working Paper 193

Click to view larger version

Participatory resource mapping in Ga Mokgotho helped villagers learn about each household in the village, water flowing in supply lines, buried pipes, and reservoirs in the village.

Photo: Barbara van Koppen /  IWMI

Participatory design for new street taps in Ga Moela (Photo: Barbara van Koppen / IWMI)
Participatory design for new street taps in Ga Moela (Photo: Barbara van Koppen / IWMI)

The maps drawn by villagers were key in envisioning solutions for water challenges. Villagers were encouraged to provide their ideas for water solutions to committees, who in turn considered ideas that included building dams, constructing new pipes, installing cattle troughs, replacing valves, improving borehole taps, and identifying new locations for water storage sites and street taps.

The viable proposals submitted by the villagers underwent financial review as construction, labor, and maintenance costs were assessed and budgeted for; and in both villages, locals were determined to be the ones to execute the selected projects. Committee members decided upon pay rates and work schedules for the local workers before moving forward with implementing the new design for the MUS.

Teams procured materials, recruited workers through a random selection process, trained the new workers, coordinated volunteers, and swiftly constructed the new services in both villages. After initial tests revealed challenges facing the new systems, committee and community members continued to work to address and mitigate them.

Payment and continued engagement: Challenges in establishing MUS

Both villages insisted on employing locals in the installment process, and before recruitment began all parties agreed on a stipend similar to those offered by South African employment-generation programs. A few workers surveyed in both villages did highlight low pay as a disadvantage. In Ga Mokgotho, for instance, workers noted that because pay was in the form of a stipend, they made less than national minimum wage. Workers also voiced concerns that they were not given sufficient personal protective equipment and that in some cases, machinery would have been more efficient than manual labor. However, Working Paper 193 emphasized that overall, workers were pleased with their pay.

After the initial building was completed, testing and operations began at both sites. While some initial issues arose and were addressed — Tsogang repaired a crack in the Ga Mokgotho reservoir that had developed due to the increase in water inflows, for example — lasting engagement waned. Ga Mokgotho had also planned to install yard connections rather than street taps, but there were no volunteers to initiate and organize the process.

Ga Moela also encountered technical challenges during the early testing period, but locals and Tsogang were mostly able to address these obstacles. For example, when a diesel pump broke, users collected money from households to fund the repairs, rather than waiting for the municipality to fix it. And when steel supports bowed under the weight of filled water tanks, Tsogang reinforced them by welding on additional bars.

New homestead cultivation in Ga Mokgotho. Photo: Barbara van Koppen / IWMI
New homestead cultivation in Ga Mokgotho. Photo: Barbara van Koppen / IWMI

Laying the foundation for a more water-secure future in South Africa and beyond

Despite challenges like these, multiple-use water services had an overwhelmingly positive impact on their communities. In both villages, nearly all survey respondents agreed that there were very few, if any, disadvantages to the new systems.

With water access more plentiful and accessible, WASH practices subsequently improved in both villages. Washing bedding at home became a monthly task, and users were able to bathe, wash clothes, and clean floors and windows more frequently.

Beyond domestic uses, water availability also increased for livestock and irrigation, which was essential as livestock received water at 68 percent of households.

Not only did the two villages receive a more reliable water supply, the MUS implementation process also provided training in semi-skilled jobs for locals. Between Ga Mokgotho and Ga Moela, for example, 96 villagers — both male and female — received training, as well as paid work.

The process confronted traditional cultural beliefs, and women commented during the training that it was interesting to learn things about water resources that they had previously assumed only men needed to know. Encouragingly, after initial construction had been completed, both men and women agreed that there was no difference between men and women’s abilities to perform semi-skilled labor.

Based on the MUS project’s success in these communities, we are now working with partners to see how we can make the case to scale up into planning processes at the municipal level. MUS is not an alternative to potable water, but rather, a complimentary approach. It is still important to work with local government to integrate co-management approaches into water services planning.

Inga Jacobs-Mata, IWMI Country Representative – South Africa

Photo: E.L.S.K.E. Photography

In response to IWMI’s award-winning MUS projects in South Africa, the country’s Water Research Commission and IWMI took up a follow-up study on the institutionalization of community participation in water projects in South Africa’s local government planning and design processes.

Beyond South Africa, the MUS approach today has proven reliable in providing life-changing water access to rural communities in more than 22 countries — strengthening water security in a way that supports more diverse, resilient lives and livelihoods.

IWMI has been involved with MUS projects in Asia, Africa, and South America.
IWMI has been involved with MUS projects in Asia, Africa, and South America.

Looking forward, the MUS approach holds a great deal of untapped potential for bringing sustainable water access to rural areas, given that the model is widely transferrable to communities around the world. To that end, IWMI’s MUS implementation guidelines are aimed at a broad audience, including governments, NGOs, and rural villagers, and will help other villages capitalize on the projects’ successes. But beyond the reports, partnerships, debates, webinars, and policymaking, real change in ensuring more convenient water access will require the continued amplification of the voices of communities taking on MUS projects, and the recognition of the enduring value of community water tenure.


IWMI Project Lead:

Dr. Barbara van Koppen – Emeritus Scientist/Consultant – International Water Management Institute (IWMI), Regional Office for Southern Africa. Email: b.vankoppen@cgiar.org


Clara Colton Symmes, Princeton in Asia Fellow, IWMI

Graphic Design:

Pradeep Liyanage – Digital Graphics and Multimedia Specialist

Isis Palay – Communications Consultant

Web Layout:

Dominique Perera – Senior Manager-Digital Media

Cover Photo: 

E.L.S.K.E. Photography


Additional project contributions from Manuel S. Magombeyi, Inga Jacobs-Mata, Virginia Molose, Kenny Phasha, Thando Bophela, Itumeleng Modiba, and Malcom White.

The MUS project was a project of the African Water Facility of the Africa Development Bank, implemented by the Water Research Commission in collaboration with the International Water Management Institute (IWMI) and the NGO Tsogang Water and Sanitation.

Key partners include the Department of Water and Sanitation, the Department of Agriculture and the Office of the Premier, and the Limpopo Provincial Government.

With gratitude for the contributions of the community members of Ga Mokgotho and Ga Moela.

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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

Enhancing capacity for system transformation

Food, land and water systems are complex networks of actors, institutions and activities related to the production, value addition and consumption of food. These systems are connected to and influenced by the structures and supporting mechanisms that underlie them. System transformation cannot occur without changing these underlying structures and supporting mechanisms. However, the capacity for actors to take up specific roles and responsibilities in scaling processes is sometimes lacking. Stimulating system transformation therefore requires enhancing actors’ capacity to assume their roles and responsibilities in the system to ensure that scaling processes provide equitable opportunities and contribute to sustainable development.

As a research institution, IWMI stimulates system transformation by building capacity within institutions and facilitating dialogue and collaboration between various stakeholders across sectors and their respective networks. IWMI does this by developing evidence-based capacity-strengthening programs and strategies. These include demand-driven internships with private sector entities and innovation hackathons.

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

Strengthening and sustaining the enabling environment

Making agricultural innovations and water solutions available to farmers on a massive scale is crucial if the world is to meet growing food demands and mitigate climate change impacts. However, innovation scaling efforts often do not have the desired impact because they do not sufficiently consider the factors enabling and inhibiting farmers’ adoption of these innovations. In some instances, they may even produce undesirable impacts, including environmental degradation, loss of access to resources and social inequality. IWMI develops tools and other evidence-based resources to help partners and stakeholders understand and sustain the enabling environment and introduce measures to ensure scaling success. In addition, IWMI co-designs innovative, inclusive financial modalities to accelerate investment in innovations by farmers and agri-businesses.

A key part of this focus area is the Accelerator Program, for which 12 small and medium-sized agribusinesses were selected to scale five innovation bundles that support climate information services and climate-smart agriculture.

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

Poverty reduction, livelihoods and jobs Gender equality, youth and inclusion Climate adaptation and mitigation

Enabling gender and youth inclusion

Agriculture is the bedrock of food and nutrition security and a major source of income and employment in many developing countries. Inclusive agriculture, provides opportunities for women and youth who have historically been excluded from agriculture-led economic growth. Enhancing gender and youth inclusion in high-value agricultural value chains has the potential to increase the production of nutrient-rich, profitable crops and create attractive job opportunities for currently disadvantaged groups. Inclusive agriculture includes ensuring that women, youth and other vulnerable groups gain equitable access to water resources and technologies to support agronomic growth.

IWMI conducts comprehensive analyses of the policy framework and interventions in value chains in key geographies to clarify the barriers to gender and youth inclusion. Inclusion segmentation is also carried out to understand the investment needs and abilities of women and youth regarding innovation. IWMI then makes recommendations and develops evidence-based strategies to enable public and private sector actors to achieve sustainable and inclusive scaling of water solutions and agricultural innovation bundles. Among these strategies are internships with private sector companies for young professionals and entrepreneurs. These create win-win situations in which companies benefit from interns’ specific knowledge or skills while interns gain valuable private sector work experience and mentorship.

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

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

Brokering knowledge for sustainability

As a research-for-development organization, IWMI is both a producer and broker of knowledge. IWMI generates evidence to support investment in innovations that sustainably increase agricultural productivity and economic returns, support human well-being, water security and safeguard ecosystems in a changing climate. Through forums and events, often co-convened with partners, IWMI brokers knowledge exchange to catalyze change in water and food systems and accelerate innovation scaling. These forums and events include multi-stakeholder dialogues, demand-supply linkage workshops and knowledge exchange conferences.

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

Nutrition, health and food security Poverty reduction, livelihoods and jobs Climate adaptation and mitigation

Cultivating scaling preparedness

Scaling preparedness is a set of actions undertaken throughout the scaling process to maximize the adoption of innovation bundles, accelerate scaling and increase the likelihood of achieving transformational change. In cultivating scaling preparedness, stakeholder engagement is key to gain stakeholders’ buy-in, commitment, resource contribution and investment as well as adaptability. By cultivating scaling preparedness, IWMI is better able to identify and develop high-potential innovation bundles with the greatest chance of being successfully scaled.

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

Nutrition, health and food security  Gender equality, youth and inclusion  Climate adaptation and mitigation

Fostering scaling partnerships

Private sector actors play a central role in the dissemination and adoption of technologies and services such as information, financing, and pre- and after-sales support. IWMI has established scaling partnerships with private sector companies across Africa and Asia. Besides technical assistance, IWMI provides its partner companies with research evidence and advice, risk and suitability assessments and capacity strengthening for effective climate change-related planning and management.

Armed with these tools and resources, companies are better equipped to identify and reach their target customers in ways that are equitable, economically viable and environmentally sustainable. At the same time, farmers benefit from better access to innovations vital for improving livelihoods and climate adaptation.

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

Co-developing innovation bundles

Although agricultural water is still mainly funded by the public sector, private sector organizations and farmers are increasingly investing in innovative water management and irrigation technologies. At the same time, simply increasing the amount of finance flowing to the agricultural water sector is not enough to guarantee the uptake of innovative solutions. Investments must also be responsible, targeted and bundled with improved inputs and services, market information and access, and digital payment methods.

Consequently, IWMI partners with farmers and public and private sector actors to co-develop contextually relevant socio-technical-institutional-financial and process innovation bundles that are contextually relevant. IWMI integrates the scaling of innovation bundles into agricultural and food value chains, for instance by strengthening market linkages, to enhance the impacts on farmers’ investments, incomes and livelihoods.

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

Nutrition, health and food security  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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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