IWMI’s role in the CGIAR Program on Aquatic Agricultural Systems

Aquatic Agricultural Systems (AAS) combine intensive farming with activities harnessing the natural productivity of freshwater and coastal ecosystems. The goal of CGIAR’s Program on AAS is to reduce poverty and improve food security for people who depend on such systems for their livelihoods.

CARE / Shrimp farmer in Aceh, Indonesia. Photo by Sonny Iskander, 2011.
CARE / Shrimp farmer in Aceh, Indonesia.
Photo by Sonny Iskander, 2011.

The Program, led by WorldFish, is working with smallholders, plus small-scale producers and traders of AAS products, to ascertain why they have been unable to rise out of poverty. As the Program progresses, the research team will help the communities identify the methods and technologies most likely to boost their incomes.

The proposed actions will combine aspects of farming, fishing, aquaculture, livestock rearing and forestry with non-agricultural activities. The researchers will select the options that best suit the women and men involved, according to their types of households, local environments and specific socio-cultural conditions.

The AAS Program spans six broad themes and focuses on four contrasting aquatic agricultural systems (see table below). IWMI is one of the CGIAR partners and has a modest share of funds to engage in the Program. We are focusing our efforts in three of the four chosen countries and regions: Zambia, Bangladesh and Cambodia.

IWMI helped to initiate the AAS Program in Zambia and Bangladesh in 2012, and will be conducting more activities in these two countries in 2013. In Zambia, the priority for this year is to obtain a detailed understanding of the flood dynamics over time in the Barotse hub. We also hope to assess land uses, determine the impact of floods on agriculture and begin holding community workshops.

Understanding the institutional arrangements for canal management is an important aspect of the Program. In Bangladesh, IWMI will diagnose the water-management problems faced by 16 communities in the Kulna hub. These communities were selected by the AAS Program after a thorough stakeholder consultation process.

We plan to conduct experimental games with community members during 2013 to help create a menu of possible actions to boost livelihoods. Then, in 2014, we will set up some community-based pilot projects to test the more promising ideas that emerge.

IWMI will also be involved in getting the AAS Program process under way in Cambodia in 2013, starting with scoping, consultation and diagnostic activities concerning the Tonle Sap hub.


Summary of CRP AAS themes, focal aquatic agricultural systems and focal regions/countries.
AAS Themes Focal Aquatic Agricultural systems Focal Regions/countries
  1. Sustainable increases in system productivity
  2. Equitable access to markets
  3. Social-ecological resilience and adaptive capacity
  4. Gender equity
  5. Policies and institutions to empower AAS users
  6. Knowledge sharing, learning and innovation


Mekong Delta Lower Mekong Delta/Cambodia
Ganges-Brahmaputra-Megna delta Bangladesh
African freshwater systems (seasonally flooded plains in Zambia) Zambia
Coastal, coral ecosystems Solomon islands and the Philippine archipelago