Rural-Urban Linkages

Water, food and waste innovations for urbanizing landscapes

Rapid urbanization is one of the defining global trends of our time.

One concern is that cities will lack the capacity to cope with rising demand for safe food and water as well as growing volumes of waste. Another is that rural areas will be unable to withstand increased pressure on agriculture and natural resources, especially in rapidly urbanizing areas of Africa and Asia, where more intensive food production has already taken a heavy toll on the environment.

While implying enormous challenges, urbanization will also create new business and livelihood opportunities. To benefit from these, societies must become adept at applying the principles of a circular economy, creating productive synergies between urban consumption and sanitation, on the one hand, and sustainable agriculture, on the other.

IWMI contributes by working with partners to provide:

  • Technologies and decision-support tools that inform public and private investment as well as policy formulation and capacity development in the rural-urban continuum
  • Innovative business models and technologies for recovering water, nutrients for crops and energy from food waste, domestic wastewater and human excreta
  • Options for enhancing human and ecological health as well as food safety through improved resource management

Our program on rural-urban linkages offers novel means to strengthen food security, while reducing the environmental footprint of urbanization and agricultural intensification as part of the global sustainability agenda.


Pay Drechsel (, Strategic Program Leader