A great opportunity to transform the economy of northern Ghana


Photo credit: IWMI

Photo: Joe Ronzio

Dry-season farming

Intensifying sustainable agricultural production through improved smallholder irrigation, flood-recession farming, and enhanced rainfed production systems and related ecosystem services is a key priority in the work being carried out by the CGIAR Research Program on Water, Land and Ecosystems (WLE) in the Volta River Basin. In a recent engagement with the Savannah Accelerated Development Authority (SADA) on the theme ‘Enhancing research to policy and practice’ held in Tamale, Ghana, on February 16-17, 2016, participants were of the view that addressing the water challenge was key to transforming livelihoods through increased production in the SADA zone.

In his opening remarks, Mr. Charles Abugre, Chief Executive Officer, SADA, noted that “to improve livelihoods and transform the economy of northern Ghana, the water in the Volta along with its associated values and ecologies must be harnessed in a sustainable manner that will not endanger the communities along the White and Black Volta.”

Honorable Dr. Donald Adabre, a former Ambassador and the current Upper East Region Commissioner of the National Development Planning Commission (NDPC), called for the incorporation of the research conducted in the SADA zone into policy and planning. He noted that research findings which propose solutions to the challenges in the SADA zone will enhance people’s livelihoods and bring an end to the prevalent poverty in the region.

The unpredictability of rainfall patterns and amount in northern Ghana implies the need for farmers to engage in dry-season farming to boost their incomes. Government-managed irrigation schemes in northern Ghana (Tono, Vea and Botanga) are operating below full capacity. Many farmers who engage in private irrigation practices use either pumps or buckets to draw water from shallow wells, dug-outs, rivers or small reservoirsfor vegetable production. Despite the relatively small land area, often less than half a hectare per person, men and women who cultivate during the dry season have found farming to be lucrative.

Discussions between stakeholders present at the meeting indicated that, in the face of climate change and drought, dry-season farming was not just an option but a necessity if the fortunes of northern Ghana were to change. Hence, the call to improve on agricultural water management that will enable dry-season farming in the zone, and thus support a second cropping beyond the single cropping per year that is currently being practiced. Important interventions should include expansion of irrigation schemes to make them more accessible to a larger number of people, and strengthening other smallholder irrigation practices that are individually or communally driven.


SADA to benefit from IWMI’s agricultural water management solutions for dry-season farming

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A new success story in India

Photo credit: IWMI-CGIAR

Adjusting a sprinkler, India. Photo: Alexis Liu, IWMI


Irrigation for the nation

How one Indian state is leading the way on farm water supply

India’s farmers have often struggled to secure reliable water supplies. For much of the country, rainfall is concentrated during the monsoon, leaving the rest of the year dry. If the monsoon fails, destitution can threaten many millions. The country’s media regularly highlights the tragic numbers of farmer suicides as a graphic illustration of just how precarious agriculture can be.

So the Indian Prime Minister’s recent promise of “har khet ko pani” (water to every farm) must have been welcomed by many. But just how realistic is this? Can publicly funded irrigation policy really give every smallholder a guaranteed supply of water?

In response to the new announcement, the IWMI-Tata Water Policy Research Program had undertaken an analysis of irrigation reform in several Indian states. A synthesis of their findings has just been published and cautions that money needs to be carefully targeted if farmers are to truly benefit.

“Spending billions of rupees on grand irrigation projects is risky,” says IWMI’s Tushaar Shah, one of the report’s authors. “But some states have managed to invest effectively in irrigation improvements, and it is important that those lessons are shared.”


Power to the farmers

Firstly a distinction needs to be made between large public canal irrigation, and smaller on-farm investments such as tube wells and pump sets. Farmers want as much control over their water supply as possible, which generally makes wells and ponds preferable to big canal schemes, which have often been poorly managed. The downside is that on-farm irrigation usually requires power to run water pumps – a commodity that can be in short supply in India’s chaotic electricity supply network.

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World Day to Combat Desertification

Photo credit: Google – Imgres.jpg


United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification

World Day to Combat Desertification to be held on 17 June 

Let us find long‐term solutions, not just quick fixes, to disasters that are
destroying communities,” urged Monique Barbut, Executive Secretary of the UNCCD.(See PRESS RELEASE below).


Willem Van Cotthem: We keep hoping that success stories and best practices will be applied at the global level. Priority should be given to methods and techniques providing daily fresh food to the hungry and malnourished. It cannot be denied that hunger and malnutrition are constantly undermining the performances of people. Application of existing success stories in local food production (kitchen gardens, school gardens, hospital gardens, …) would positively influence the efforts to combat desertification (limiting erosion, stimulating reforestation, etc.). We keep hoping.

ReplyUnited Nations Convention to Combat Desertification Hi Willem Van Cotthem, would you like to share some success stories you have? We always welcome all to share!”

       ReplyWillem Van Cotthem : Hello Friends at the UNCCD Secretariat: It will be my pleasure to select a series of success stories in the literature. However, I am convinced that the UNCCD secretariat has the necessary documentation to compile even a book on this subject (to the best of my knowledge the documents, e.g. presentations at COPs and meetings of CST and CRIC, have been there during my active period in the CST and in Bonn). Please consider a consultancy to achieve top class work that would serve all member countries, the CST and the CRIC. To be presented at the next World Day June 17th 2016.

UNCCD’s Monique Barbut Calls for Long‐Term Solutions Not Just Quick Fixes To Drought Bonn, Germany, 22/02/2016 –
“Protect Earth. Restore Land. Engage People. This is the slogan for this year’s World Day to Combat Desertification to be held on 17 June. I am calling for solidarity from the international community with the people who are battling the ravages of drought and flood. Let us find long‐term solutions, not just quick fixes, to disasters that are destroying communities,” urged Monique Barbut, Executive Secretary of the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD).
The droughts and floods beating down on communities in many parts of the world are linked to the current El Niño, which is expected to affect up 60 million people by July. In some areas, including in North Eastern Brazil, Somali, Ethiopia, Kenya and Namibia, the El Niño effects are coming on the back of years of severe and recurrent droughts. It is impossible for households that rely on the land for food and farm labor to recover, especially when the land is degraded.
What’s more, these conditions do not just devastate families and destabilize communities. When they are not attended to urgently, they can become a push factor for migration, and end with gross human rights abuses and long‐term security threats.
“We have seen this before – in Darfur following four decades of droughts and desertification and, more recently, in Syria, following the long drought of 2007‐2010. It is tragic to see a society breaking down when we can reduce the vulnerability of communities through simple and affordable acts such as restoring the degraded lands they live on, and helping countries to set up better systems for drought early warning and to prepare for and manage drought and floods,” Barbut said.
Ms Barbut made the remarks when announcing the plans for this year’s World Day to Combat Desertification, which will take place on 17 June.
“I hope that World Day to Combat Desertification this year marks a turning point for every country. We need to show, through practical action and cooperation, how every country is tacking or supporting these challenges at the front‐end to preempt or minimize the potential impacts of the disasters, not just at the back‐end after the disasters happen,” she stated.
The United Nations General Assembly designated 17 June as the observance Day to raise public awareness about international efforts to combat desertification and the effects of drought.
Ms Barbut thanked the Government and People of China, for offering to host the global observance event, which will take place at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing.
“China has vast experience in nursing degraded lands and man‐made deserts back to health. This knowledge can and should benefit initiatives such as Africa’s Great Green Wall, the re‐ greening in southern Africa and the 20 X 20 Initiative in Latin America. We can create a better, more equal and climate change‐resilient world,” she noted.
“I also call on countries, the private sector, foundations and people of goodwill to support Africa  when the countries meet later in the year to develop concrete plans and policies to pre‐ empt, monitor and manage droughts,” Ms Barbut stated.
The 2016 World Day campaign is also advancing the Sustainable Development Goals adopted in September last year. The Goals include a target to achieve a land degradation‐neutral world by 2030. That is, a world where the land restored back to health equals to, or is more than, the amount degraded every year.
For more information on the Day and previous events, visit: http://www.unccd.int/en/programmes/Event‐and‐campaigns/WDCD/Pages/default.aspx
For background information and materials for the 2016 Observance, visit: For information about the Global Observance event, visit: http://www.unccd.int/en/programmes/Event‐and‐ campaigns/WDCD/wdcd2016/Pages/default.aspx
Contact for World Day to Combat Desertification: Yhori@unccd.int
For Media information: wwischnewski@unccd.int

Facing up to the future

Photo credit: IWMI – http://g9jzk5cmc71uxhvd44wsj7zyx.wpengine.netdna-cdn.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/Farmer-in-Gujarat-looks-on-as-irrigation-pumps-and-pipes-pull-water-from-the-canal-for-farms.jpg


Water for agriculture in an era of climate uncertainty

Globally, the negative impacts of future climate change on freshwater systems are expected to outweigh the benefits

As negotiators in Paris finalize the latest global treaty to tackle climate change, a timely new book explores the likely future for water in agriculture. Under current trends, the demand for food will double over the next half century. About 70% of all freshwater withdrawals are used to produce food, so the impacts of climate change on rainfall, river flow and groundwater will translate into impacts on agricultural production. As a result, say the book’s editors, significant improvements are necessary in agricultural water management now to reduce the vulnerability of the world’s poorest people.

“Globally, the negative impacts of future climate change on freshwater systems are expected to outweigh the benefits,” says IWMI’s Vladimir Smakhtin, one of the books editors. “By the 2050s, the area of land subject to increasing water stress is projected to be more than double that with decreasing water stress. In particular, the frequency of short droughts is likely to increase in the presently dry regions.”

The amount of land suitable for farming will also be hit. Under some computer models, the area deemed ‘highly suitable’ for crops is likely to shrink by a fifth. Similarly, more land will be classified as ‘marginally suitable’ or ‘moderately suitable’, with increases of 3.8 million km2 and 1.6 million km2, respectively.

Resources are sufficient – if managed smartly

The prospects sound alarming, but with careful resource management, say the editors, many of the worst effects of climate change can be mitigated.

Read the full article: IWMI

This year’s water systems model?

Photo credit: IWMI-CGIAR

Source: IMPACT hydrological model simulation (2013)


Computer models of the world’s water systems need some new thinking

The last two decades have seen substantial effort in the development of GHMs

Is it possible to model the world’s water? In an age of unprecedented computing power, what might seem like an insurmountable challenge has become a reality. Indeed there are now so many global hydrological models (GHMs), as they are known, offering such varying insights into water systems, that scientists may be wondering which they can rely on.

Fortunately help is at hand.

Two researchers based at the International Water Management Institute compared the various global-scale models developed over the last two decades. They conclude that some refinements may be needed if the current selection is to prove useful in addressing future challenges. The results have just been published in the Hydrological Sciences Journal and are currently featured as a time-limited open-access paper.

Read the full article: IWMI-CGIAR


Sustainability of Jaffna’s groundwater (Sri Lanka)

Photo credit: IWMI

Man working in a farm irrigated by sprinklers in Jaffna (photo: Hamish John Appleby/IWMI).

Achieving water sustainability in Jaffna

Groundwater is the only reliable source of fresh water for most residents of the Jaffna Peninsula. Yet, as mentioned in a recent Lindha Langa article, this vital resource is currently undergoing rapid contamination from oil, sewage, and agrochemical dumping. Saltwater intrusion has also increased due to a higher rate of groundwater extraction as indicated by the International Water Management Institute’s (IWMI) 2013 aquifer characterization study in Jaffna. The resulting damage to the aquifer is very difficult to reverse, and any efforts to do so would take many years. Immediate action is necessary to ensure the sustainability of Jaffna’s groundwater resources for future generations.

Several strategies have been proposed to accomplish this goal. None can do the entire job alone, however. According to Herath Manthrithilake, Head, Sri Lanka Development Initiative, IWMI, a combination of approaches is needed to establish a more sustainable and equitable water management system in the Jaffna region. Five feasible strategies are outlined below; the first two are current government projects in development while the final three are potentially viable approaches based on IWMI analysis.

Read the full article: IWMI


Ethiopia homes in on household irrigation

Photo credit: IWMI-CGIAR

A woman tends to crops. She belongs to a self-sustaining women’s cooperative which has helped her and many others build a secure livelihood through funding small scale agricultural projects. Photo: Petterik Wiggers/Panos Pictures

Ambitious strategy aims to improve the lives of millions

Research conducted by the International Water Management Institute (IWMI) has been highlighted as influential in an ambitious initiative of the Ethiopian government to boost food production and the incomes of five million farmers.

Realizing the potential of household irrigation in Ethiopia, a working strategy document from the Ministry of Agriculture and Ethiopian Agricultural Transformation Agency, outlines specific plans for agricultural development to complement the government’s vision of achieving middle-income status by 2025.

Agriculture in Ethiopia accounts for half of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) and 85% of employment. However, around 95% of smallholder farms rely solely on rainfall. According to the report, household irrigation involving simple water-lifting and water-saving technologies, together with the cultivation of high-value horticultural crops, could more than double farmers’ incomes where implementation is possible.

The strategy proposes “27 independent systemic interventions to increase the adoption and effectiveness of household irrigation technologies and build a vibrant and self-sustaining household irrigation sector.”

These measures take into account every step of the value chain, including research and policy development, technology access and adoption, input production and distribution for the cultivation of high-value crops, on-farm production, post-harvest handling, and market links.

Furthermore, they will “take into account the continuing challenges of gender sensitivity, water resource management and sustainable impact.”

Read the full article: IWMI

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