Knowledge for Development


As the competition for fresh water for food, health and energy becomes increasingly intense, there is need to also address the issue of dwindling water resources and the implications for agricultural productivity.

This dossier deals with the challenge to efficiently and sustainably manage water resources. In his lead article, Gerd Förch, Professor for Water Resources Management at Universität Siegen, Civil Engineering Department, Germany, and director of the Research Institute for Water and Environment, focuses on the concept of integrated water resources management (IWRM) as a strategy for the efficient and sustainable management of water resources as the amount of freshwater available to mankind and nature is limited.

The lead article by Maimbo Malesu and Alex Oduor of ICRAF provide lessons from Rwanda and Zanzibar on upgrading water harvesting potential as small-scale solutions to major problems in managing water resources. They use vivid examples from these two countries to show how satellite imagery and digital mapping techniques can be used for supporting decision making on managing water resources in sub-Saharan Africa.

 Background information to this dossier is provided in the form of links to websites of relevant organizations and downloadable articles.

Prepared by KIT in collaboration with CTA – July 2008. Edited by J.A. Francis, CTA & J. Sluijs, KIT

Using less water in crop production systems: Targeting irrigation efficiency gains using a multi-pronged approach

by Bruce Lankford, School of International Development, University of East Anglia, Norwich, UK
Irrigation is responsible for about 70-80% of freshwater depletion in most developing countries. According to Lankford's article, worldwide, agriculture evapotranspires approximately 20-25 km3 of water per day and the 270-300 million hectare irrigated component of this evaporates about 6-9 km3 of water per day. Rain fed cropping consumes soil water and the range of measures available to manage soil water depletion is limited compared to that for irrigated cropping. As such, agricultural productivity can be boosted by using water more efficiently. Irrigation is believed to ‘waste’ significant amounts of water; worldwide,  irrigation is about 40% efficient. It appears that effective efficiency can be increased by 10-20% (and more) by adopting new technologies or adapting existing practices from water-short farmers. A multi-pronged systems approach is recommended for delivering substantial and verifiable reductions in water consumption over large areas of irrigated lands. 27/01/2014

Improving Livestock Water Productivity: Lessons from the Nile River Basin

by Don Peden, Consultant, International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) Ethiopia
LWP takes an interdisciplinary agro-ecosystems approach to achieve more effective, sustainable and productive use of agricultural water for animal production. It calls for better feed sourcing and management, adoption of best-bet animal production technology, and improved water conservation. LWP is a scale-dependent concept: the elements of the hydrological cycle are studied within a specific spatiotemporal window. It represents the ratio of the total value of goods and services derived from domestic animals to the amount of water depleted as a cost of livestock-keeping. 27/01/2014

Sustainable Intensification and Conservation Agriculture

by By Amir Kassam, Moderator, Global Platform for CA Community of Practice, FAO, Italy, Convener, Land Husbandry Group, Tropical Agriculture Association, UK & Visiting Professor, School of Agriculture, Policy and Development, University of Reading, UK
Amir Kassam in his lead article argues that the no-till farming system involving soil cover and crop diversification, known as Conservation Agriculture (CA), is fundamentally changing farming practices and management of the land resource base, the landscape and the environment. As a proponent of this approach, Kassam notes that CA enhances ecosystem services and resilience, and offers additional economic and environmental benefits that are difficult or impossible to mobilize with conventional tillage agriculture.  01/10/2013
Prof. Uphoff notes that relative water scarcity is growing at an alarming rate and it is the efficient and effective management of water that must help ACP countries, where agriculture remains primarily rain-fed, cope with scarcities and surfeits. In reflecting on the contemporary experiences that the ACP-EU Think tank deliberated on in their annual 2012 meeting, Prof. Uphoff noted that the more 'efficient use of water can, in effect, expand its supply, while on the other hand, the more productive use of water can ease the demand or need by giving farmers "more crop per drop"'. He makes a plea for more contemporary thinking and approaches to addressing water for agriculture and suggests a softer focus to embrace the concept of water governance.  10/04/2013

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