Agriculture and Ecosystems Blog

Improved natural resource management for livelihoods, food security and the natural environment


Fisherman downstream in the Mekong River Basin harvest fish.  At the Cambodian government dai research station.  Photo: CPWF on Flickr

Mekong Matters: sharing hydropower benefits across the basin

In the Mekong River Basin, hydropower has great potential to bring economic prosperity and electrification to many rural communities while meeting the growing power demands of urban centers. Which measures can we implement to prevent any one part of society from carrying the brunt of the costs, be they monetary, social, or environmental?

Kindle e-readers for development agents and extension experts. Photo: Zerihun Sewunet/ILRI

E-readers narrow the information gap

In Ethiopia, access to internet is limited in most areas outside of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia’s capital city. So when you see a number of agricultural extension workers in the sprawling mountains and fields of rural Ethiopia holding e-readers, they may seem slightly out of place.

Nuozhadu, the largest dam on the Lancang (Mekong) River in China. Photo: International Rivers

China rivers at the brink of collapse

China’s rulers have traditionally derived their legitimacy from controlling water. The country ranks only sixth in terms of annual river runoff, but counts half the planet’s large dams within its borders. A new report warns that dam building has brought China’s river ecosystems to the point of collapse.

New dam on the Tekeze river in Ethiopia.  Photo Credit: Mathew McCartney

Hydrodams: the bigger the badder

Let’s celebrate World Water Day by recognising that most of the trillions of dollars spent on building large dams round the world in the past half century or so have been a waste of money. Many people may have suspected as much, but now there is peer-reviewed research to back it up.

The Xiaowan Dam along the Mekong in China. The world's tallest arch dam. Photo: Douglas Varchol/CPWF

Dams: cautiously breaking eggs to make omelettes

I forget which dam it was, but the anecdote goes that during a public consultation for a major Brazilian dam, one of the dam’s developers had quipped that you had to break eggs to make an omelette. To which one of the audience members had replied, “yeah, but it’s our eggs and your omelette”.

The Narmada Dam in India. Photo Credit: Frank Rijsberman

Are dams the right choice?

“Should we build more large dams?” It’s probably the wrong question. The question we should be asking decision-makers, governments and ourselves is: What do societies and economies reasonably require in terms of water resources and energy production?

Fishing at night near a storage dam in Zimbabwe. Photo credit: David Brazier/IWMI

A holistic approach to dams

With dams – big and small – the issues collide in what is increasingly referred to as the “water-energy-food nexus.” They also have wide environmental and social footprints that require careful attention to ensure impacts are manageable and benefits are shared more broadly.

A Volanta pump in action in Cameroon.  Photo: Mr. J. Nederstigt/PRACTICA

Better method, better world

Is the general notion of success in the emerging water sectors justified? Perhaps not completely. Decision support tools may contribute to a more strategic method selection and a more participatory process that may increase the chance of long-term success in water interventions.


Re-thinking resilience in the Fogera Region of Ethiopia

During his time in north western Ethiopia, Dr. Steven Prager observed the complex relationship between upstream and downstream farmers in Fogera region. His results, he said, were unexpected. Dr. Prager discusses the relationship between farm plot location and resilience in this podcast.