Agriculture and Ecosystems Blog

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


Soil testing at the source of the Tana. Soil erosion washes valuable top soil where it affects communities downstream. Photo: Georgina Smith/CIAT

Water funds: Getting the science right

What are we to make of the proliferation of water funds around the world? Now there’s a question. Would they still be growing in number if they weren’t delivering tangible impacts? Many interventions lack fundamental scientific principles to support them, so the answer in some cases may well be yes. Which is why it is vital that they get the science right.

People living around the canals in Gujarat, India. Photo: Hamish John Appleby/IWMI

Wishful thinking or the way forward?

When experts in large-scale irrigation systems hear the phrase ‘ecosystem services based approach’, their responses represent an array of contrasting perspectives on what is – or should be – an environmental service perspective and how it can be used. Two researchers react to ‘ecosystem services based approach’.

Women are favoured for plantation tasks such as washing bananas. Photo: Stuart Ling

Malnutrition persists despite higher incomes for women in Laos

Has anyone considered the relationship between the stubbornly high malnutrition in Laos and the increasing workloads of women in agriculture? A recent World Bank report ignored this question, while other projects are assuming that nutrition can be solved by boosting the numbers of trainings and home gardens.

Photo: Chris Potter on Flickr

Water Funds: Priming the corporate pump?

What are we to make of the proliferation of water funds round the world dedicated to maintaining the watersheds that keep rivers flowing, aquifers charged and taps full? Should we embrace the engagement of some of the world’s most famous water guzzlers?

Between 1990 and 2010 Latin America has lost over 1 million of km2 of tropical forest, becoming the second largest deforestation hotspot in the world, only preceded by Southeast Asia.  Photo: CIFOR

Can we meet future global food demand without causing any further environmental damage?

Researchers from the Technical University of Madrid, the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) and Harvard University have just published a paper in PLOS ONE which jointly assesses issues of future global food security and environmental outcomes. The study describes different future agricultural production pathways in one of the most important food baskets of the world: Latin America.

Jane Kabugi and her farm

Africa’s first Water Fund

The Tana-Nairobi Water Fund is a public-private scheme uniting big business, utilities, conservation groups, government, researchers and farmers. It aims to increase farm productivity upstream, while improving water supply and cutting costs of hydropower and clean water for users downstream, and is designed to generate US$21.5 million in long-term benefits to Kenyan citizens, including farmers and businesses.

Farmers in Ada Foah, Ghana harvest carrots grown using groundwater irrigation. Photo: Nana Kofi Acquah

Tapping into Africa’s groundwater potential

A recent study indicates that the total area under irrigation from groundwater resources in Africa can safely be expanded 20 times or more beyond current levels, but not everywhere. Farmers have already tapped into Africa’s groundwater, but mostly in the northern and southern regions. There is potential to sustainably increase the use of groundwater elsewhere in Africa, and in particular for small-scale farming.


Snapshot: Tackling pollution in the Ganges

New Snapshot Series: Partially treated sewage and industrial effluent is pumped into irrigation channels in Jajmau, a suburb of the Indian city of Kanpur. What isn’t used by farmers eventually flows into the Ganges, one of the country’s most polluted rivers.