Water-Smart Agriculture (WSA) – an approach that was developed as a response to the risk and vulnerability associated with uncertain rainfall regimes and smallholder farming recognizes that there is no simple solution in East Africa – or anywhere else – to the many challenges facing smallholders.
However, the approach argues that much can be achieved by using specific, tried and tested, technologies and practices and learning about the costs and benefits of use in conjunction with farmers themselves. Many of these technologies and practices are already well-known – in many cases the key challenge lies in enabling wider uptake, including triggering ‘early adoption’ across communities through demonstration in conjunction with farmers at a local level.
The concept of Water-Smart Agriculture first emerged in 2013, under the Global Water Initiative East Africa (GWI-EA), as a way of supporting a more coherent approach to improved water management in agriculture, building on action research with farmers across three countries- Ethiopia, Tanzania and Uganda- as well as wider sharing of knowledge and a collaboration between the GWI EA, the International Water Management Institute (IWMI) and the CGIAR Research Program on Water, Land and Ecosystems (WLE).
The results of this collaboration are a Sourcebook on Water-Smart Agriculture in East Africa; a collection of case studies from soil conservation to building resilience, including farmers’ own innovative practices, that further develop this particular approach in East Africa aimed at a specific group of users- development managers, educators, local administrators and policy makers. These are the people who can utilize such practical research outputs, thereby enabling impact at scale at both local and national levels.
This sourcebook is a starting point for thinking and inspiring efforts. The editors hope that as the global community moves forward in 2015 towards agreed Sustainable Development Goals (and in a year designated the International year of Soils), Water- Smart Agriculture can play some role in influencing the implementation of the SDGs and contribute in a small way to ensuring that farmers in East Africa achieve greater productivity, food security, climate resilience and ecosystem sustainability in the face of considerable development challenges.