In just a few weeks, the CGIAR Challenge Program on Water and Food (CPWF) will come to an end. A new online learning portal was launched last week as a means of retaining the research and findings gathered during more than a decade of research for development.
From 2002 to 2013, CPWF piloted new methods of improved water management for both food production and the nature conservation. The program supported more than 120 research projects in ten of the world’s largest river basins. In the wake of its conclusion, many activities, partnerships, and lessons learned are being integrated into the CGIAR Research Program on Water, Land and Ecosystems (WLE). WLE shares a similar vision: to improve sustainable intensification, using ecosystem-based approaches and testing innovative ways through which research can influence poverty and environment related investment decisions.The evolution of the CGIAR Challenge Program on Water and Food
When the program first began in 2002, the general assumption at the time was that of an unfolding global crisis of water scarcity. The proposed solution was to produce more food with less water.
However, as the program progressed, the relationship between water, food, and poverty proved to be more complex:
- Water is usually not a physically scarce resource. While water in lakes, streams, and canals can be locally scarce, rainwater is often relatively abundant but under-utilized in agriculture.
- Poverty is not strongly correlated with water scarcity. Poverty is associated a country’s position in its development trajectory, regardless of water availability.
- Water productivity is useful as a diagnostic tool but has limited value as a standalone objective.
- Water is often a good entry point to address development challenges in river basins. A research-for-development approach can be effective in addressing such challenges and progress towards outcomes.
- Sustainable intensification of agriculture can improve livelihoods and reduce poverty. Achieving intensification, however, usually means combining technical, institutional, and policy innovations.
- Benefit-sharing mechanisms and multiple use systems are just two of the areas where CPWF has had success in introducing innovations and achieving outcomes.
In addition to research findings on pressing water and food issues, CPWF’s new learning portal also presents lessons on the program’s research-for-development approach.
The program defined research for development as “an engagement process for understanding and addressing development challenges defined with stakeholders.” In this context, stakeholders are champions and partners in the research process, as well as the main supporters and actors in bringing about the required change.
Involving stakeholders in the research process from the onset ensures that research is relevant and applicable. Using the research for development approach, CPWF aimed to facilitate the contribution of research outputs to development outcomes and, eventually, impact. Research becomes more relevant when it contributes towards impact on the ground.Onwards and Upwards: the CGIAR Research Program on Water, Land and Ecosystems
Many CPWF activities, partnerships, and lessons are being integrated into the CGIAR Research Program on Water, Land and Ecosystems. WLE shares a similar vision to improve sustainable intensification, using ecosystem-based approaches and testing innovative ways through which research can influence investment decisions related to poverty and the environment.
WLE will continue both the quest to produce new knowledge that can help solve the world’s pressing water and food issues and the commitment to finding better ways for research to contribute directly to development outcomes.
In a recent blog post, Andrew Noble, director of WLE, details many of the activities and initiatives that WLE will carry forward and writes that “…it will be incumbent on WLE to continue to build on this legacy and ensure that it stays true to the discourse and purpose of research-for-development.”
The integration of many of these activities and knowledge with the CGIAR Research Program on Water, Land and Ecosystems together with the launch of the online learning portal are ways of ensuring that the lessons learned and research findings from the CGIAR Challenge Program on Water and Food are preserved and used to further the research-for-development agenda. The learning portal, which ensures that research findings are both available and accessible to a wider audience, is also an example of the commitment to open access and data management that is currently being rolled out throughout the CGIAR Consortium, its members and research programs. While the generation of new knowledge is a critical component of the research-for-development process, maintaining, sharing and building upon lessons learned is just as important.
This post was developed by Marianne Gadeberg, communications consultant, CGIAR Challenge Program on Water and Food