Game-changing water solutions for the Middle East and North Africa


Also available in  العربية

The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) have become a hotspot of unsustainable water use, with more than half of current water withdrawals in some countries exceeding the amount naturally available. This could have serious long-term consequences for the region’s growth and stability. Solutions for narrowing the gap between the supply of and demand for water are an urgent priority.

As the Fourth Arab Water Forum gets underway next week in Cairo, Egypt much is at stake in the region’s water management. Armed conflict and massive numbers of refugees have put tremendous additional stress on land and water resources in MENA as well as on infrastructure in communities receiving the refugees. In Jordan alone, according to the country’s Ministry of Water and Irrigation, climate change and the refugee crisis have reduced water availability per person to 140 cubic meters, far below the globally recognized threshold of 500 cubic meters for severe water scarcity.

These recent developments compound the impact of decades of rapid population growth, urbanization and agricultural intensification. A recent World Bank report notes that more than 60% of the region’s population is concentrated in places affected by high or very high surface water stress, compared to a global average of about 35%. The report further warns that climate-related water scarcity is expected to cause economic losses estimated at 6-14% of GDP by 2050 – the highest in the world.

As governments search for solutions, two trends, in particular, could present game-changing opportunities to bolster water security. As captured in two recent reports by the International Water Management Institute (IWMI), the viability of these solutions will depend on how governments and societies respond to them.

The promise and perils of solar-powered agriculture

One trend is the rapid rollout of solar-powered irrigation in some countries, with the triple aim of strengthening water, energy and food security. Morocco, for example, expects to install more than 100,000 solar pumps by 2020. Similarly, Egypt is implementing a program of desert agriculture, involving the irrigation of 630,000 hectares with solar technology. Other countries are embarking on such ventures as well, taking advantage of lower costs for solar technology and the region’s high solar radiation. Such initiatives will replace polluting and expensive diesel pumps, and offer a new option to farmers who lack access to energy grids. Reductions in traditional fuel subsidies strengthen the incentive for shifting to the use of solar and other renewable energy sources.

Governments hope that solar technology will offer a way for farming communities to leapfrog from chronic vulnerability toward resilient and sustainable intensification of production. The option has a downside, however, stemming from inadequate understanding and poor regulation of groundwater. These shortcomings, by permitting groundwater overexploitation, have caused water tables to fall, making it more expensive to pump from greater depths, while also creating problems such as soil salinity. Solar-powered irrigation could make matters worse by permitting the extraction of more groundwater at lower cost, impacting vulnerable rural communities with poor access to water resources.

Innovative monitoring technologies (such as remotely controlled pumps and smart water meters) could help address some of the challenges. Moreover, as is already happening in Jordan, experts can use remote sensing techniques to help governments control the expansion of groundwater-based irrigation.

Tapping the only increasing natural resource

A second trend centers on wastewater, 82% of which is not being recycled in the region, compared to just 30% in high-income countries. This presents a major threat to human and environmental health but also a massive opportunity to better satisfy water demand. Wastewater is the only natural resource that increases as cities and populations grow. Countries in the MENA region already generate 18.4 cubic kilometers of municipal wastewater per year.

Many technologies are available to treat and reuse wastewater for productive purposes, including forestry, agriculture, landscaping, and aquifer recharge. The uptake of these options has so far been slow, however, because of rigid regulations and a policy disconnect between the agricultural, sanitation and other sectors. When reuse projects do get underway, the lack of appropriate tariffs and economic incentives undermine their sustainability by making it difficult for them to recover the costs of wastewater treatment. Key considerations going forward are the selection of crops best suited for irrigation with reused water and measures for addressing specific health concerns.

MENA has much to gain from efforts to overcome these barriers. With appropriate treatment, wastewater has the potential to provide irrigation and fertilizer for more than 2 million hectares of agricultural land. This would contribute to the conservation of freshwater, making more available for domestic use and a wide variety of productive purposes. Jordan’s success in harnessing private sector technological innovation and financing to recycle wastewater offers an especially instructive case. Such technologies, reinforced by new policies, could help put MENA on course toward water security. This will require commitment at all levels of society to address cultural barriers impeding change in water use, bridge institutional and policy divisions, and revise overly stringent regulations.

Turning threats into opportunities

Solutions to the growing problem of water scarcity are within reach. The challenge is to accelerate the development and spread of innovation for sustainable water management. This, in turn, requires a new “water consciousness,” as noted in Beyond Water Scarcity, which recognizes that everyone – from individual farmers and consumers to businesses and public agencies – has a responsibility to overcome water scarcity.

Participants in the Arab Water Forum will hear a lot about such innovations in water management. The challenge will be to build momentum behind solutions that can make a difference.

Article Disclaimer: This article was published by The World Bank and retrieved on 12/30/2017 and posted here for information and educational purposes only. The views and contents of the article remain those of the authors. We will not be held accountable for the reliability and accuracy of the materials. If you need additional information on the published contents and materials, please contact the original authors and publisher. Please cite the authors, original source, and INDESEEM accordingly.


Gains for grains

Photo Credit: Ragnar Vaga Pedersen./Sowing seeds of change: Women farmers pave the way

By T V JAYAN. Published on July 4, 2017

An agri project handholds farmers as they turn climate smart

Saving our farms from the devastating impacts of climate change is an ardent task, given the latter’s unpredictable bearing. But the number-crunching by multiple scientific groups all over the world has unanimously agreed that the unprecedented heating of the planet would certainly lead to extreme weather events that would upset the deep-set farming practices, particularly in tropical countries like India.

Now, in a small but profound attempt to help Indian farmers overcome climate-related challenges, a team of Indian and Norwegian scientists has fine-tuned a host of technologies that would aid in weathering calamities such as recurrent droughts or damaging floods.

Termed ClimaAdapt, the five-year-long project executed on a shoestring budget of $3.8 million worked with thousands of farmers in three major river basins in Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. The project, that focused mainly on water-guzzling paddy farming, led to refining, upscaling and implementation of several new rice growing and irrigation technologies as well as identifying more suitable seed varieties.

“In the past five years, we have developed climate-smart rice-growing and irrigation technologies and improved the adaptive capacity of farmers and selected agriculture and water sectors through various measures,” said Udaya Sekhar Nagothu, ClimaAdapt’s coordinator and a researcher with the Norwegian Institute of Bioeconomy Research (NIBIO), in Oslo. “Together, we have ensured that the food security and livelihood of 90,000 Indian smallholders, one-third of these women, has been vastly improved.”

While 25,000 local farmers received relevant information and training on farming and climate adaptation through eight village knowledge centres set up as part of the project, an additional 65,000 farmers benefited by gaining access to information through farmer-to-farmer communication and exchange of knowledge process, Nagothu said.

Working jointly with NIBIO were researchers from the M S Swaminathan Research Foundation, Chennai, Tamil Nadu Agricultural University (TNAU), Madurai, Water and Land Management Training Institute (WALAMTARI) in Hyderabad and International Water Management Institute.

“Studies in the past have shown that there has been an increase of 0.4 degree Celsius in the Cauvery basin in the last decade. And climate projections estimate that this will further increase by 1.4 to 1.5 degree Celsius by mid-century and 3.5 to 4 degree Celsius by end of the current century,” said V Geethalakshmi, professor at TNAU, who was involved in the project.

“It is estimated that if the current rice farming practices are followed, water requirement for paddy would go up to 1,450 to 1,500 millimetre from the present 1,000-1,200 ml to sustain the existing productivity,” she said.

Nagothu said that three different rice growing and irrigation methods were tested and implemented at the project sites. There are SRI, or system of rice intensification, alternative wetting and drying (AWD) and direct seeding of rice.

Project implementation

For instance, farmers in the studied Kalingarayan canal basin in Erode and Ponnanair reservoir basin in Trichy were convinced to switch to SRI, which requires 20 to 25 per cent less water as compared to conventionally-used flooding technology.

AWD, implemented mainly in Andhra and Telangana farms, has proved advantageous for the nutrient uptake of the crops, apart from saving water. “By using these techniques on their farms, farmers acquire first hand knowledge that they can not only improve water use efficiency but also not suffer a drop in production. In fact, they can actually result in higher yields,” said K Yella Reddy, director, WALAMTARI, another participant in the research.

What, according to the researchers, set this project apart from other similar initiatives was the approach they adopted. There has been a continuous hand-holding of farmers, they have been supplied with essential materials inputs such as new seed varieties or manure and proper guidance through each stage of the farming process during the project period.

“We also provided them with alternative agro-based livelihood options that stabilised and enhanced their incomes,” said Geethalakshmi.

Article Disclaimer: This article was published by the The Hindu Business Line and retrieved on 07/04/2017 and posted here for information and educational purposes only. The views and contents of the article remain those of the authors. We will not be held accountable for the reliability and accuracy of the materials. If you need additional information on the published contents and materials, please contact the original authors and publisher. Please cite the authors, original source, and INDESEEM accordingly.


South Asia’s climate hazard hotspots

Photo: V. Dakshinamurthy / IWMI

Mapping risks and estimating impacts on people and agriculture

Extreme climate events are taking a heavy toll in countries around the world, destroying lives and livelihoods. Since the late 1980s, the frequency of such disasters has increased – from an average of 195 per year during 1987-1998 to 338 per year during 2000-2011, according to researchers at the Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters (CRED) in Belgium.

In response, governments are giving high priority to disaster risk reduction, alongside their efforts to mitigate climate change by curbing greenhouse gas emissions. To reduce risks effectively and equitably, however, they urgently need quantitative methods to assess the vulnerability of specific populations to multiple climate-related hazards. Such methods will provide national disaster management organizations with a stronger basis on which to target risk reduction aid and allocate finance for climate adaptation in line with climate justice principles.

Beyond global snapshots

Mapping Multiple Climate-related Hazards in South Asia

The International Water Management Institute (IWMI) has just given a boost to such efforts with a new research report titled Mapping Multiple Climate-related Hazards in South Asia. The study was launched recently at a policy dialogue organized by IWMI jointly with the Government of Bihar, India; the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR); Japan’s Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries; and two CGIAR Research Programs – Water, Land and Ecosystems (WLE), which IWMI leads, and Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS)

Bihar is the country’s most flood-prone state, having suffered agricultural losses with an estimated value of US$340 million over the past 12 years. It is the logical testing ground for index-based flood insurance under a project being carried out with the aforementioned CGIAR Research Programs.

“Countries in the region must coordinate actions to cope with adverse climate impacts, such as seasonal floods, drought, landslides, cyclones and sea-level rise,” says Giriraj Amarnath, lead author of the IWMI report and leader of the Institute´s Water Risks research group. At a global level, the World Bank and other organizations have conducted large-scale analysis of natural disasters, making it possible to pinpoint hotspots. But according to Amarnath, the resulting “global snapshots” are not detailed enough to guide local risk reduction efforts.

In South Asia, the assessment of multiple risks has increased over the last decade, though most studies are confined to the state or district level. In contrast, the IWMI study closes major knowledge gaps by offering a detailed approach to map climate hazards and identify areas at risk on a regional and sub-national scale.

Vulnerable people and places

Relying on the vulnerability assessment framework of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the IWMI study uses a combined index (based on hazard, exposure and adaptive capacity) to identify areas that are susceptible to extreme risk. For this purpose, researchers used data on the spatial distribution of climate-related hazards in 1,398 districts of Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

FIGURE 4. Spatial distribution of drought frequency based on 13 years’ time series of MODIS imagery.

Based on its analysis of risk exposure in these countries, the study shows that approximately 750 million people – over 45 percent of the region´s entire population – were affected by climate hazards during the decade after 2000. Of this total, 72 percent were in India, 12 percent each in Bangladesh and Pakistan, and the remaining 4 percent in Bhutan, Nepal, and Sri Lanka.

Study results emphasize that agriculture is particularly vulnerable to climate extremes (mostly drought and flooding), with more than 58 percent of agricultural areas across the region damaged by multiple hazards. Drought affects the largest area (786,000 square kilometers), followed by extreme temperature, extreme rainfall, floods and sea-level rise.

The IWMI study includes an overall climate change vulnerability map, which makes it easy to visualize and identify climate-hazard hotspots. The results offer few surprises, confirming the common perception that the most vulnerable parts of South Asia are Bangladesh´s coastal region; the Indian states of West Bengal, Orissa, Andhra Pradesh and Gujarat; and Sindh in Pakistan. This is a result of their exposure to sea-level rise and position in the transboundary basins of the Ganges, Brahmaputra and Meghna Rivers, which are prone to annual flooding.

FIGURE 21. Climate change vulnerability map of South Asia based on exposure, sensitivity and adaptive capacity to multiple hazards.

From awareness to action

There is growing awareness of the need to prepare for and respond to the impacts of climate change. Finding better solutions to manage disaster risk is crucial for compliance with the Sustainable Development Goals, Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction and Paris Climate Change Agreement. The methodology that IWMI presents in its new report is a step in the right direction and has potential for application to other regions.

“But much remains to be done toward generating more data on the ground at a finer scale,” says Amarnath. “And this, in turn, requires better coordination among various sectors to develop comprehensive risk assessments that can inform disaster risk management plans and risk-financing strategies.”

Read the report

Amarnath, Giriraj; Alahacoon, Niranga; Smakhtin, V.; Aggarwal, P. 2017. Mapping multiple climate-related hazards in South Asia. Colombo, Sri Lanka: International Water Management Institute (IWMI) 41p. (IWMI Research Report 170)[DOI] | Fulltext (6.07 MB)


Article Disclaimer: This article was published by the International Water Management Institute and retrieved on 07/28/2017 and posted here for information and educational purposes only. The views and contents of the article remain those of the authors. We will not be held accountable for the reliability and accuracy of the materials. If you need additional information on the published contents and materials, please contact the original authors and publisher. Please cite the authors, original source, and INDESEEM accordingly.


Norman E. Borlaug Leadership Enhancement in Agriculture Program (Borlaug LEAP)


Program Description

The Norman E. Borlaug Leadership Enhancement in Agriculture Program (Borlaug LEAP) is currently accepting applications from sub-Saharan African students conducting research on topics related to the US Government’s global hunger initiative — Feed the Future.  All topics related to agriculture (as defined by Title XII) and the Feed the Future initiative are admissible.


The Borlaug LEAP offers fellowships to enhance the quality of thesis research of graduate students from developing countries who show strong promise as leaders in the field of agriculture and related disciplines.  The program supports engaging a mentor at a US university and a CGIAR center.

Awards are made on a competitive basis to students who show strong scientific and leadership potential, have a well coordinated proposal between their home university, a US university mentor, and the CGIAR mentor, and whose research has relevance to the national development of the student’s home country or region.


The award level is US$20,000 for a maximum of one year. The funds are administered as a grant to the US university mentor. Grant funds can be used to support a variety of research needs including student’s travel to the research site, research support at the CGIAR or US university, and US faculty member travel to the research site to mentor the student in collaboration with a CGIAR scientist.  Funds should not be used to pay tuition or salaries.


The program supports internships for up to 12 months. Internships can be at the CGIAR, US graduate-level university or a combination of appropriate institutions. Students are encouraged to creatively plan an internship that best suits their educational needs and circumstances.  A minimum of three months should be spent at any one location.



An eligible candidate for a Borlaug LEAP fellowship must be

  • a citizen of a USAID-assisted country.  Currently we are only accepting applications from citizens of USAID-assisted countries in sub-Saharan Africa.  Applicants cannot hold citizenship or permanent residency in the US and/or any non-USAID assisted country. This includes applicants with dual citizenship.
  • currently enrolled as an MS or PhD student at a US or sub-Saharan Africa developing country university. Candidates must maintain student status for the duration of the fellowship.
  • fluent in reading, writing and speaking English. All semi-finalists must provide a TOEFL or IELTS score taken within the past year.  Only applicants enrolled at U.S. universities are exempt from this requirement.  Minimum acceptable scores are:  TOEFL, 550 (paper test); 80 (internet-based test).  IELTS (academic modules), minimum of 7 on a 9-point scale.

In addition, eligible candidates will have

  • completed at least one year of graduate level course work in the graduate program the applicant is currently enrolled in with a US equivalent grade point average (GPA) of 3.0 or higher.
  • a thesis-topic related to agricultural development and related fields. Title XII legislation broadly defines agriculture as:

“…the science and practice of activity related to food, feed, and fiber production, processing, marketing, distribution, utilization, and trade, and also includes family and consumer sciences, nutrition, food science and engineering, agricultural economics and other social sciences, forestry, wildlife, fisheries, aquaculture, floriculture, veterinary medicine, and other environmental and natural resources sciences.”

Successful candidates must:

  • agree to return to their country of citizenship for a minimum of two years following graduation.
  • remain enrolled as an MS or PhD student and have student status at their university for the duration of their fellowship.
  • See Conditions of Training for more information

An eligible US mentor must be:

  • a faculty member at a US graduate level university.
  • conducting research related to or complementary of the student’s research topic.
  • eligible at his/her institution to supervise graduate students.
  • eligible at his/her institution to serve as Principal Investigator on the fellowship award.
  • willing to make the time commitment to mentor the student.

An eligible CGIAR mentor must be:

Application Deadline: April 6, 2016

Giving soils a voice

Written by: By Juliet Braslow, CIAT Soils Research Area Coordinator, October 27, 2015.

We don’t directly drink or breathe soil, so it’s often forgotten as we trample over it.

Raising awareness and inspiring action for promoting and protecting our soils has been a central focus throughout this International Year of Soils (IYS). We need healthy soils for a healthy life because the bottom line is that no soil = no food.

We are nearing the end of this year of soils and are taking stock of progress made. How can we continue the momentum into 2016 to keep the soils profile high?  Yet this has just been the start – and a turning point for soils on global, national and local agendas.

Around the globe, diverse groups of people are gathering around the table, not over a meal per se, but to discuss where all meals start: the soil. However, we often end up preaching to the converted, to those who already believe in the importance of understanding, protecting, investing in one of our most precious resources. Awareness-raising and outreach beyond the inner circle of ‘soil converts’ is what IYS has done,  to get the public excited and engaged in the soil beneath their feet.

The evidence is clear in the level of engagement and outreach there has been around the topic. Partners of the European network for soil awareness (ENSA) have been using some very creative approaches: leveraging art to speak for soil (Decrustate 2015), soil playing cards, political initiatives (People4Soil), calendars, citizen soil science (Tea bag index), school activities, hands-on exhibits and much more. They’ve taken soils to the people.

And once you are there, what do you tell them? How do you go beyond raising awareness to give them a reason to care and take action?  It hasn’t been easy. But we developed tools and guidelines to follow to figure out how to best craft, target and deliver the pitch.

There are many resources out there, but sometimes it’s just easier to jump in and try, get feedback and adapt your pitch. That is just the process I led the ENSA network through last week to practice “giving soils a voice.”

We started by distilling our key messages. If you just had 30 seconds to tell someone why they should care about soils, what would you say? Mark Twain once said: “I would have written that shorter, but I didn’t have the time.” Find the time so your message can get through the information chaos of our world and stick in the mind of your listener.

Here’s a fun exercise to try and perfect your key message:
Imagine you had a quick minute to tell someone why she should care about soil
1. Write down what you want to say
2. Cross out words until you have the shortest sentence you possibly can
3. Deliver your simplified message to someone (person A)
4. Have that person (A) tell a person (B) who wasn’t in the room what you just said
5. If a person (A) who hears your simple message can repeat it accurately to the next person (B), you’ve got it!
6. If they don’t say exactly the words you want repeated go back to simplify it some more and try steps 3-4 again.

Now you have your key message, but how do you package that message in an engaging way? With a pitch. If you think about it, we’re all pitching and receiving pitches every day in one way or another. From making the case for what we want to eat for dinner to my pitch to get you to read this far in this blog.

Here are 5 simple pitching principles:
1. Know your audience – Who are you trying to convince? What interests them?
2. Be clear and crisp with your facts – use figures wisely and no jargon
3. Give it a human angle – Put a story behind your facts to create an emotional connection
4. Know your ask – What do you want someone to DO? Can your audience take this action?
5. Focus on soft skills – It’s not always what you say, but how you say it. Be confident and humble. Engage your audience.

Most people these days are so overwhelmed with information that your message has to be simple and delivered in a catchy way to make it through the information clutter. It should go beyond informing to empowering someone to take action for the biggest impact. This can be the most challenging part of a pitch to craft, but the most powerful. If you communicate exactly what you are asking your listener to do, and it’s something they really can do, they are much more likely to take the first step. Wouldn’t you?

What is my pitch to you? Make the most of your meetings, coffee breaks, field visits and chance encounters by having your key messages and pitches practiced and ready to pull out of your pocket to inspire and empower.

Article Disclaimer: This article was published at the CIAT Blog and was retrieved on 10/29/2015 and posted here at INDESEEM for information and educational purposes only. The views, thoughts and opinions expressed in the article are those of the authors. Please cite the original and this source (INDESEEM) accordingly.


Enhancing Productivity and Livelihoods among Smallholder Irrigators through Biochar and Fertilizer Amendments at Ekxang Village, Vientiane Province, Lao PDR






Business Members

Organization Members

Sign Up For Email Updates

Enter your email address:

Follow us on Twitter
Follow us on Twitter
Follow IBI
Photo of Biochar
Biochar Certification

Help put the Earth back in the black


Title Enhancing Productivity and Livelihoods among Smallholder Irrigators through Biochar and Fertilizer Amendments at Ekxang Village, Vientiane Province, Lao PDR
Publication Type Conference Paper
Year of Publication 2015
Authors Macedo, J.Souvanhnachit M.Rattanavong S.Maokhamphiou B.Sotoukee T.Pavelic P.Sarkis M., and Downs T.
Conference Name Climate-Smart Agriculture Conference
Abstract Climate change and climate variability pose significant risks to smallholders in the rainfed lowlands of Lao PDR. Increased surface temperatures, declining rainfall, persistent drought and depleting soil nutrients all serve to impact agricultural productivity and livelihoods. This study investigates the impact of five treatments on soil nutrients, moisture, plant growth, and yield of water spinach (Ipomoea aquatica). The treatments tested were rice husk biochar only, biochar inoculated with manure, manure tea, inorganic fertilizer and the control. The costs and benefits of the treatments were also assessed. The randomized complete block design was used to assign five treatments and eight replications to the experimental units. Biochar was produced through slow pyrolysis. Soil physical properties were assessed with the visual soil assessment method and 15-randomized soil samples were collected for chemical analyses. Sprinklers were used for irrigation and a weather station installed to monitor the climate. Descriptive statistics and analysis of variance were used to analyze the data. Costs-benefits evaluation of the treatments was conducted to determine the net benefits relative to the initial costs ratio. The analysis of variance of mean yield indicates that the difference in yield among the treatments was highly significant. The computed F value (8.08) was higher than the tabular F value (4.07) at the 1% level of significance. The calculated coefficient of variance of mean yield was 17.33%. The net benefits to initial costs ratio of treatments suggest that the control (5.84), biochar inoculated with manure plus NPK (0.93), and biochar plus manure (0.87) are most preferred. The net benefits and initial costs evaluation of treatments is important to assess whether utilizing these treatments would impact smallholders’ livelihoods. The results of this study contribute to the evidence that biochar could play an essential role to mitigate climate change risks by enhancing soil quality and increase agricultural productivity.
%d bloggers like this: