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Integrated Water and Land Management

By definition, dry land farmers operate against a background of water scarcity. Today, a number of converging trends, including land degradation, population growth and climate change, exacerbate the challenges of the dry areas.  These trends all add to the increasing uncertainties facing the rural poor who depend largely on a fragile natural resource base.

Sustainable increases in future food supplies must come from increased productivity of both rainfed and irrigated agriculture – producing 'more crop per drop.'   Climate change models predict that northern and southern Africa and West Asia regions will become hotter and drier, experiencing changes in the seasonal and spatial distribution of precipitation, and the increasing incidence and strength of extreme weather events such as drought. 

With this in mind, a major focus of ICARDA’s Integrated Water and Land Management Program (IWLM) is improved rainwater harvesting in dry areas. Methodologies have been tested in several ongoing research activities with partners in Libya, Jordan and Eritrea. These approaches have the potential for widespread use by countries with dry areas to pinpoint locations where water harvesting can increase food security and farm productivity at community, farm, and household level. 

Another focus of ICARDA’s research is supplemental irrigation – providing small quantities of water at crucial growth stages, to supplement rainfall. This technique significantly increases both yield and water productivity, i.e. the quantity of grain produced per unit of water used. ICARDA researchers are studying yield and water productivity in different crops, at different levels of supplemental irrigation. The results will help farmers make more informed decisions about irrigation. 

Program Director: Dr. Theib Oweis

Enhancement of NARS human capacity to manage water and land resources efficiently is a priority for the IWLM program. It conducts targeted training to NARS on all water management issues, including water use efficiency, drought management, supplemental irrigation, water harvesting and efficient irrigation systems, and sustainable land management.

This aims to enhance NARS capacity to conduct research that is relevant to their national needs. Particular emphasis is laid on addressing the deficiencies associated with the implementation of collaborative research projects.

Research Integration

IWLM develops frameworks for conservation and sustainable management of ecosystems with an emphasis on their multi-functionality. This involves a local, multi-stakeholder process that links land users with policymakers and decision makers.  The program links research to policy in terms of water and land management to help broaden the partnership base to include civil society and local research institutes.

Improved policy and institutional options for better water and land management are achieved by:

  • Developing methodologies for scarce water resource valuation for major environments and socioeconomic conditions
  • Studying current policies on water allocation, valuation and use and then developing alternatives for improved water demand management
  • Reviewing existing water management institutions and developing appropriate alternative institutions to improve irrigation management
  • Reviewing available knowledge and constraints on land degradation

Drought and climate change preparedness and mitigation

Drought can have devastating consequences for the livelihoods of the poor. It also threatens the fragile ecosystems of the dry areas. Due to climate change this threat is expected to increase in coming decades.  IWLM looks for ways to prepare for and to mitigate the effects of drought and climate change through proper management of water and land resources under current and future scenarios.

This strand of work focuses on:

  • Developing methodologies for characterizing drought in the major dry area environments
  • The assessment of existing community, national and regional strategies and policies for the preparedness and mitigation of drought and climate change
  • Evaluation of germplasm for adaptation to drought and climate change and the assessment of other options and strategies for the preparedness and mitigation of drought at various levels
  • Enhancing linkages and cooperation between countries on drought preparedness and mitigation
  • Better understanding of the potential impacts of climate change, and prediction (modeling) of the effects of adaptation systems such as supplemental irrigation. IWLM works closely on three broad agro-ecologies: rainfed systems, irrigated systems, and rangelands.

Land Degradation

Soil erosion, salinity and an absence of vegetative cover are early-warning signs of land degradation in dry areas (otherwise known as desertification). IWLM develops and disseminates practical, low-cost options to protect soil and water resources in dry areas. However, many of the developed technologies are difficult to disseminate in the field due to technical, socioeconomic and policy constraints. Farmers are the most valued partners of our land resources research agenda. Farming communities actively participate at all stages, from the planning of experiments to testing and disseminating the results.

The key focus is on:

  • Combating land degradation and contributing to the mitigation of, and adaptation to, climate change through sustainable management and utilization of natural resources in cropland and rangeland
  • Development of holistic approaches to improved land management to combat degradation (loss of biodiversity, soil erosion, salinization, alkalinization and waterlogging)
  • Development of "Best-bet" technologies and practices developed for sustainable management of land, biodiversity and rangeland resources, including community-based land management practices
  • Adapting and out-scaling of modern research tools based on watershed modeling and management.

Water Productivity

Improving agricultural water productivity at the farm level is a complex task. It is achieved by using improved crop varieties, applying precision agriculture, using modern irrigation, diversifying cropping patterns, and most importantly, improving water management. IWLM is developing appropriate technologies and integrated management options to maximize water productivity at the plot, field, farm, and basin-scale.

Improving water and land productivities is achieved through:

  • Developing options and tools for improved rainwater productivity in dryland farming systems through improved agro-management, germplasm enhancement and use of supplemental irrigation
  • Identifying and integrating appropriate water harvesting techniques in the crop-range-livestock system of marginal, drier environments
  • Developing packages for increased irrigation water productivity, through improved irrigation management, water use efficient germplasm, cropping patterns and scaling out to other areas

Water and Land Resource Assessments

IWLM assesses water and land resource productivity and degradation under present and future scenarios at the farm, ecosystem and basin scale.

The research in this theme focuses on:

  • Assessing the quantity and quality of available water resources for agriculture, including rainwater, surface water, ground water and marginal-quality water in the dry areas and projecting this assessment for the future.
  • Assessing water and land productivities in agriculture at the plant, field, farm, and basin levels.
  • Assessing the potential of using water-use efficient practices and their consequences on productivity and the environment.
  • The availability and potential use of marginal-quality water in agriculture in the dry areas and the environmental consequences of its use.
  • Developing multi-scale tools and methods to assess land degradation (location, extent, causes, impacts and consequences).

For more information

Contact Person:

Dr. Vinay Nangia


ICARDA office: Amman, Jordan