Sustainable water and land management

ICARDA restores degraded agro-pastoral land through an understanding of landscape modification
ICARDA restores degraded agro-pastoral land through an understanding of landscape modification

Faced with increasing water scarcity, limited resources, and severe land degradation, ICARDA research delivers practical technologies and solutions that help smallholder farmers produce ‘more with less.’ We have optimized and validated technology packages that enhance water and land productivity across a wide range of environments that are now ready for scaling-out.

Our research activities include maximizing the in situ storage of water in rainfed agriculture and rangelands through conservation interventions; improving on-farm water use and management for higher water and land productivity; and the safe use of treated wastewater for the production of feed and forage.

Research also explores the potential for using wastewater in managed aquifer recharge; soil fertility and health – and the development of indicators to assess changes in soil quality; and the restoration of degraded agro-pastoral land – through an understanding of the implications of landscape modification, including rainwater harvesting.

ICARDA solutions include supplemental irrigation – a simple but highly effective technology that allows farmers to plant and manage crops at the optimal time, without being at the mercy of unpredictable rainfall; and effective and low-cost systems for harvesting rainwater that deliver larger and more stable water supplies for crops and livestock.

Water scarcity in the dry areas

Water is the common denominator for problems affecting farmers in dryland countries. Depletion and mismanagement of groundwater reserves is being exacerbated by the effects of climate change, with less rainfall, and more erratic distribution. Across West Asia and North Africa, for instance, annual totals are generally below 250 mm, and sometimes as little as 50 mm. The difficulty accessing fresh water is becoming even more acute as a result of competing demands from rapidly-increasing urban areas. While farmers are often the hardest-hit, they are also the biggest users of water. Globally, agriculture uses 70 percent of all water extracted from rivers, lakes, and aquifers. Although recognized by national leaders as a strategic priority, very few countries have a master plan for managing water in their agricultural sector and for dealing with the uncertainties that lie ahead.

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