GWI EA, a five-year program of action research, advocacy and policy influencing that focuses on investments in water for smallholder agriculture attended World Water Week in Sweden 1-6th September, the focus of which was on water cooperation and “ building partnerships”.
Our Program Director and Uganda and Tanzania Policy and Advocacy Managers used the occasion to contribute to sessions, strengthen networks and increase awareness on the GWI EA achievements to date. We also wanted to get a stronger sense of how cooperation and partnership building could address the “wicked” problem(s) of investing in water
management for smallholder farmers in East Africa, and how different levels of partnership building could contribute significantly to this task. Team members attended a variety of sessions and presented at the event.
Some of the key take-homes and reflections include:
- Competing demands on water in many parts of the world mean that there is no taking for granted agricultural use “ hence there is need for a far more robust business case for investing in water for small-holder agriculture. This should include demonstrating increases in income, improved food security and time savings, including a far stronger understanding of private sector engagement to help mitigate risk and optimize supply/investment. We will work on the latter process of engagement, in particular, given the huge significance of private sector operators in determining market behaviour in our three focus countries Ethiopia, Tanzania and Uganda.
- At least 10% of agricultural budgets should be spent on water for smallholder agriculture over the next 5-year period. This aligns with the Maputo Declaration implemented by CAADP and is also (apparently) what is being discussed within the UN under the development of sustainable development goals. This provides an entry point for those keen to influence (as GWI EA is) inter-sectoral budget allocations. One investment challenge, is how to establish funds that can support water investments in smallholder agriculture “ at all levels“ and in particular focusing on technologies and practices that put more emphasis on harvesting “green” water.
- Promoting the use of natural capital “water infrastructure” is high on the current global policy agenda – unsurprisingly given that 70% of current water withdrawals are being used in agriculture, and this figure is likely to rise in coming years. Water use efficiency was one area of emphasis, particularly in the wider context of water management within “landscapes” (land and ecosystems). This strong message throughout the week built on an understanding of “natural capital” as a key asset to harness, including improving “green water” availability and use through enhancing soil moisture and establishing more robust and resilient soil systems. Conservation agriculture is one “smart” way of achieving this, using water for agriculture as part of wider farmer management of natural regeneration (FMNR).
- Returns on investment in conservation agriculture can be high because labour needs are reduced by 30%, as well as other inputs. There is a need to build a case for productivity per unit area under Conservation Agriculture (CA), and to nurture more private sector-led engagement in this area. This is an area GWI EA could lead on, providing examples of what can be done, how much it costs, and the kinds of mechanisms required to scale up.
- The week also allowed showcasing of new initiatives. USAID and SIDA launched the Grand Food Security Challenge, a venture capital fund to support implementation of promising innovations. This is an important initiative, and, we hope, will include support to innovations in learning. Innovation in funding is required globally as well as locally to respond to the need for investments in water for agriculture that are appropriate at different scales, affordable and sustainable.
- Strengthening Stockholm?: The World Water Week is an important global gathering. The technical “meat” of the event is strong, but linkage to political engagement and commitment remains weak, apart from the “Stockholm Statement” that comes out on Friday (see here). From a GWI EA perspective, this makes participation less effective than it could be, so in future we will seek more targeted and political engagement in the process. This will include specific efforts to leverage greater global focus on levels of investment in water for smallholder agriculture, including building partnerships around the messaging of our Regional Charter on Investing in Water for Smallholder Agriculture. Our planning for Stockholm 2014 has already begun!
Violet Alinda, Lopa Dosteus and Alan Nicol