Stories tagged: drought

SIWI World Water Week

26th – 31st August

Stockholm, Sweden

World Water Week is the annual focal point for the globe’s water issues. It is organized by SIWI. In 2018, World Water Week will address the theme “Water, ecosystems and human development”. In 2017, over 3,300 individuals and around 380 convening organizations from 135 countries participated in the Week.

Experts, practitioners, decision-makers, business innovators and young professionals from a range of sectors and countries come to Stockholm to network, exchange ideas, foster new thinking and develop solutions to the most pressing water-related challenges of today. We believe water is key to our future prosperity, and that together, we can achieve a water wise world.



Hashtags: #WWWeek

Lance Robinson: Reframing Resilience for Pastoralists

Our guest author, Lance Robinson, an environmental governance and resilience specialist at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), opens our series of blog articles on resilience published in partnership with the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) ahead of the conference Building Resilience for Food and Nutrition Security” 15-17 May 2014.

When we speak of ‘resilience’ in reference to livestock keepers in drought-prone areas, we face a conundrum.

Humanitarian disasters triggered by droughts appear to be increasing in both frequency and severity. The prospect of a downward spiral, in which poor pastoralist households never completely recover from a given drought emergency, setting the stage for the next one, appears very real.

Yet plenty of evidence suggests that pastoralism remains an economically viable use of much of East Africa’s drylands.  Livestock exports from Ethiopia, for example, underwent a five-fold increase in just 6 years, between 2005 and 2011, with exports valued at 211 million US dollars in 2010-11. Total livestock exports from Somaliland doubled from 2008 to 2009; those for camels increased fivefold over the space of two years from 2008 to 2010.

Despite news to the contrary, the quality of life of many who choose to continue following pastoral ways of life here continues to improve. Many of these livestock herders have invested in education, and the pool of post-secondary graduates from pastoralist communities has grown substantially over recent years. Many have diversified their incomes and begun to access new markets for milk, meat, hides and live animals. All this is helping bring about more robust pastoral livelihoods.

In focusing on improving resilience in the face of drought, we risk missing opportunities to support these kinds of development processes. Coping with drought is important, but it should not be the only, or even the primary, goal of pastoral development. We must guard against supplanting our development ambitions, as well as those of the pastoral communities we serve, to increase prosperity and well-being with goals to help people merely survive droughts.

In other words, we must broaden our focus from food security and immediate coping mechanisms to include adaptive capacity and ongoing development. What we want to be resilient is the process of development itself.  “Development resilience”, as some now call it, is concerned with maintaining and improving well-being over both the short and long terms.

What makes a household or community resilient in this sense are such things as tangible household assets, literacy and education, social capital, ecosystem health, and good governance. On-going research aimed at creating a composite measure of resilience, based on an index of these kinds of characteristics, should continue.

Nevertheless, indicators of impacts are also needed. If we consider indicators of food security only, our resilience work will miss an opportunity to help bridge the gap between reducing disaster risk and reducing poverty, with the possibility that the long-term goals of prosperity and human development are forgotten. Assessing human well-being, then, must be an integral part of assessing resilience.

This blog article is part of an ongoing series on resilience being published ahead of an upcoming IFPRI conference to be held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia in May 2014. Building resilience means helping people, communities, countries, and global institutions prevent, anticipate, prepare for, cope with, and recover from shocks, not only helping them to “bounce back” but also to become better off. This conference aims to help set priorities for building resilience, to evaluate emerging threats to resilience, and to draw lessons from humanitarian and development responses to previous shocks.

Cooperating for Water Security – World Water Week 2013

This week, from 1 – 6 September, world leaders, NGOs and businesses will gather in Stockholm to discuss the future of water security at World Water Week.

Taking place during the UN’s International year of Water Cooperation the week will focus on ‘Cooperation for a Water Wise World’, which will include discussions on international cooperation, sanitation and community ownership of water.

Issues relating to water scarcity have been moving up the development agenda in recent years as more pressure has been placed on this resource than ever before. World Water Week will occur just under a month after World ‘Overshoot Day’, a day that marks the moment when the world has officially consumed more natural resources than the biosphere can replace this year. ‘Overshoot Day’ has been reached two days earlier than last year, demonstrating the increasing pressure on the world’s resources.

As the world works to achieve sustainable development, cooperation between sectors is essential to address the unprecedented pressures on natural resources.

The Importance of Agriculture in Achieving Water Security

The agriculture sector uses 70% of the world’s water – more than any other industry. As we look to feed a world of nine billion people by 2050 our demand for food – and water – is an interrelated, global challenge. Therefore there can be no solution for water security without agriculture.

Moreover, increased water scarcity is expected to lead to a decline in food production, harming many major crops throughout the world. For example the production of irrigated rice could fall by as much as 27%, rainfed wheat by as much as 25% and rainfed maize by 15%.

Gaining Momentum – Agriculture Acknowledged at World Water Week 2012

Last year the overarching theme of World Water Week was ‘Water and Food Security’, which looked at the close connections between the agriculture sector and water use, suggesting that a sustainable solution would only be achieved if both elements were considered.

A central discussion point of the week was the water-food-energy nexus and the need for holistic solutions to tackle some of the world’s biggest challenges. Food production uses a vast amount of the world’s water and energy resources but at the same time decreasing water and energy resources are having a dramatic impact on food security.

One of the major conclusions of the event was the need to produce ‘more with less’, increasing agriculture productivity using fewer resources. The conclusive report from the event states:

“Sustainable intensification of agriculture is critical to meet present and future food demand and will require effective action across a number of strategic areas. Maximising energy efficiency, improving irrigation productivity and expanding the safe re-use of water and nutrient resources are clearly needed to achieve this goal.”

The recognition of agriculture in providing solutions to water security at last year’s event was welcomed by Farming First, as agriculture holds a unique position both as a challenge and a solution to some of the world’s most pressing issues.

World Water Week 2013 – What role can agriculture play?

2.6 billion people still lack improved sanitation and just under one billion go to bed hungry every day. These two devastating statistics can be overcome if cooperation between water and agriculture policies can be achieved.

Farming First hopes that World Water Week 2013 will build on the promising discussions from last year on the water-food-energy nexus and acknowledge the agriculture sector as a key player in water security solutions.

The 2013 World Water Week report, released on 19 August, is a positive start to this year’s event, with agriculture being recognised throughout as vital “to achieve both food security and green growth objectives”.

The report suggests that this year’s theme of cooperation will look at the need to link stakeholders from water, food and energy sectors, stating:

“With renewed global focus on the ‘green economy’, and the challenge of meeting the sharply increasing food and energy demands, the need to address water, energy and food security as a particularly important ‘nexus’ has been highlighted. This calls for increased cooperation between these fields, with an ecosystems services perspective, sharing water benefits, costs and risks, and cooperating with the stakeholders concerned.”

Farming First hopes that uniting all these sectors to achieve water security next month will help to build substantial partnerships between key water and agriculture stakeholders, with sustainable agriculture being seen as a central solution to achieving water security.

Read the 2013 report here

To read more about World Water Week 2012 read Farming First’s highlights blog

Members of the Farming First coalition believe that:

  1. Water is a precious resource so improving its use is essential.
  2. Adopting proven sustainable agricultural practices reduces water use per bushel.
  3. Research, innovation, and access to improved technologies, seeds, and improved irrigation techniques are essential to increasing the efficiency of water use.
  4. Agriculture needs to be part of watershed management.







East Africa Community Sectoral Council Meeting: Tackling Food Security in the Horn of Africa

East Africa’s agricultural ministers are currently taking part in a week-long Sectoral Council meeting (from August 15-19) in Arusha, Tanzania to discuss the full implementation of the East Africa Community (EAC) Food Security Action Plan (2011-2015).

The EAC Food Security Action Plan has recently been developed, and agreed to by East African heads of states, to address food security in the region. The EAC is now working with member states to implement the food security action plan.

Nyamajeje Weggoro, Economics Director of the EAC, said:

“We are mobilizing and urging the countries to take measures within the context of those instruments and other measures that have already agreed upon long time before this problem.”

It is hoped that this Action Plan will enable the region not only to address the current food security crisis, but also to deal with any future crises. It will be implemented over a period of five years – the first being crucial strategic interventions.

Nyamajeje Weggoro continued:

“The Sectoral Council is being held at a time when the region is facing serious drought and food insecurity. The meeting will comprehensively discuss the full implementation of the plan, so that now we can not only address the current situation, but also be able to prepare ourselves for future occurrences.”

This meeting takes place as the Horn of Africa experiences a severe food crisis caused by the worst drought in 60 years. This crisis is spread across Somali, Ethiopia and Kenya, with more than 11 million people in need of food aid. The UN has officially declared famine in two parts of Somalia, and says that it expects famine to reach all regions of southern Somalia in coming weeks as food prices rise and the dry season approaches.

The last meeting of the Sectoral Council on Agriculture and Food Security was held on 2 December 2009.

Kenyan Smallholder Farmers to be Offered Crop Insurance

Following a successful pilot phase for the new insurance scheme developed by UAP in conjunction with the Syngenta Foundation, Kenyan farmers will be able to purchase insurance against the effects of drought and excessive rain.

The program is the first of its kind. Here are more details:

Under the novel system, farmers register their purchases by sending an SMS to a phone number provided by UAP. The weather stations then monitor the weather and inform the insurance company of impending crop failure and subsequent compensation. Each farmer is then informed via SMS about the payouts. Costs are kept down through the use of automated weather stations which avoid the need for expensive field visits to farms to ascertain risk and loss.   This makes the insurance feasible for both the farmer and the insurance company.

The first pay-out to farmers affected by drought happened in Nanyuki last week. UAP Head of Marketing and Distribution Joseph Kamiri said that the company had developed the product in response to a great need identified while developing agriculture insurance products for the Kenyan market in conjunction with the Syngenta Foundation.

The early success of the programme has given it the go-ahead to be released across the country in 2010, said Rose Goslinga, insurance coordinator of the Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture in Kenya:

Traditionally, smallholder farmers have been totally dependent on the vagaries of weather. In times of drought they lost their crops and their investment in seed and fertilizer.  To make matters worse, farmers then had to pay for a second lot of seed to enable them to replant. But because they had not obtained a crop, they had little money, if any, to repurchase the seed.

In recent months, Kenya has been hit by severe drought, so this new programme will likely go a long ways toward helping impacted farmers get back on their feet.

New Research Maps Critical Drought-tolerant Molecular Structure

New research coming out of the Scripps Research Institute and the University of California, San Diego, has determined the molecular structure for a drought-tolerant plant hormone called abscisic acid.

In drought conditions, plants begin to produce more of this hormone, which creates a number of changes to their physical structure. Their seeds lie dormant in the ground in order to wait out the dry period.  They slow their growth in order to conserve energy.  Tiny pores in their leaves are closed in order to prevent water from being lost.

Understanding how abscisic acid works in plants can help scientists replicate this phenomenon for farmers whose crops are suffering from drought conditions.  R&D such as this can help agricultural producers adapt to the impacts of climate change.