Prashanth Vishwanathan/IWMI

Land and Water Solutions for Sustainable Agriculture

Agriculture is the largest user of land and water resources in the world, yet millions of farmers live in poverty. Improving their food security and livelihoods would be easier if there were more land to put under the till and endless clean water supply, but these resources are limited, now more than ever.

Land and Water Solutions (LWS) is committed to developing productive agricultural approaches that lead to better farming practices that increase yields with limited resources. In addition to ensuring that farmers know about and use more sustainable and productive farming practices, LWS will work to improve institutions and policies that affect the social, economic and ecosystem outcomes of these practices in order to foster more resilient, equitable and food-secure farming landscapes.

Tapping into groundwater’s hidden benefits

In many developing countries, groundwater for irrigation and drinking water has played a critical role in development. But unsustainable use and uninformed land use changes are depleting the quantity and deteriorating the quality of groundwater and associated ecosystems, upon which livelihoods are dependent.

Use of groundwater for irrigation in Kandal Province, Cambodia.
Neil Palmer/IWMI

According to a new framework by the CGIAR Research Program on Water, Land and Ecosystems, a change in perspectives is needed to view groundwater as part of a larger hydrological system associated with numerous ecosystem services, indispensable for sustainable development and livelihoods, especially irrigated agriculture for smallholder farmers. [Read more]

Solar pumps – a smarter way to irrigate

In western India and other parts of the country, heavily subsidized electricity to power water pumps have driven groundwater depletion. An unreliable electric grid, bankrupted utilities and power theft have contributed to the problem. Solar irrigation pumps have been promoted as a green energy solution, but subsidizing the cost of solar pumps can result in the same overexploitation of water resources. 

Mohan Das works on a sprinkling system energized through a submerged solar pump at a private farm in Klashar.
Prashanth Vishwanathan/IWMI

In Karnataka state in arid southwest India, the local electric company is required to buy back surplus solar power from farmers. The buyback policy, signed by Karnataka’s governor last September, is consistent with recommendations by scientists at the International Water Management Institute (IWMI) to treat solar power as a ‘cash crop.’ The rationale is that if farmers can make money by selling excess power, they then will have an economic incentive to irrigate their crops efficiently, thus helping to conserve groundwater and energy use. [read more]

“Solar pumps can unlock India’s energy-irrigation logjam – and other parts of South Asia as well – if the right incentives are made to farmers to manage groundwater resources sustainably.” - Tushaar Shah, an IWMI senior fellow based in India