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Rainwater management: The next agriculture revolution to support food production and climate adaptation
3 October 2011


Summary of theme
One of the main findings from CGIAR Challenge Program for Water and Food Phase 1 research (2002-2007) was that while much of the earlier growth in food production came from irrigated agriculture, the next big step in food supply is expected from rainfed agriculture, which currently accounts for the majority of water flux in African basins. This recommendation has been strongly supported by scholars including Falkenmark and Rockstrom (2006) that a shift in water thinking which considers rainwater is essential in order to find realistic and sustainable options to feed the world of tomorrow.

In African basins, huge volumes of water get lost through unproductive evaporation and passing through unmanaged grassland systems, considered to be of very low productivity. Likewise, more than 90% of smallholders in many African Basins rely on rain-fed agriculture compared to irrigation.

Rainwater management strategies represent a key climate smart agriculture approach centred around capturing, storing, managing and increasing productivity for climate change adaptation as well as mitigating extreme flood events. It is beyond water harvesting and management. Rainwater management is an essential adaptation strategy that ensures rehabilitation of landscapes and sustaining crops and livestock production during prolonged dry periods. Flood mitigation and management strategies will be more crucial in areas with increasingly erratic climate and flash floods.

Rainwater management is elementally linked to ecosystem services and impacts all levels from the micro (root management) to macro level (landscape and basin productivity).

This session will provide a framework for a rainwater management approaches and brings together successful cases of rainwater management that illustrate how it contributes to climate adaptation, livelihood improvement and sustainable natural resource management. It will examine the mix of technical, institutional and process innovations needed in order for rainwater management to be successfully implemented at scale.

Main Messages
Rainfed water management contributes to climate change adaptation through regulating water budgets, buffering during dry-spells, enabling food production and productivity during abnormal periods and mitigation through increased carbon sequestration, increased biomass and vegetation cover in African landscapes.

Tentative keynote speaker:
Dr Tilahun Amede, CPWF Nile Basin Leader, International Water Management Institute and International Livestock Research Institute, Addis Abba, Ethiopia

Tentative case study writers & panelists
  1. Dr Enyew Adgo, from Bahir Dar University on rehabilitation of degraded landscapes through integrated innovations and implications on climate adaptation; and
  2. Dr Aidan Senzanje, University of Kwa-Zulu Natal. Pietermaritzburg, South Africa
  3. Volta, TBD
Tentative moderator:
  • TBD
Main contact person (organization, name and email address)
  • Michael Victor, Communication Coordinator, CGIAR Challenge Program for Water and Food e:
  • Tilahun Amede, CPWF Nile Basin Leader, IWMI/IRLI , email:

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