Climate Smart WATer Management and Sustainable DEVelopment for Food and Agriculture in East Africa (WATDEV)

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The East African region has great potential not only to feed itself, but to play a major role in global food systems. However, the scarcity or limited availability of water resources and increasingly more extreme and erratic climatic conditions - with strong seasonality of rainfall, large inter-annual variations and frequent droughts are severely compromising agricultural production and food security in many East African countries. The project WATDEV, funded by the DeSIRA initiative of the European Union and Italian Agency for Development Cooperation (AICS), aims to develop an in-depth understanding of small and large-scale water and agricultural resource dynamics and management while boosting people’s resilience to climate, through innovative research, modelling, and capacity building approaches. The project targets Kenya, Ethiopia, Sudan, and Egypt; all score poorly on the Human Development Index and need to improve water and soil management and agricultural production methods. However, ensuring long-term and long-lasting individual and institutional capacity for the management of water and natural resources requires multi-actors’ involvement and engagement, as natural resources provide ecosystem services to different communities, particularly in the agriculture sector.


The overall objective of the project is to increase the sustainability of agricultural water management and resilience of agro-ecosystems to climate change in East Africa and Egypt. This will be achieved by two specific objectives:

   1. National Ministries and Research Institutions will be able to improve their knowledge and management on water in agriculture

    2. Farmers and local actors will implement innovative/sustainable solutions and skills on water management.

Main activities

WATDEV will collect, analyze, implement available best practices/innovations in study areas and simulate their impact scenarios using models and knowledges accumulated in regional water studies. WATDEV will extract lessons from Best Management Practices (BMPs) of water resources and match them with specific local situations in study areas. WATDEV partners will also exchange information and knowledge within the DeSIRA initiative and beyond in view of food systems transformation. Specifically,

  • A.1.1 Inventory and stocktaking of BMPs and Innovations.
  • A.1.2 Setting the evaluation process of BMPs and Innovations.
  • A.1.3 Organization of multi-actor's regional meetings and brokerage on BMPs and Innovations.
  • A.2.1 Awareness sessions for farmers and local actors building in pilot areas.
  • A.2.2 Training and capacity building in pilot areas.
  • A.2.3 Feasibility studies on BMP and innovations.
  • A.2.4 Training on participatory evaluation of BMPs/Innovations implementation and up/out-scaling assessment.
  • A.3.1 Integrated and multi-thematic modelling.
  • A.3.2 Carrying out a participatory identification of best suiting and feasible scenarios for the implementation of BMPs and Innovations.
  • A.4.1 Customization and integration of modelling modules and planning functions.
  • A.4.2 Technical validation of the toolbox platform.
  • A.4.3 Toolbox refinement and development of management procedures and guidelines.
  • A.5.1 Training program on the use of the water planning toolbox.
  • A.5.2 Establishing of a regional Water Knowledge Hub for training and capacity building services in East Africa.
  • A.5.3 Implementation of a regional Water Management and Knowledge Portal.

ISRIC, together with WUR-SLM Group, leads

  • A.3.1 Integrated and multi-thematic modelling.
  • A.3.2 Carrying out a participatory identification of best suiting and feasible scenarios for the implementation of BMPs and Innovations.
  • A.4.1 Customization and integration of modelling modules and planning functions.

It also contributes to five other activities, including the supervision of 4 PhD students (from Egypt, Sudan, Ethiopia and Kenya) working on integrated modelling at catchment to basin-scale to assess BMPs and innovations upscaling.

Expected Results

  • Best fitting BMPs and Innovations in project countries.
  • Enhanced implementation of BMPs/innovations in study areas.
  • BMPs/Innovations up-scale and out-scale scenarios performed.
  • A water planning/management toolbox available for Researchers and Institutions.
  • Strengthened knowledge and capacity building and established regional “Water Knowledge” Hub.


The Italian Agency for the Development Cooperation (AICS) is the Executive Body and assures the overall project coordination and monitoring, whereas the International Centre for Advanced Mediterranean Agronomic Studies - Institute of Bari (CIHEAM Bari) is the technical and scientific project lead partner.

Project partners include:

  • The Italian Agency for the Development Cooperation (AICS), Italy
  • The Mediterranean Agronomic Institute of Bari (CIHEAM-Bari), Italy
  • Institute for Sustainable Plant Protection of Italy National Council for Scientific Research (CNR–IPSP), Italy
  • Association for Strengthening Agricultural Research in Eastern and Central Africa (ASARECA), Uganda
  • ISRIC - World Soil Information, The Netherlands
  • Finnish Environmental Institute (SYKE), Finland
  • Kenya Agriculture and Livestock Research Organization (KALRO), Kenya
  • Ethiopian Water and Land Resources Centre (WLRC), Ethiopia
  • Water Research Centre of University of Khartoum, Sudan
  • Heliopolis University, Egypt


The project is jointly funded by the European Union’s Development Smart Innovation through Research in Agriculture (DeSIRA) initiative and Italian Agency for Development Cooperation (AICS).