International Water Management Institute

The International Water Management Institute (IWMI) is a non-profit organization with offices in over 10 countries across Asia and Africa. In Ghana and other developing countries, IWMI seeks to improve the management of land and water resources for food, livelihoods and the environment leading to a food-secure world. Through its research, IWMI seeks solutions to water and land management challenges faced by poor communities in developing countries. In doing so, it seeks to contribute towards the achievement of the UN Millennium Development Goals of reducing poverty and hunger, and maintaining a sustainable environment.

IWMI works through collaborative research with many national partners, including Water Research Institute of the CSIR, Ghana Irrigation Development Authority, Water Resources Commission, University of Development Studies and University of Ghana. It also collaborates with international partners, such as Africa Rice, ILRI and IFPRI. IWMI aims to support policy makers, development agencies, individual farmers and private sector organizations.

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Seeking solutions for smallholder farmers

IWMI’s projects in Ghana and elsewhere target poor farmers in rural and peri-urban areas. Specific focus is placed on identifying and developing bio-physical and socio-economic and institutional innovations to address local constraints to achieving food security, improved human health and economic empowerment of smallholder farmers. Our research targets include the following:

  • Geographic targeting: Focusing on poorer communities, regions and districts;
  • Smallholder Farmers: Assessment of water-related opportunities and constraints to food production (including participatory analysis of small-scale farm enterprise value-chains);
  • Policy-makers and Donors: We seek to influence decision-makers to make evidence-based investments in specific AWM-related sectors;
  • Gender dimensions: Gendered assessment of access to water and land resources (including participatory analysis of the requisite support systems for agricultural production);
  • Environmental sustainability: Assessment of bio-physical drivers of local and global change and their impact on AWM and productivity (including analysis of impacts and options for addressing climate change, environmental degradation and resilience).

IWMI Projects in Ghana and West Africa

Agricultural Water Management Solutions

The project aims to improve the livelihoods of millions of poor women and men farmers by providing investors, policymakers and implementers with the knowledge and tools needed to make agricultural water management interventions more effective. Research is assessing promising, pro-poor AWM interventions and their ‘market potential.’ It is analyzing which technologies ‘fit’ in which environments, and providing recommendations for out-scaling strategies. This is done alongside assessment of environmental risks.

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Re-Thinking Water Storage for Climate Change Adaptation in Sub-Saharan Africa

The project aims at increasing resilience of rural poor vulnerable to climate change related risks in sub-Saharan Africa through better water storage mechanisms, improved investment strategies and institutional support. It examines various storage options and storage creation processes, their economic feasibility, suitability in various physiographic and socio-political conditions, distributional outcomes, impacts on local livelihoods, environmental consequences, adoption potential and resilience under different climate change scenarios. The project is assessing storage options available in Ghana toward increasing the investment of local and international investors.

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Volta 2: Integrated management of rainwater for crop-livestock agro-ecosystems

Under the Challenge Program on Water and Food, and in collaboration with ILRI, this research seeks to increase the resilience of social and ecological systems through better water management and food production. The Volta Basin Development Challenge is integrated management of rainwater and small reservoirs for multiple uses in order to contribute to improvement of the livelihoods of the rural poor and the resilience of agro-ecosystems in drylands of Northern Ghana and Burkina Faso. The specific objective of the project is to identify, evaluate, adapt, and disseminate best-fit integrated rainwater management strategies in the Volta Basin with the overall goal of improving livestock and crop production, and water productivity.

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Wastewater use in agriculture

Waste water irrigation projects must be accompanied by appropriate measures to mitigate health risk to consumers. All relevant parties in the waste water management and food value-chain must play their respective roles to make this a reality.

IWMI’s research sought to address the challenge of using highly polluted irrigation water in urban food production. Water is often polluted with excreta borne pathogens which enter the environment as a result of insufficient sanitation infrastructure. The project tested the feasibility of non-conventional urban waste treatment options for health risk reduction. It then provided the basis for a behavior change campaign towards increased food safety. A site study analyzed the status of wastewater and fecal sludge treatment plants in Ghana and suggested options for rehabilitation towards wastewater reuse.

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Reuse-Oriented Approach to Improving the Long-Term Operation of Sanitation Facilities in Ghana

Safe resource recovery, i.e. irrigating with treated instead of untreated wastewater, is central to the research on this project. Research will include piloting of rehabilitating targeted wastewater treatment plants for reuse in irrigation. This will be done as part of constructing value chains. Composting and application of faecal sludge, aquaculture and biogas recovery can provide revenue for wastewater treatment plants to improve operation and maintenance for long-term sustainability.

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Shallow Groundwater Irrigation in the White Volta Basin

Shallow groundwater irrigation is increasingly the preferred adaptation strategy with regard to poverty and a changing climate for farmers in the White Volta Basin. Areas where potential for SGI is high should be carefully mapped and investments channeled to enable out-scaling of SGI to other areas. IWMI’s research assessed the role of shallow groundwater irrigation in securing livelihoods and reducing poverty in the White Volta basin. It formulated recommendations for further shallow groundwater development.

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Sustainable dissemination of small-scale lowland paddy fields development in inland valleys in West Africa

Attaining self-sufficiency of rice production is a critical priority for many countries in West Africa and lowland rice cultivation in inland valleys offers a viable opportunity for attaining this goal. Promoting and providing support for small-scale irrigated or partially irrigated lowland rice production in Ghana and other West African countries would make a big difference in terms of adding to the food basket.

Primarily focused on investigating current agricultural uses and issues in inland valleys in West Africa, IWMI worked in collaboration with Africa Rice and the Soil Research Institute of CSIR, to analyze ongoing farmer-managed lowland paddy field construction projects. This included the Inland Valley Rice Production Project (IVRDP) and Sawah project. Research also assessed the constraints to out-scaling of lowland rice and selecting suitable sites for Paddy cultivation in the inland valley wetlands of Ghana.

RUAF- Cities Farming for the Future (RUAF-CFF) programme – Anglophone West Africa

Increasing urban poverty goes hand in hand with growing food insecurity and malnutrition in the cities. Urban poverty alleviation interventions should include support to increasing food production in urban and peri-urban areas. This includes a paradigm shift in design and urban planning that aims at reducing the distance for transporting food by encouraging local food production, where feasible, within city boundaries. Without sacrificing public health standards, this approach includes removing barriers and providing incentives for urban and peri-urban agriculture, as well as improved management of water resources in urban areas.

The RUAF-CFF project aimed at facilitating the development of sustainable urban farming systems and to contribute to urban poverty alleviation and enhanced food security, social inclusion and empowerment of urban disadvantaged groups in Accra and 19 partner cities globally.

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For more information on IWMI’s research in Ghana, Africa and around the world, visit our website:

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