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Limpopo Basin Development Challenge (LBDC)

27 July 2012, AfriCAN Climate

The LBDC is a scientific and development challenge that seeks to increase the productivity of rain fed agriculture, increase the resilience of small-scale farmers and reduce the risks associated with an unpredictable climate. The geographical area of the LBDC falls within the borders of Botswana, Mozambique, South Africa and Zimbabwe.

The LBDC is part of the CGIAR Challenge Program on Water and Food (CPWF), which is a global research-for-development programme operating at river basin scale. The CPWF Basin Development Challenge in the Limpopo Basin is “to improve integrated management of rainwater to improve smallholder productivity and livelihoods and reduce risk.”

The LBDC consists of four technical research projects and one coordination project. The lead institutions and projects are: L1) SEI - Targeting and scaling out; L2) ARC - Small water infrastructure; L3) ICRISAT - Farm systems and risk management; L4) WaterNet - Water governance; and L5) FANRPAN - Learning for innovation and adaptive management. The LBDC projects conduct quality, coherent, and problem oriented research to contribute to beneficial change in the Limpopo Basin. The ultimate goal is to have science based evidence included in and/or informing basin decision making leading to improved smallholder productivity and reduced risk in rain fed production systems.

The Limpopo Basin supports more than 14 million people. It is a relatively dry river basin. Most of the water in the highly productive areas is already allocated to agricultural or industrial users. Recurring drought and floods cause devastating impacts on small-scale farmers. Rainfall is highly variable with little run-off available in many parts of the basin to produce crops and livestock. Water is not used productively during the more normal rainfall seasons. Poverty is widespread and communities are vulnerable to the effects of drought or crop failure. Perennially low investment in improved crop and livestock technologies by resource-poor landholders is one of the primary causes of chronic poverty and land degradation. Climate change is likely to increase water pressure on the already stressed Limpopo Basin and exacerbate many of the existing challenges facing farmers.

The four technical research projects were designed to respond to different research questions and generate outcomes based on their respective focus areas. The research areas are summarised below:

  1. The L1 project is developing an evidence and knowledge-based tool to assess and map the likelihood that a given intervention will be successful in given locations, at the basin scale. The project seeks to answer the question of what works where and why. It seeks to answer these questions to inform investment and programming decisions leading to greater impact from localised successes within the Limpopo Basin.
  2. The L2 project is engaging smallholder farmers and rural communities in diagnosing limitations and failures of small water infrastructure (SWI). The project will develop guidelines for better establishment, rehabilitation and operation of these mechanisms, including rain water harvesting. Project outputs include an inventory of SWI in the basin and guidelines for SWI that consider governance, institutional issues, technical and environmental compliance.
  3. The L3 project is defining the interplay between market access, crop and livestock technologies, and investment risks in water- and market-scarce environments leading to technology adoption by farm families. The project aims at enhanced household food security and incomes through more efficient water use. Specific outputs include using Innovation Platforms to help develop site-specific solutions; developing crop and livestock models; and conducting on-farm trials; developing scenarios and extrapolating management effects to other soil types and rainfall regimes across time.
  4. The L4 project conducts basin-wide, cross-scale institutional analysis incorporating biophysical, social, economic and political elements of water governance. It examines (i) how formal and informal institutional arrangements affect access to water, and influence outcomes of interventions in the basin; (ii) the extent to which various institutions are effectively coordinated, and able to facilitate participation of various stakeholders; (iii) the relationship between biophysical and socio-economic domains and how these are taken into account in decision making; and (IV) short and long term impacts of interventions on household livelihoods and communities.

The LBDC will be successful when: decision makers and change agents are aware of the best available research evidence on agricultural water management and find it relevant to their planning and management. Investment and interventions will be responsive to agro-ecological conditions, market trends, and farmer capacities and needs. Private sector actors will meet the needs of rural populations through incentive based engagement. This will foster investment in technologies to improve livelihoods (including crop, and livestock) by small-scale and emerging farmers. Regional initiatives and bodies will advocate for improved agriculture-water intervention targeting.

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