This Research Report chronicles the evolution of thinking on water productivity in the research agenda of IWMI and in the broader irrigation literature over the past 20 years. It describes the origins of the concept and the methodological developments, its operationalization through applied research, and some lessons learned over the two decades of research. This report further highlights how a focus on agricultural water productivity has brought greater attention to critical water scarcity issues, and the role of agricultural water management in supporting broader development objectives such as increasing agricultural production, reducing agricultural water use, raising farm-level incomes, and alleviating poverty and inequity. Yet, reliance on a single-factor productivity metric, such as agricultural water productivity defined as “crop per drop,” in multi-factor and multi-output production processes can mask the complexity of agricultural systems as well as the trade-offs required to achieve desired outcomes. The findings from this retrospective underscore the limitations of single-factor productivity metrics while also highlighting opportunities to support more comprehensive approaches to address water scarcity concerns and, ultimately, achieve the broader development objectives.
Authors and Publishers
Giordano, Meredith A.
Scheierling, S. M.
Treguer, D. O.
McCornick, Peter G.
The International Water Management Institute (IWMI) is a non-profit, scientific research organization focusing on the sustainable use of water and land resources in developing countries. It is headquartered in Colombo, Sri Lanka, with regional offices across Asia and Africa. IWMI works in partnership with governments, civil society and the private sector to develop scalable agricultural water management solutions that have a real impact on poverty reduction, food security and ecosystem health.
The World Bank is a vital source of financial and technical assistance to developing countries around the world. We are not a bank in the ordinary sense but a unique partnership to reduce poverty and support development.
CGIAR is the only worldwide partnership addressing agricultural research for development, whose work contributes to the global effort to tackle poverty, hunger and major nutrition imbalances, and environmental degradation.