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The last couple of months have marked an exciting period for CPWF and its partners. As we have refined and crafted our logic, numerous opportunities have arisen to present these messages at fora around the world.

One major exercise we have worked on was to hone our messages based on Phase 1 results, emerging lessons from Phase 2 research, release of the Basin Focal Project Book and discussions at the Third International Forum on Water and Food.

As pointed out in CPWF Research Director Larry Harrington’s recent blog post, the messages might seem surprising at first glance if looked at from the perspective of a traditional alarmist view on water management. Yet in actuality, our messages resonate with major new initiatives, both globally and regionally.

Our main message echoes a new common theme that has emerged amongst organizations working in the water sector: instances of water scarcity are exacerbated by inequitable access, improper management, waste and institutional fragmentation.

The three sub-messages point to solutions that CPWF has been piloting in its basins. They are focused on intensification for improved livelihoods, developing dialogue and benefit sharing mechanisms and addressing institutional reform.

Recently, I had the pleasure to organize a High Level Panel on the Water, Food and Energy Nexus with EDF and the incoming IWMI Director, Jeremy Bird, at the 6th World Water Forum. This High Level Panel focused on the six key messages emanating from the Bonn Conference in November 2011. The major point made was that there is a need to find

Photo credit: 6th World Water Forum

negotiated solutions to the pressing water problems of today which take into account all aspects of water use, be it for food, energy or ecosystems.

Again, the nexus thinking is embedded in much of the work we are doing in the basins regarding intensification, dialogue and institution building. One of the main nexus pathways is recognizing the multi-functional use of ecosystems. For example, one of our Mekong basin projects is also looking at whether or not artificially-constructed wetlands in dam reservoirs can be used to improve the overall ecological profiles of these storage infrastructures. The additional benefits add to the overall value of the dam, the focus of attention for another CPWF-Mekong project. Conversely, not capitalizing on these additional use values serves to reduce the value of the dam.

The case I presented from CPWF during the High Level Panel came from the Andes. This story, from the Machangara River basin in Ecuador, demonstrates what can be achieved when the private sector, government and rural and urban communities come together to find ways to share benefits, and not just focus on resource problems.

I also attended the Planet Under Pressure (PUP) Conference, which highlighted major scientific discussions on earth science. What was surprising here is that many of our messages resonated with the major findings from other sectors. The Planet Under Pressure declaration states:

“The challenges facing a planet under pressure demand a new approach to research that is more integrative, international and solutions-oriented. We need to link high-quality focused scientific research to new policy-relevant interdisciplinary efforts for global sustainability.”

Dr. Simon Cook presented the findings from the Basin Focal Projects at one of the sessions, which was a sub-initiative of CPWF from 2006-2009 in addition to launching the new CGIAR Research Program on Water, Land and Ecosystems, of which CPWF is a part.  We are looking forward to Simon’s direction and expect that the program will continue to build on of the messages that have come out of his work in the CPWF in addition to taking on board lessons from CPWF’s research for development approach.

While I believe we are aligned with the emerging global thinking on how to tackle difficult development scenarios, I also think we need to go a bit further. I was surprised that throughout the PUP conference it was implied that changing both institutions and behaviors is as easy as just implementing ‘change’ and ‘reform’. What we have found in CPWF is that identifying and addressing such issues as power, equity, gender and attitudinal change must be inherent parts of the process.  Thus, the way we go about affecting change has to incorporate and build upon more behavioral and organizational change sciences.

What do you think are the major ways we can address water and food challenges? What is your vision of change?

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