The 3rd International Forum on Water and Food (IFWF3), convened in Tshwane, South Africa during November 2011. IFWF3 demonstrated the value of CPWF’s multi-stakeholder, research-for-development approach.
The Forum report, entitled “Streams of innovation: Improving people’s lives through research on water and food“, synthesizes the main outcomes and issues identified at the IFWF3 and serves as a benchmark CPWF, midway through its second phase.
Almost 300 participants representing some 38 countries attended. This diverse group included: researchers from the natural and social sciences, research managers, investors, NGOs, leaders of agricultural and water management organizations, policy makers, decision-makers as well as journalists and social media reporters. Women (80 participants) and young professionals had a stronger presence than ever before, and because the event was held in Africa, policy makers and decision-makers from the Limpopo, Volta and Nile river basins were well represented.
The IFWF3 highlighted the need to link technical options to institutional change. Options such as intensifying and diversifying farm systems with markets and infrastructure development or ensuring that policies are responding to local realities are emerging from CPWF projects. Likewise, CPWF is taking innovative approaches to spatial analysis and modelling that are demonstrating valuable insights for understanding processes and the consequences of change.
The Forum also highlighted the need to develop and communicate solid evidence in generating the desired impacts on household livelihoods and food security. Some of the key insights included:
- Agricultural research-for-development must actively engage with and inform the policy arena. Policy makers need the evidence, insights and honest brokerage that the research-for-development community offers.
- Addressing gender imbalances is critical in order to address inequities and ensure research takes into account a diversity of perspectives. Gender should be included because it is mandated, but because having a gender perspective will ensure the research CPWF carries out is more relevant and robust.
- Key partners in the process of research-for-development must be involved from the outset, not only to make the research more effective, but also to broaden development impacts across society.
- Benefit sharing is a political process that involves bringing different stakeholders together to share water resources and their benefits in different ways. Such an approach combines scientific understanding of ecosystems and socio-political realities such as traditional use, rights-based approaches and governance issues.
- Social, economic, political and cultural forces should always be considered during research-for-development projects.
- Multi-stakeholder platforms can be an effective mechanism for delivering research into development. However, they are resource intensive, need to be maintained, can be personality-driven and depend on mutual trust facilitated by a neutral respected broker.
- It is imperative to make research outcomes and evidence visible, accessible and available.
- In all activities, it is vital to integrate communication-for-development within research-for-development.
IFWF3 was organized and facilitated by CPWF and co-hosted by the International Water Management Institute (IMWI) and the Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network (FANRPAN).