This is a previous project site under CGIAR Research Program on Water, Land and Ecosystems (WLE). For more information and current updates, visit the WLE website.

Home > Basin Focal Project > Defining the Limits of Agriculture

What the nexus between water, food and development tells us about the ‘impending water and food crisis’

The world is facing a crisis of water scarcity, that risks major political instability

Increasing activity of food systems threatens the sustainability of major river basin systems

Conflict over increasingly scarce water resources threat Water Wars

These are the kinds of statement that have been promoted in recent years. They paint a picture of an inevitable loss of river basin function and consequential poverty, food insecurity and political disturbance. Conventional wisdom says that the world is heading for a major water crisis. Based on findings from its Basin Focal Project (BFP), CPWF has published a book, Water, Food and Poverty in River Basins: Defining the Limits that presents a different picture form the dire situation outlined above.

Many of the world’s river basins have tremendous potential to sustain human needs over the next 40 years but the way we learn to develop, manage and share these resources is critical. What is proposed is an ecosystem services perspective, in which all major ecosystem services are evaluated together. This broader view will enable a different kind of politics that respects the range of aspects, from food, to power to environmental function. How people will manage river systems collectively, for multiple uses, and across scales, while protecting vital ecosystem functions will make the difference between catastrophe and survival.

Press Release and Materials

Media Release:

  • Major River Basins Have Enough Water to Sustainably Double Food Production in the Coming Decades
  • Les grands bassins fluviaux ont assez d’eau
 pour soutenir le doublement durable de la production alimentaire au cours des prochaines décennies
  • Principales cuencas del mundo tienen agua suficiente para duplicar producción sostenible de alimentos durante las siguientes décadas
  •  As Principais Bacias Fluviais Possuem Água Suficiente para Duplicar a Produção Alimentar de Forma Sustentável nas Próximas Décadas

See the journal articles that the book, Water, Food and Poverty in River Basins: Defining the Limits, is based on: 

  • Water International Volume 35, Issue 5 2010
  • Water International Volume 36, Issue 1 2011
  • 2009 Water International ‘Best Paper Award’: ‘Water, food and livelihoods in river basins‘ Cook et al.

Water, Food and Poverty in River Basins: Defining the Limits release information. 

The Basin Focal Project policy briefs are short papers that describe courses of action to increase water productivity in a give basin:

  • Water, agriculture and poverty: Insights from BFP analyses 
  • Water, people and food in the Mekong River Basin
  • How water and agriculture support livelihoods in the Volta

The Basin Focal Working Paper Series can be found here.




The Basin Focal Projects of the CPWF-an interesting journey

View more presentations from Water, food and livelihoods in River Basins: Basin Focal Projects

The global water and food crisis

View more presentations from Water, food and livelihoods in River Basins: Basin Focal Projects
Press Coverage

Here is a listing of selected media coverage of the Basin Focal Project study. 

  • Bloomberg: Major Rivers Have Enough Water to Meet Food Needs, Study Shows
  • Reuters:River Basins Could Double Food Production: Study
  • SciDev Net: World Has ‘Enough Water’ for Future Food Needs
  • Le Monde: L’agriculture fluviale, remède à la crise alimentaire
  • NPR: Water, Water Everywhere, But Not Enough to Waste
  • EFE: Verde: La producción de alimentos se duplicaría con una gestión eficiente del agua
  • Discovery News: Plenty of Water for 21st Century 
  • Grist: Report: We Have Plenty of Water, We’re Just Dumb With It
  • Major Rivers Have Enough Water to Meet Food Needs
  • Voice of America: River Basins Could Help Ensure Food Security
  • Reuters: Some Good News for a Thirsty World