Shortly before the 3rd International Forum on Water and Food (IFWF3) convened in Tshwane, South Africa during November 2011 demographers at the United Nations announced that the world population had surpassed seven billion. Shortly after IFWF3, world leaders gathered in Durban, South Africa for COP17 to focus on climate change challenges. These events underscored the relevance, and urgency, of the issues that CPWF and its partners are addressing.
CPWF’s first international forum took place in Vientiane, Laos during 2006, followed by a 2008 gathering in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Building on these events, IFWF3 was designed to further strengthen confidence, vision, identity, networks and collaboration across the CPWF community – including not only CPWF researchers, but also partners from government, NGOs and many more sectors.
IFWF3 was organized and facilitated by CPWF and co- hosted by the International Water Management Institute (IWMI) and the Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network (FANRPAN). It brought together close to 300 participants representing some 38 countries.
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 from around the world converged on Tshwane for the Forum. 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 Forum specifically set out to capture and capitalize on emerging evidence and insights from CPWF researchers and partners who are working within and across six river basins.
Delegates shared insights about making farming more resilient and sustainable – focusing on how research can help ensure future food security and contribute to improved livelihoods for millions of the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people who are living in mountain villages, dry savannas, bio-diverse wetlands, or densely populated river deltas and coastal zones. They highlighted the many emerging challenges facing these regions in terms of future food security, and examined the often-complex linkages between food and water. They explored how a combination of process, institutional and technical innovations can help address these challenges, including the potential to scale up and scale out solutions. The social and human dimensions of agricultural research, including the importance and value of indigenous knowledge, also came under the spotlight.
Inventive ways of making scientific knowledge and solutions relevant and accessible to partners and stakeholders – ranging from poor farmers to policy makers – was a key theme throughout the event.