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Home > Blogs > Director's Blog > The Goats that Save Water: Linking Water, Food Security and Poverty Reduction

I recently returned from a trip to visit some of our projects in the Limpopo River basin and I have one thing on my mind: goats.  I had the opportunity to meet with members of one of our Limpopo projects, that builds upon a preexisting innovation platform, bringing together various value chain actors to explore the intersection between markets, technology and risks with the ultimate goal of enhanced food security and incomes through efficient water use.

I was particularly excited to learn about the success of one long-standing project in Zimbabwe. In Gwanda district, a diverse and active innovation platform has created a strong local market for goats, is helping raise the value of one goat from US$10 to $60. The increased value serves as an incentive for farmers to invest in the survival of their goats, by growing their own stock feed, purchasing commercial stock feed and improving rangeland management. The innovation platform has engendered a virtuous cycle, in which farmers’ self-esteem and confidence has improved and a more biodiverse and productive farming system has emerged. And the system is more resilient than before; the rainwater that falls on the improved production systems is now adding value to the system and water is also saved by the sharp reduction in goat mortality.

This particular project, conducted by our partner, ICRISAT, and funded by the EU and others, has been operating for nearly ten years. (Learn more about ICRISAT’s innovation platform work.) The time it has taken them to come to this level of understanding and to build the support and social capital necessary to achieve these sorts of results is striking.

This work, which helps address the Limpopo Basin Development Challenge, certainly illustrates the linkages between water, food security and poverty reduction that lie at the core of CPWF’s research-for-development work. Successful innovation platforms are a prime example of how working with multiple levels of food production actors can result in increased food security. Innovation platforms have become an integral part of CPWF projects in the Volta, Nile, Limpopo, Andes and Mekong river basins, each with its own nuances.

I will carry my excitement about the Zimbabwean goat farmers as I head to Stockholm World Water Week next week, where, aptly, this year’s theme is ‘Water and Food Security.’ As our Basin Development Challenges continue to mature, our program arrives at Stockholm with strong, positive messages for water and development organizations. Our work goes beyond the overused rhetoric of an impending global water crisis, instead emphasizing all of the opportunities that exist for sustainable intensification, equitable sharing of benefits and risks and improved institutional arrangements.

World Water Week is an excellent opportunity for CPWF and its partners, including the newly formed CGIAR Research Program on Water, Land and Ecosystems (WLE), to demonstrate why our approach works. Presentations will, amongst other things, highlight opportunities for closing the yield gap in rainfed production areas on the Nile and the Volta, and for safeguarding global food security and life supporting ecosystems in the Andes; discuss the politics of benefit sharing in the Mekong; debate trade-offs associated with moving towards a green economy; and emphasize the role of water interventions for people, food and nature in enhancing resilience. It promises to be an exciting week.

Alain Vidal

Be sure to visit the CGIAR Research Program on Water, Land and Ecosystems (WLE) World Water Week landing page. Check back in the coming weeks for stories on CPWF’s involvement at Stockholm. To see the action as it unfolds–follow us on Twitter @WLE_CGIAR and Facebook.