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Partnering Countries

An international partnership

WLI operates in seven countries and partners with National Agricultural Research and Systems (NARS), regional universities, the International Water Management Institute (IWMI), and several U.S. universities.


The challenge:

Egyptian agriculture faces a number of significant challenges – including chronic water scarcity, land degradation, and water quality deterioration – which all contribute to rising levels of food insecurity. Livestock herds also tend to be in a poor condition because of a shortage of good veterinary services and the high cost of feed. This situation is expected to be exacerbated by the effects of climate change.

Aims and research locations:

The Water and Livelihoods Initiative (WLI) is investigating the solutions that Egyptian farmers need to raise their productivity and prosper despite deteriorating environmental conditions. The initiative is working across four sites in the Nile Delta: reclaimed (New) land at El-Bustan in the West; traditional (Old) agricultural lands at El-Zankalou and Damnhour in the South-East and North-West; and salt-affected lands at El-Houssainia in the North-East.

The sites represent the full range of issues facing irrigated lands in Egypt, including: poor soil fertility, crust formation, low water-holding capacity, and salinity build-up.

WLI activities in Egypt:

WLI activities are grouped into three main areas: bio-physical research, socio-economic research, and capacity strengthening. Activities include:

  • Analysis of soil compaction and salinity build-up: soil samples are taken from reclaimed and salt-affected lands to study levels of salt and compaction - principal causes of the country’s severe land degradation. The information has been presented in salinity maps.

  • Development and evaluation of the use of brackish groundwater in integrated aqua-agriculture systems: the performance of saline-tolerant crops such as sugar beet and barley are being tested in brackish water re-used for irrigation after previously being utilized in the production of tilapia fish.

  • Hybrid irrigation methods for enhancing crop-water productivity: comparing hybrid irrigation with the more conventional practice of using lined-ditch irrigation.

  • Analysis of the impacts of soil degradation on farmer livelihoods on salt-affected and reclaimed land.

  • Studying the impacts of crop rotation on soil: helping to investigate ways of improving crop planning, enhanced by the application of Geographical Information Systems (GIS) and Remote Sensing.

  • Capacity strengthening: providing trainings that target farmers, researchers and agricultural officials. These focus on the following themes: the integrated management of soils, water, and the environment; and on-farm water management for sustainable agricultural water use.        

Contact information

Dr. Hesham Mostafa

Director, National Water Resource Center (NWRC)

Partner organizations

National Water Resource Center (NWRC)

Agricultural Research Center (ARC)

Soil Water and Environment Research Institute (SWERI)

Research Institute for Groundwater (RIGW)

Ministry of Agriculture and Land Reclamation (MALR)

National Universities (Cairo University, the American University in Cairo, Ain Shams University, Zagazig University, and Banha University)

West Noubaria Rural Development Project (WNRDP) (IFAD-funded)


The challenge

In Iraq, the main focus of the Water and Livelihoods Initiative (WLI) is improving irrigated agricultural productivity which is held back by inefficient irrigation systems, water shortages, low water productivity, and declining water quality – all exacerbated by the country’s ongoing conflict and instability which can often disrupt the supply of canal water.

Aims and research sites

WLI has two main aims guiding its work in Iraq: improving water productivity of essential crops through the adoption of improved irrigation practices, and investigating the potential use of marginal brackish water in irrigation systems.

The Abu Ghraib benchmark site is located 20 kilometers to the west of Baghdad. This irrigated site, which receives its water from the Euphrates and Tigris rivers, grows a variety of plants and crops, including wheat, barley, cucumber, potato, tomato, and eggplant. Rainfall is highly variable and drought is common, contributing to the area’s extreme water scarcity. Irrigation systems also suffer from low productivity, inefficient methods, and declining water quality.

Research activities:

  • Improving water productivity through drip irrigation (surface and sub-surface drip irrigation), which allows water to drip to the roots of plants and crops slowly. Field experiments on irrigation methods and planting strategies have also reduced the inputs required for growing cucumber, potatoes, and other vegetables under protected agriculture.

  • Mitigating the negative effects of marginal water: applying fertilizers and other interventions to brackish irrigation water to boost yields and strengthen plant resistance to saline water.

  • Monitoring technology adoption: evaluating and improving the effectiveness of dissemination strategies that promote proven water and land management strategies.

  • Capacity strengthening: the capacity needs of farmers, mid-level researchers, and other stakeholders are met through field and demonstration days, workshops, and targeted trainings on relevant topics.   

Contact information

Dr. Ahmad Adnan Alfalahi

Department of Agriculture Research in Iraq


The challenge:

Jordan’s vast badia region is characterized by extreme water scarcity, erratic rainfall, and severe land degradation – challenges that keep agricultural productivity low and the incidence of rural poverty high. These problems are all predicted to worsen as a result of climate change.

Aims and research sites:

Partnering with the National Center for Agricultural Research and Extension (NCARE) and University of Jordan, research by the Water and Livelihoods Initiative (WLI) focuses on improving rural livelihoods by pilot-testing and introducing proven water and land management strategies to ensure the efficient use of scarce and fragile natural resources, while reversing or curtailing on-going degradation.

The Muhareb watershed located in the northern part of Jordan’s Badia serves as WLI’s benchmark site in Jordan and covers a 60 km2 rangeland site. Semi-intensive livestock production is dominant at the site and generates the bulk of on-farm income. Barley is also commonly produced for fodder, though it does not meet the nutritional requirements of the flocks of sheep and goats, and hence there is a need for supplemental feeding. The area is characterized by poor vegetation cover, soils of high silt content, a hard crust, and weak aggregation of the surface layer. Sheet and rill erosion are common and evaporation rates are among the highest in the world.

Research activities in the area include:

  • Watershed modeling, monitoring and management: studying the effects of selected water harvesting interventions on run-off, crop productivity, and sediment quantity and quality.

  • Implementing and maintaining water harvesting structures: constructing, enhancing and maintaining terraces, contour lines and check dams to reduce erosion and conserve water; additional levelling of land for improved water distribution; and building stone spillways to channel excess run-off.

  • Evaluating drought-tolerant crops and plants: evaluating the performance of drought-tolerant fodder plants and strategic crops like barley and wheat.

  • Exploring the use of greywater for irrigating home gardens: assessing the potential challenges to, and opportunities for, large-scale adoption of household level greywater treatment units.

  • Monitoring of technology adoption: evaluating and improving dissemination strategies to promote proven water and land management technologies.

  • Capacity strengthening: providing training opportunities on water harvesting technologies and adoption.

Contact information

Dr. Muna Saba

National Center for Agricultural Research and Extension (NCARE)


Partner organizations:

  • National Center for Agricultural Research and Extension (NCARE)

  • Jordan University (JU)

  • Jordan University of Science and Technology (JUST)

  • United States Forest Services (USFS)

  • United States Department of Agriculture – Agricultural Research Services (USDA-ARS).


The challenge:

In Lebanon, the Water and Livelihoods Initiative (WLI) works in the Beka’a Valley where farmers face scarce water supplies – due to groundwater depletion and the decreasing flow of the Orontes River during dry seasons - and poor access to affordable inputs and lucrative markets.

Aims and research locations:

WLI in Lebanon aims to improve rural livelihoods through the introduction of proven water and land management strategies that increase water-use efficiency, yields, and farmer incomes. In particular, researchers are focusing on raising water productivity, improving supplemental irrigation, and increasing farmers’ income. Research takes place in El Qaa village and Hermel, in the northern part of the Beka’a Valley, where agriculture is the main source of income.

Research activities:

  • Watershed management and modeling: inputting land, soil and weather data into Soil Water Assessment Tools (SWAT) that compute run-off and sedimentation rates and help simulate management strategies for improved decision-making.

  • Introduction of new varieties and protection of selected indigenous species of essential cash crops and fruits: efficient production of selected crops is promoted through the adoption of selected varieties, the use of various irrigation strategies and planting systems, and where applicable, processing methods. Examples of plants considered include: capers, grapes, apricots, eggplants, potatoes, olives, mushrooms, rubus, and cactus.

  • Conservation agriculture: as a strategy to improve soil quality, increase water use efficiency (conserving soil moisture through reduced evaporation), reduce the risk of crop failure, generate higher yields, and subsequently, raise household incomes.

  • On-farm demonstration trials of wheat, barley and chickpea: evaluating yields and tolerance to drought.

  • Integrated pest management: identifying the main transmitted diseases affecting apricot productivity, and conducting laboratory analyses of the wilting and decline caused by fungi and bacteria.   

Contact information

Eng. Randa Massad

Lebanese Agricultural Research Institute (LARI)


The challenge:

Water scarcity, land degradation and food insecurity are the main challenges affecting rural communities within the research sites of the Water and Livelihoods Initiative (WLI) in Palestine.

Aims and research locations:

WLI aims to enhance the availability of water, improve soil fertility, strengthen food security, and improve rural livelihoods through the pilot-testing of integrated water and land management strategies. Research is undertaken alongside the following partner organizations: National Agricultural Research center (NARC), Applied Research Institute-Jerusalem (ARIJ), the Land Research center (LRC), and Hebron University.

The WLI benchmark sites in Palestine are located in Tammun, on the eastern slopes of the West Bank, and Hebron, located South-West of the Central Highlands. Both are predominantly characterized as rangelands with some minimal rainfed agriculture. Local inhabitants depend on a combination of sustainable agricultural production strategies – including field crops, forage cultivation, livestock, and off-farm activities.

Research activities:

  • Assessing the performance of drought-tolerant wheat and barley: selected drought-tolerant wheat and barley varieties were introduced in Hebron and Atuff sites through field experiments conducted on farmer fields. The newly introduced varieties yielded higher seed productivity, compared to local cultivars.

  • Water-harvesting at macro and micro-catchment levels: constructing rock terraces, check dams and contour lines to slow run-off and reduce erosion, and increase water availability to meet irrigation water demand during dry spells.

  • Collecting native rangeland seeds: native plant seeds are collected for replanting in rangeland areas to improve existing bio-diversity and enhance rangeland biomass with palatable and nutritious wild species.

  • Promoting conservation agriculture: the practice of not plowing farmlands and leaving crop residue in the field for improved soil fertility and water conservation – a proven means of stabilizing crop production, reversing land degradation, and raising farmer incomes.

  • Monitoring technology adoption: evaluating and improving the effectiveness of dissemination strategies that promote proven water and land management strategies.

  • Promoting silage: the ‘barrel and hole’ method of silage production is explored in Nassrya and Taman as a potential solution to help meet rising demand for livestock feed. The nutritional composition of the silage is prioritized to ensure maximum benefits for livestock and to improve the quality of dairy products. Silage has a number of important benefits: it provides a stable source of fodder for a longer period, requires less storage, is highly palatable, cost-effective, and environmentally clean and friendly.

  • Capacity strengthening: practical training includes instruction on water-harvesting; reading GIS maps; building terraces; post-harvest uses of new wheat varieties; and the benefits of using improved seed and dairy processing – targeting women’s associations.    

Contact information

Dr. Zaher Barghouthi

National Agricultural Research Center (NARC)

Partner organizations:

  • National Agricultural Research center (NARC)

  • Applied Research Institute-Jerusalem (ARIJ)

  • Land Research center (LRC)

  • Hebron University (HU)   

The challenge:

Tunisia suffers from extreme water scarcity – according to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) the country’s water availability estimate is only 390 m2per capita, lower than the average per capita consumption level across the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). This figure is expected to decline even further due to climate change, unsustainable water management practices, and population growth.

Aims and research site:

In Tunisia, the Water and Livelihoods Initiative (WLI) aims to improve rural livelihoods through improved water management and agricultural production systems by pilot testing and out-scaling proven climate change adaptation strategies that aim to improve water productivity and save scarce water resources.

Research takes place along a North-South transect – with sites in Northern (durum wheat and citrus production), Central (barley, livestock, and cactus production) and Southern Tunisia (irrigated fruit and vegetable production and water harvesting).

Research activities:

  • Assessing future scenarios for climate change: identifying available downscaled climate change models applicable to rangelands and crop production systems in study areas; developing scenarios for altered atmospheric carbon, temperature and rainfall patterns over a range of temporal areas; modeling production systems to identify the effects of altered conditions; and generating outputs to feed into an economic assessment.

  • Socio-economic analyses: characterization of livelihoods and household strategies for climate change adaptation; economic assessments of climate change effects on agro-ecosystems; and cost-benefit analyses of adaptation measures for farmers.

  • Pilot-testing and promotion of climate change adaptation strategies: several irrigation and crop management strategies are explored and promoted in the three sites. These include supplemental irrigation for drought control, deficit irrigation, irrigation management with marginal saline water, alley cropping (barley and cactus), and conservation agriculture (no-till).

  • Irrigation scheduling based on Soil-Water-Balance (SWB) technique: to improve yields, water productivity, net returns, and as a mechanism to manage salinity

Contact information

Dr. Mohamed Ouessar

Institut des Régions Arides (IRA)

Partner Organizations:

  • Institut des Régions Arides (IRA)

  • National Institute of Agronomy Researches –Tunis (INRAT)

  • National Agronomy Institute- Tunis (INAT)


The challenge:

Farmers in Yemen face multiple production constraints: chronic water scarcity – made worse by over-extraction and groundwater depletion; inequitable water distribution; poor access to improved fodder resources; limited knowledge of proven land and water management technologies and strategies; and deteriorating irrigation systems that limit water productivity. These are further exacerbated by the country’s deteriorating security conditions which limit farmer mobility and undermine their ability to effectively utilize natural resources.

Aim and research locations:

In Yemen, the Water and Livelihoods Initiative (WLI) explores solutions to achieve the sustainable management of water resources and tackle policy, technical, and livelihood concerns, including: the need for improved fodder resources, improved land and water management practices, the processing and marketing of livestock products, and the need for greater gender sensitization.

Research takes place on the Abyan Delta, which has an irrigable area of 39,463 ha - of which 60 percent is watered by spate irrigation (diverting and spreading flood water from mountain catchments). The main crops grown under spate irrigation include cotton, sorghum, millet, sesame and groundnut. Groundwater irrigation, which waters 25% of the total irrigable land, is practiced throughout the year, enabling farmers to produce vegetables and subtropical fruits. Livestock and honey production are also important.

Research activities:

  • Studying the impact of supplemental irrigation on spate irrigated sesame: results indicate a 103-120 percent increase in yield productivity, and a cost-benefit analysis shows that the gross margin ranged from 1596 USD to 2570 USD per hectare - significantly higher than the 586 to 1139 USD/ha gross margin achieved when supplemental irrigation was not applied.

  • Initiating a database on land and water resources: to prepare soil maps and land suitability maps for irrigation and the main crops grown in the Abyan Delta.

  • New Assessments: on available groundwater resources; the impacts of water productivity on livelihoods; the role of associations in managing agro-ecosystems; indigenous knowledge; and social norms in the management of agro-ecosystems.   

Contact information

Dr. Khader Atroosh

Agricultural Research and Extension Authority (AREA)


Partnering Institutions:

  • Agricultural Research and Extension Authority (AREA)

  • Aden University (AU)

  • National Water Resources Authority (NWRA)