Press release II: Natural resources and environment programme portfolio


Southern Africa’s natural resources — its soils, water, fisheries, wildlife and forests—are a critical asset for sustainable development. However access to these resources is extremely unequal by world standards, and they are degrading rapidly. These problems underlie the low agricultural productivity in the region, and threaten efforts to improve food security and promote better livelihoods. Although the reasons for this inequity, environmental degradation and low productivity are complex, the major problem — and opportunity for change — lies in the area of national and regional policies and the institutional arrangements for making and implementing policies

FANRPAN and its partners are currently implementing four work programmes designed to support stakeholders’ efforts to promote improved policies and more effective institutional arrangements for their implementation. This work directly supports implementation of Pillar one of AU-NEPAD’s Comprehensive Africa Agricultural Development Programme (CAADP), focused on water and land management. The work programmes aim at: 

  • identifying agricultural water management innovations to reduce food insecurity in a major transboundary river basin;
  • improving access to low-cost water management technologies that smallholders can use to improve their incomes and escape poverty,
  • and adapting food systems in the region to face threats from global environmental changes.
    1. Limpopo Basin Focal Project: Water Management Interventions to Reduce Poverty 

      Over half the 14 million inhabitants of the Limpopo River Basin are very poor. This is ironic in view of the vast wealth created in the basin through mining, commercial agricultural, tourism and industry. FANRPAN, in partnership with the Agricultural Research Council of South Africa, is leading a two-year project whose major objective is to identify agricultural water management innovations that will contribute to reducing food insecurity and enhancing peoples’ livelihoods. Project highlights include: 

      • collaboration with stakeholders at basin, national and local levels to identify feasible, effective, and scalable policies, institutional arrangements, practices and technologies to reduce poverty in the region.
      • FANRPAN and the Global Water Partnership for Southern Africa (GWP-SA) combining their grassroots and regional networks to reach a more representative set of stakeholders. This includes partnering with research institutions and universities in the four basin countries—Botswana, Mozambique, South Africa, and Zimbabwe.
      • This Challenge Programme on Water and Food ( supported project is taking an innovative approach to identifying a broad set of potential interventions that will be validated through research and stakeholder consultations.


    1. Scaling up Micro-Agricultural Water Management: A Pathway to Smallholder Prosperity 

      Sub-Saharan Africa has the lowest percentage of irrigated cultivated land (3%) among all developing regions. Governments and their development partners are increasing investments in irrigation, but even small-scale community-managed schemes often take decades to reach high levels of productivity. In many parts of southern Africa where water resources are a major limiting factor, their transboundary nature further complicates development of major water infrastructure. There is growing evidence that increasing availability and use of low-cost smallscale water management technologies can contribute quickly and cost-effectively to improving food security and incomes in many areas of southern Africa. FANRPAN and others have carried out studies that demonstrate: 

      • Although substantial reductions in poverty and vulnerability to drought among smallholders using treadle pumps, drip irrigation kits, and rainwater harvesting and storage techniques are possible, these technologies are not widely known or available.
      • In many instances, government policies are not conducive to investment in these technologies by the private sector, yet creating a regional market for such technologies can create sufficient economies of scale to encourage private sector investment and competition.
      • NGOs can continue to play a critical support role in training farmers, marketing, quality control, and R&D.
      • FANRPAN is working with partners to identify ways to promote this market-based regional approach in southern Africa, while continuing to support research on the impacts of micro-water management technologies on poverty and vulnerability.


    1. Supporting Adaptation to Global Environmental Change by the Most Vulnerable 

      In partnership with “Global Environmental Change and Food Systems” (GECAFS), and ICSUAfrica, FANRPAN is promoting a five-year science plan to determine strategies to cope with the impacts of global environmental change on southern African food systems and to assess the environmental and socioeconomic consequences of adaptive responses aimed at improving longterm food security. In this context, FANRPAN is collaborating with IFPRI, ASARECA and two German climate change research institutions in a new project, “Strategies for Adapting to Climate Change in Rural Sub-Saharan Africa: Targeting the Most Vulnerable.” The project: 

      • Aims to provide regional organizations, policymakers and farmers in Sub-Saharan Africa with tools to identify and implement appropriate adaptation strategies.
      • Combines advanced modeling techniques with use of existing data bases and capacities in the eastern and southern African region, and the access to policy makers and other stakeholders provided by FANRPAN and ASARECA.
      • Will create an informal network among those working in adaptation to environmental change, in order to improve sharing and dissemination of results to regional stakeholders.


  1. Competence Platform on Energy Crop and Agroforestry Systems for Arid and Semi-arid Ecosystems – Africa (COMPETE) 

    The main objective of this three-year project is to identify pathways for the provision of bioenergy in sub-Saharan Africa. There are about 45 partners globally, and it is supported by the European Union (see: FANRPAN leads the policy work package. In 2007, FANRPAN produced draft Policy Working Papers synthesizing existing bioenergy policies among African countries, and those at sub-regional, regional and national levels (see: We reviewed a wide range of policy documents related to energy, natural resources, agriculture, trade, and poverty reduction. Few African countries have policies in place that would enable them to benefit substantially from the new opportunities for producing and either consuming locally, or exporting, bioenergy products. For those with some policies in place, implementation is limited except for South Africa. In 2008, FANRPAN will lead an assessment of what is known about the outcomes of these policies and co-organize a policy workshop, while in 2009, FANRPAN will lead the preparation of papers on policy recommendations and on research needs.

Future Opportunities 

FANRPAN has only recently initiated implementation of its new five-year business plan. As part of this plan, FANRPAN is seeking to strengthen its research and multi-stakeholder dialogue activities for improved natural resources and environmental management in the following areas: 

  • Improved management of transboundary resources, especially water and natural ecosystems, for better livelihoods, equity and sustainability.
  • Scaling out and up smallholders’ access to low-cost water management technologies.
  • Strategies for adaptation of Southern African food systems to global environmental change.