Harnessing Land and Water Resources for Efficient and Sustainable Use

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  • This programme constitutes the core activities of the UNU Institute for Natural Resources in Africa (UNU-INRA). Africa’s population is projected to rise to 1.8 billion by 2050. As the continent’s population increases, there will be an even greater demand for food. The continent’s agriculture depends to a large extent on its natural resource base, most especially land and water. Soil degradation through wind and water erosion, exacerbated by farming practices that deplete soil nutrients and soil organic carbon pools, are major issues constraining food production in sub-Saharan Africa. Improving productivity by increasing fertility of inherently infertile or degraded soils as well as better management of the water resources will be critical in reducing poverty, improving food security and ensuring environmental sustainability.


    Within this programme is the ‘Enhancing Resilience to Climate and Ecosystem Changes in Semi-Arid Africa: An Integrated Approach’ project, recently approved by the Japan Science and Technology Agency and the Japan International Cooperation Agency, and upon which the UNU Institute for Sustainability and Peace (UNU-ISP) and UNU-INRA are collaborating. This project was jointly developed by UNU-INRA and UNU-ISP and other partners and will enable both UNU-INRA and UNU-ISP to undertake field activities together in a specific theme.

    Focal Points

    The Director of UNU-INRA is the focal point for this programme and will be supported by a Senior Fellow to be recruited.


    The purpose of this programme is to monitor the state of land and water resources in Africa. It will also introduce technologies for on- and off-farm water usage including recycling and water harvesting; understand access and equity in distribution of water resources; improve and encourage innovation through appropriate technologies for effective management of small reservoirs; analyse the connections between climate change and human activities that affect land use as agents contributing to polluting emissions and global warming; increase soil nutrients and water productivity; assess the sustainability of the creation of long-term carbon sinks on agricultural lands; understand the potential and challenges of payment for ecosystem services; and explore climate change adaptation through forecasting, early warning and adaptive capacity development for sustainable livelihoods.


    UNU-INRA and collaborators will undertake research that employs bio-economic and agronomic models along with remote-sensing and geographical information systems methods to achieve the purpose of the programme.


    All UNU-INRA research, training and capacity development activities are not gender-neutral. Data analysis will be gender-disaggregated and the gender dimensions of the activities will be highlighted so as to inform policy. The participation of women will be given high priority.

    Target Audience

    The work of this programme will target resource managers at the national, regional and international levels, policymakers, non-governmental organisations. African universities and other national research institutions will also benefit from this programme.

    Intended Impact

    Impact: Influencing policymaking at the national level
    Target: Government officials in the relevant ministries and non-governmental organisations
    How: Evidence based results will be provided through non-technical documents such as policy briefs. National seminars and workshops will be organized.

    Impact: Capacity development in developed/developing countries
    Target: Researchers and policymakers in developing countries are the target audience
    How: Training workshops and seminars will be organized

    Impact: Supporting academic communities
    Target: The target audience includes UNU-INRA operating units at the collaborating universities and other research institutions.
    How: This will be achieved through project support to these units and participation of the institutions in training and other relevant activities.

    Policy Bridging

    The research outputs of this programme will be utilized to inform policies on natural resource management on the African continent.

    Value Added

    This programme area is the core of UNU-INRA. It should therefore help in generating scientific knowledge that contributes to a better understanding of the challenges of and potential solutions to natural resource management in Africa.


    This programme outputs will include workshop reports, knowledge management system databases, research reports, policy briefs and academic papers that will be submitted to refereed journals for publication. Seminars and conferences will also be organized.

    Timeline/Programme Cycle

    This programme will run for 24 months beginning January 2012 through December 2013.


    This programme will be subject to the evaluation mechanisms that have been set up in UNU-INRA’s strategic plan.


    UNU-INRA faces the challenge of mobilizing the required financial resources to recruit additional staff to deliver the programme. In addition, the publication of high quality publications may go beyond the time span of the project and is out of the control of UNU-INRA.

    Expected Duration

    The programme is expected to run for a duration of 48 months, from 1 January 2010 through 31 December 2013.

  • Activities within the programme will involve cooperation between the UNU Institute for Natural Resources in Africa and five partners:

    • UNU Institute for Water, Environment and Health
    • UNU Institute for Sustainability and Peace
    • Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations
    • United Nations Development Programme
    • World Food Programme
  • United Nations University
    Institute for Natural Resources in Africa

    International House
    Annie Jiage Road
    University of Ghana, Legon Campus
    Accra, Ghana.

    T: +233-302-500396
    F: +233-302-500792