WAHARA : Water Harvesting for Rainfed Africa: investing in dryland agriculture for growth and resilience

Project identifier 71-WAHARA
Project Status finished
Start date 2011-03-01
End date 2016-02-29
Roadmap Theme
  • Sustainable intensification: Soil, water, land and input management
  • Cross-cutting issues: Social and cultural features of food production systems
  • Sustainable intensification: Identification and breeding of animals and crops to maintain/increase productivity
  • Type of Project Applied research project
    Type of Project Development and innovation oriented (research) project
    Programme FP7
    Keyword Water harvesting; Rain-fed
    Location Ethiopia; Burkina Faso; Tunisia; Zambia
    Budget 2 619 115
    Main Funder Directorate-General for Research and Innovation (DG RTD) (FP7)
    Coordinator Wageningen Research
  • University of Leeds
  • MetaMeta Research
  • Arid Regions Institute (IRA)
  • Institut de l'Environnement et de Recherches Agricoles du Burkina Faso (INERA)
  • Mekelle University
  • Golden Valley Agricultural Research Trust (GART)
  • Wageningen University
  • Agrotechnology Consult Africa
  • Project Web Site http://www.wahara.eu/index.html
    Documents WAHARA Final Publishable Summary



    Water productivity  in Africa is the lowest in the world, and is further stressed by a rapidly growing population and the challenges posed by climate change. Africa contains about nine percent of global freshwater, and is characterised by large disparities in rainfall distribution and water availability across the continent (Joto Africa, 2009). Considering that Africa currently hosts almost 15% of the world’s population which is projected to increase to 17.5% by 2025 (UN, 2008), it is clear that relative water scarcity is on the increase. Africa is moreover the only continent where growth of food production has not kept pace with population growth in recent decades; yet performance of the agricultural sector is crucial for long-term growth prospects (UNECA, AU and AfDB, 2000), not least because 80% of Africans rely on agriculture for their livelihoods (Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa, 2009).

    The vast majority of African farmers rely on rainfall for food production: 95% of agricultural production in Africa comes from rainfed areas (UNEP, 2009). Productivity levels are low and grain yields oscillate typically around 1 ton per hectare. There is an important yield gap between experimental results and farmers’ reality (Rockström et al., in press). The key to closing the gap lies in improved water management. African countries on average only store 4% of annual flow (WWDR3, 2009), and a low water buffer means high vulnerability to both droughts and floods. Risk of climatic anomalies in Africa will even increase as a result of climate change (Conway, 2009). By 2020, 75-250 million people may be exposed to increased water stress due to the combined effects of climate change and increased demand(IPCC, 2008).

    Main objectives:
    • This project aims to study local water harvesting solutions, in order to innovate and develop appropriate water harvesting technologies that are replicable in the different geographical regions of rain fed Africa.
    • The project aims to develop solutions applicable beyond local study sites and across the continent. In order to reach this objective, representative study sites are selected: Tunisia in the North, Burkina Faso in the West, Zambia in the South and Ethiopia in the East. Working with a trans-disciplinary perspective that takes into account not only biophysical aspects, but also socio-economic aspects and political conditions, the project will work closely together with various stakeholders, to make sure that selected solutions really meet their needs.