Project Overview

Rationale and relevance:

One of the EU’s major strategies against poverty and hunger in Africa is to enhance agriculture and rural development. The promotion of agricultural growth and productivity will lead to improved livelihood, increased food security and reduced conflicts over resource management for rural communities. The greatest potential for improving agricultural productivity is in areas solely depending on rainfall, especially in Sub-Saharan Africa. Yet, in most of these areas, agriculture is constrained by highly variable rainfall, frequent drought and water conflicts, making rainfed farrming a risky undertaking. Water harvesting is a technology traditionally practised throughout Africa proven to increase productivity and enhance food security, with the additional advantage of erosion control and ground water recharge. Yet, current trends in development, globalization, environmental degradation and climate change require adjustment and innovation of water harvesting technologies in order to cope with the changing conditions and the application in new, often marginalized, environments. There is a need for investments in new - or existing - technologies, diversifying production structures away from drought or moisture stress, and ensuring positive synergies in local water and land use.


The Overall objective of the WHaTeR project is to contribute to the development of appropriate and innovative water harvesting techniques that are sustainable under dynamic global and regional pressures so as to strengthen rainfed agriculture, improve rural livelihood and increase food production and security in Sub-Saharan Africa.


  1. To identify and analyse changes in WHT implementation, benefits and constraints by rapid comparative assessment of WHT sites in 15 countries investigated by consortium partners in the past;
  2. To conduct farm-level assessments of appropriate WHTs for selected hydrological, biological and socio-economic settings in four selected case study countries by testing technological improvements and assessing WHT impacts on environmental sustainability, livelihood improvement and food security, and  enabling conditions for uptake and upscaling.
  3. To conduct a catchment-level assessment of the potential synergies and/or trade-offs of WHTs and their impact on the quality and quantity of water and water-dependent ecosystem services through upstream-downstream interactions in the four selected case study countries.
  4. To assess the potential impact of prominent global and regional drivers of change on WHTs and WHTs' ability to absorb change, or need for adaptation, using methods of  modelling and scenario analysis at a continental scale.
  5. To develop criteria and guidelines for appropriate WHTs based on the in-depth assessment and multiple-scale analysis referred to in 2, 3 and 4 and generate a general strategic framework for stakeholder interaction and communication to facilitate WHT uptake and upscaling.
  6. To disseminate and communicate project results effectively to relevant stakeholders through multi-stakeholder workshops, an interactive project website, project publications and policy briefs outlining strategies for sustainable integration of WHTs into existing regional policies and development plans and more generic EU strategies for (support to) WHT upscaling in Sub-Saharan Africa.


Project activities are divided over 14 Work Packages. The first Work Package covers project management and the second comprises a situation analysis - through revisits to water harvesting sites in 15 African countries studied previously by participating organisations . The next four Work Packages focus on detailed research and technology development activities on cross-cutting themes (environmental sustainability; technology development; livelihood improvement; uptake and upscaling; and global and regional impact) and will be conducted together with four country-based Work Packages (in Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, South Africa and Tanzania). One Work Package will concentrate on stakeholder communication and outreaching activities, and the final Work Packages consists of synthesis and dissemination of project results, including production of guidelines for WHTs.

Expected Impacts:

The expected impacts of the project comprise technology support for farmers, development of stakeholder communication networks, innovative water harvesting systems, tools for impact assessment, upstream-downstream land use, and policy support for integrated water management and adaptation to climate change to promote EU and African strategies on strengthening rainfed agriculture, food security and livelihoods.


The total budget is 2.4M€ of which 1.9 M€ is the contribution from the European Union. The project will spend an estimated 74% of the budget on RTD, 13% on stakeholder communication and outreaching and13% on project management.



Last modified: Thursday, 21 March 2013, 11:10 AM