The New Green Revolution: Enhancing Rainfed Agriculture for Food and Nutrition Security in Eastern Africa

  • Adi Dunkelman
  • Meghann Kerr
  • Larry A. Swatuk
Part of the International Political Economy Series book series (IPES)


It is anticipated that by 2050, the global human population will reach nine billion (Rosegrant et al. 2009). Along with population growth, socio-economic shifts and changing dietary patterns will require global food production to double in the next 40 years to accommodate increasing levels of consumption (Sposito 2013). Most population growth will take place in developing countries, which is also where food insecurity is most prevalent. The growing demand for food production also creates challenges with respect to water resources. A total of 70–85 percent of available freshwater is used for agricultural production (Rosegrant et al. 2009; Nordin et al. 2013), and increased demand for food will exacerbate issues related to the degradation and depletion of water resources (Nordin et al. 2013). In line with these facts, the narrative surrounding food security is predominantly focused on increasing yields while ensuring sufficient water to do so. Some have argued that the 2008 and 2011 global spikes in food and oil prices initiated the entire ‘water-energy-food nexus’ discussion. In this discussion, these three ‘systems’ are said to be inextricably linked ( While this is true, the globalized nature of this discourse means that it is overwhelmingly dominated by powerful states and private sector actors, each fundamentally interested in the financial costs (and possible profits) of efforts to achieve energy, food and water ‘security’ (Clapp 2012). Efforts to increase food security through ‘production’ have resulted in myriad pathological practices, the most pernicious of which may be land-grabbing across the Global South (Swatuk 2017).


  1. Arezki, R., K. Deininger, and H. Selod. 2011. What Drives the Global “Land Rush”? IMF Working Paper WP/11/251, November. Washington, DC: IMF.Google Scholar
  2. Atinmo, T., P. Mirmiran, O.E. Oyewole, R. Belahsen, and L. SerraMajem. 2009. Breaking the Poverty/Malnutrition Cycle in Africa and the Middle East. Nutrition Reviews 67 (s1): S40–S46.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Awulachew, S.B., D.J. Merrey, A.B. Kamara, B. Van Koppen, F. Penning de Vries, and E. Boelee. 2005. Experiences and Opportunities for Promoting Small-Scale/Micro Irrigation and Rainwater Harvesting for Food Security in Ethiopia. International Water Management Institute, Working Paper 98.Google Scholar
  4. Critchley, W.R.S. 2000. Inquiry, Initiative and Inventiveness: Farmer Innovators in East Africa. Physics and Chemistry of the Earth 25 (3): 285–288.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Enfors, E. 2013. Social–Ecological Traps and Transformations in Dryland Agro-Ecosystems: Using Water System Innovations to Change the Trajectory of Development. Global Environmental Change 23 (1): 51–60.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Falkenmark, M. 2001. The Greatest Water Problem: The Inability to Link Environmental Security, Water Security and Food Security. International Journal of Water Resources Development 17 (4): 539–554.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Falkenmark, M., and J. Rockström. 2004. Balancing Water for Humans and Nature. London: Earthscan.Google Scholar
  8. ———. 2006. The New Blue and Green Water Paradigm: Breaking New Ground for Water Resources Planning and Management. Journal of Water Resources Planning and Management 132 (3): 129–132.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. ———. 2008. Building Resilience to Drought in Desertification-Prone Savannas in Sub-Saharan Africa: The Water Perspective. Natural Resources Forum 32 (2): 93–102.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Falkenmark, M., J. Rockström, and H.H.G. Savenije. 2001. Feeding Eight Billion People: Time to Get Out of Past Misconceptions. Stockholm Water Front 1: 7–9.Google Scholar
  11. FAO. 2005. FAO Aqustat: United Republic of Tanzania. Retrieved from
  12. FAO and IFAD. 2006. Chapter 7: Water for Food, Agriculture and Rural. In Water: A Shared Responsibility, UNESCO and UN Water, World Water Development Report II. Available at:
  13. Frison, E.A., I.F. Smith, T. Johns, J. Cherfas, and P.B. Eyzaguirre. 2006. Agricultural Biodiversity, Nutrition, and Health: Making a Difference to Hunger and Nutrition in the Developing World. Food and Nutrition Bulletin 27 (2): 167–179.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Funk, C., M.D. Dettinger, J.C. Michaelsen, J.P. Verdin, M.E. Brown, M. Barlow, and A. Hoell. 2008. Warming of the Indian Ocean Threatens Eastern and Southern African Food Security but Could be Mitigated by Agricultural Development. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 105 (32): 11081–11086.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Garrity, D.P., F.K. Akinnifesi, O.C. Ajayi, S.G. Weldesemayat, J.G. Mowo, A. Kalinganire, and J. Bayala. 2010. Evergreen Agriculture: A Robust Approach to Sustainable Food Security in Africa. Food Security 2 (3): 197–214.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Gleick, P.H. 1993. Water and Conflict: Freshwater Resources and International Security. International Security 18 (1): 79–112.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Haile, M. 2005. Weather Patterns, Food Security and Humanitarian Response in Sub-Saharan Africa. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 360 (1463): 2169–2182.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Hatibu, N., K. Mutabazi, E.M. Senkondo, and A.S.K. Msangi. 2006. Economics of Rainwater Harvesting for Crop Enterprises in Semi Arid Areas of East Africa. Agricultural Water Management 80 (1-3): 74–86.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Helmreich, B., and H. Horn. 2009. Opportunities in Rainwater Harvesting. Desalination 248: 118–124.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Hoff, H., M. Falkenmark, D. Gerten, L. Gordon, L. Karlberg, and J. Rockström. 2010. Greening the Global Water System. Journal of Hydrology 384 (3): 177–186.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Ibraimo, N., and P. Munguambe. 2007. Rainwater Harvesting Technologies for Small Scale Rainfed Agriculture in Arid and Semi-Arid Areas. Integrated Water Resource Management for Improved Rural Livelihoods. CGIAR Challenge Program on Water and Food. Colombo, Sri Lanka.Google Scholar
  22. Johns, T., and P.B. Eyzaguirre. 2007. Biofortification, Biodiversity and Diet: A Search for Complementary Applications Against Poverty and Malnutrition. Food Policy 32 (1): 1–24.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Kennedy, E., and T. Reardon. 1994. Shift to Non-traditional Grains in the Diets of East and West Africa: Role of Women’s Opportunity Cost of Time. Food Policy 19 (1): 45–56.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Kibassa, D. 2013. Indigenous Rain Water Harvesting Practices for Climate Adaptation and Food Security in Dry Areas: The Case of Bahi District. African Technology Policy Studies Network Research Paper No. 22.Google Scholar
  25. Mbilinyi, B.P., S.D. Tumbo, H.F. Mahoo, E.M. Senkondo, and N. Hatibu. 2005. Indigenous Knowledge as Decision Support Tool in Rainwater Harvesting. Physics and Chemistry of the Earth, Parts A/B/C 30 (11-16): 792–798.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Mula, M.G., and K.B. Saxena. 2010. Lifting the Level of Awareness on Pigeonpea: A Global Perspective. Patancheru: International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics.Google Scholar
  27. Mwadalu, R., and M. Mwangi. 2013. The Potential Role of Sorghum in Enhancing Food Security in Semi-arid Eastern Kenya: A Review. Journal of Applied Biosciences 71 (1): 5786–5799.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Mwaniki, A. 2006. Achieving Food Security in Africa: Challenges and Issues. New York: UN Office of the Special Advisor on Africa (OSAA).Google Scholar
  29. Ngigi, S. 2003. What is the Limit of Up-Scaling Rainwater Harvesting in a River Basin? Physics and Chemistry of the Earth 28: 943–956.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Nordin, S.M., M. Boyle, and T.M. Kemmer. 2013. Position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: Nutrition Security in Developing Nations: Sustainable Food, Water, and Health. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics 113 (4): 581–595.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Pachpute, J.S., S.D. Tumbo, H. Sally, and M.L. Mul. 2009. Sustainability of Rainwater Harvesting Systems in Rural Catchment of Sub-Saharan Africa. Water Resource Management 23: 2815–2839.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Pretty, J.N., A.D. Noble, D. Bossio, J. Dixon, R.E. Hine, F.W.T. Penning de Vries, and J.I.L. Morrison. 2006. Resource-Conserving Agriculture Increases Yields in Developing Countries. Environmental Science and Technology 40 (4): 1114–1119.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Raschke, V., and B. Cheema. 2008. Colonisation, the New World Order, and the Eradication of Traditional Food Habits in East Africa: Historical Perspective on the Nutrition Transition. Public Health Nutrition 11 (07): 662–674.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Recha, C.W., M.N. Mukopi, and J.O. Otieno. 2015. Socio-Economic Determinants of Adoption of Rainwater Harvesting and Conservation Techniques in Semi-Arid Tharaka Sub-County, Kenya. Land Degradation and Development 26: 765–773.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Rijsberman, F.R. 2006. Water Scarcity: Fact or Fiction? Agricultural Water Management 80 (1): 5–22.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Rockström, J. 2000. Water Resources Management in Smallholder Farms in Eastern and Southern Africa: An Overview. Physics and Chemistry of the Earth, Part B: Hydrology, Oceans and Atmosphere 25 (3): 275–283.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. ———. 2007. Managing Water in Rainfed Agriculture. In Water for Food Water for Life: A Comprehensive Assessment of Water Management in Agriculture, ed. D. Molden, 315–348. London: Earthscan.Google Scholar
  38. Rockström, J., J. Barron, and P. Fox. 2002. Rainwater Management for Increased Productivity Among Small-holder Farmers in Drought Prone Environments. Physics and Chemistry of the Earth 27 (11): 949–959.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Rockström, J., C. Folke, L. Gordon, N. Hatibu, G. Jewitt, F. Penning de Vries, and R. Schulze. 2004. A Watershed Approach to Upgrade Rainfed Agriculture in Water Scarce Regions Through Water System Innovations: An Integrated Research Initiative on Water for Food and Rural Livelihoods in Balance with Ecosystem Functions. Physics and Chemistry of the Earth 29 (15): 1109–1118.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Rockström, J., M. Falkenmark, L. Karlberg, H. Hoff, S. Rost, and D. Gerten. 2009. Future Water Availability for Global Food Production: The Potential of Green Water for Increasing Resilience to Global Change. Water Resources Research 45 (7).Google Scholar
  41. Rockström, J., L. Karlberg, S.P. Wani, J. Barron, N. Hatibu, T. Oweis, and Z. Qiang. 2010. Managing water in Rainfed Agriculture—The Need for a Paradigm Shift. Agricultural Water Management 97 (4): 543–550.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Rosegrant, M.W., X. Cai, S. Cline, and N. Nakagawa. 2002. The Role of Rainfed Agriculture in the Future of Global Food Production. Washington, DC: Environment and Production Technology Division/International Food Policy Research Institute.Google Scholar
  43. Rosegrant, M.W., S.A. Cline, W. Li, T.B. Sulser, and R. Valmonte-Santos. 2005. Looking Ahead: Long-Term Prospects for Africa’s Agricultural Development and Food Security. Vol. 41. Washington DC: International Food Policy Research Institute.Google Scholar
  44. Rosegrant, M.W., C. Ringler, and T. Zhu. 2009. Water for Agriculture: Maintaining Food Security Under Growing Scarcity. Annual Review of Environment and Resources 34: 205–222.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Rufino, M.C., P.K. Thornton, S.K. Ng’ang’a, I. Mutie, P.G. Jones, M.T. van Wijk, and M. Herrero. 2013. Transitions in Agro-Pastoralist Systems of East Africa: Impacts on Food Security and Poverty. Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment 179: 215–230.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Rulli, M.C., A. Saviori, and P. D’Odorico. 2013. Global Land and Water Grabbing. PNAS 110 (3): 892–897.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Salomão, A., and I. Nhantumbo. 2009. Biofuels, Land Access and Rural Livelihoods in Mozambique. Land Tenure in Africa Series. London: International Institute for Environment and Development.Google Scholar
  48. Sposito, G. 2013. Green Water and Global Food Security. Vadose Zone Journal, 1–6. Available at: Accessed 1 June 2017.
  49. Swatuk, L.A., C. Leung, M. McMorris, and Y. Zu. 2015. Seeing “Invisible Water”: Challenging Conceptions of Water for Food, Agriculture and Human Security. Canadian Journal of Development Studies 36 (1): 24–37.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Tanumihardjo, S.A., C. Anderson, M. Kaufer-Horwitz, L. Bode, N.J. Emenaker, A.M. Haqq, and D.D. Stadler. 2007. Poverty, Obesity, and Malnutrition: An International Perspective Recognizing the Paradox. Journal of the American Dietetic Association 107 (11): 1966–1972.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Tesfaye, A., W. Negatu, R. Brouwer, and P. van der Zaag. 2014. Understanding Soil Conservation Decision of Farmers in the Gedeb Watershed Ethiopia. Land Degradation and Development 25: 71–79.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Thornton, P.K., P.G. Jones, G. Alagarswamy, J. Andresen, and M. Herrero. 2010. Adapting to Climate Change: Agricultural System and Household Impacts in East Africa. Agricultural Systems 103 (2): 73–82.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Van der Zaag, P. 2005. Integrated Water Resources Management: Relevant Concept or Irrelevant Buzzword? A Capacity Building and Research Agenda for Southern Africa. Physics and Chemistry of the Earth 30 (11): 867–871.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Vermeulen, S., and L. Cotula. 2010. Over the Heads of Local People: Consultation, Consent and Recompense in Large-Scale Land Deals for Biofuels Projects in Africa. The Journal of Peasant Studies 37 (4): 899–916.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Wallace, J.S. 2000. Increasing Agricultural Water Use Efficiency to Meet Future Food Production. Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment 82 (1): 105–119.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Yang, H., P. Reichert, K.C. Abbaspour, and A.J. Zehnder. 2003. A Water Resources Threshold and Its Implications for Food Security. Environmental Science and Technology 37 (14): 3048–3054.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Adi Dunkelman
    • 1
  • Meghann Kerr
    • 2
  • Larry A. Swatuk
    • 3
  1. 1.Ontario Sustainable Energy AssociationTorontoCanada
  2. 2.Conrad Grebel CollegeWaterlooCanada
  3. 3.School of Environment Enterprise and DevelopmentUniversity of WaterlooWaterlooCanada

Personalised recommendations