About THE PROgram

About SDIP

The Sustainable Development Investment Portfolio (SDIP) aims to improve the management of water, energy and food resources in three major Himalayan river basins - the Indus, Ganges and Brahmaputra - with a particular focus on benefits for women and girls.

Now in its second phase (SDIP2), this Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade program seeks to share Australian expertise to build and exchange knowledge, facilitate cooperation, and help improve the effectiveness of integrated policies and programs across the region, with an investment of $42 million between 2016 and 2020.

The goal of the ACIAR SDIP program is to maximise agriculture’s contribution to sustainable food systems in the EGP, for improved food, energy and water security. At the local level, this means promoting sustainable agricultural practices as the key pathway to resilient and inclusive farming systems. For success, there needs to be a supportive enabling environment that allows farmers and communities to be able to access and implement these systems for improved profitability and sustainability. At higher levels, this needs effective institutions that can make the key ‘ingredients’ of sustainable systems available and accessible (both in physical, economic and social terms) to more people, and the understanding that scaling in time and place will impact on current biophysical and socio-economic systems. It also requires longer term planning and strategies that recognize that if sustainable intensification is the preferred pathway that contributes to future food, energy and water security, transformational changes are required now that can ensure sustainable food systems in the future.



The first phase of the Sustainable Development Investment Portfolio (SDIP1) focused on farm and community levels.

The research and development activities under the project were conducted in eight districts in the Eastern Gangetic Plains (EGP): Rajshahi and Rangpur in Bangladesh; Malda and Coochbehar in West Bengal, and Purnea and Madhubani in Bihar, India; and Sunsari and Dhanusha in Nepal.

These locations were chosen specifically to test techniques in a range of agro-ecological settings, as well as to enable cross-border comparison of results, and to explore the effects of institutional and policy settings.

Our aim was to understand local systems, and demonstrate the effectiveness of Conservation Agriculture-based Sustainable Intensification (CASI) approaches, while ensuring an enabling environment for supporting and scaling out these technologies.

Our work focused on

  • building an understanding of the bio-physical and socioeconomic settings in the region;

  • improving the productivity, livelihoods and resilience of smallholder farmers to climate variability by facilitating the adoption of gender-inclusive, productive, profitable and lower-risk farming systems by over 75,000 farmers in the EGP.

The project developed activities in five communities in each of eight districts in the EGP.

We are now working with other stakeholders and initiatives to scale relevant technologies to more farmers in the broader region in conjunction with ACIAR SDIP2.


ACIAR’s program focus for SDIP2 is to increase food, energy and water security for sustainable food systems in India, Bangladesh and Nepal. 

Using a long-term, gender-inclusive and highly collaborative approach, we are promoting sustainable intensification strategies and supporting institutional innovation to increase food security while aiming to reduce environmental impacts.

The program is based on ACIAR’s long term experience in the region, capitalising on Australian and regional expertise, and an extensive partnerships network that is closely aligned with partner country and regional priorities. We also draw upon and extend our existing program of field level research, local policy engagement and strong partnerships in the region.

With our experience and expertise, we are:

  • helping our partners to bring together the ‘big picture’ related to sustainable food systems

  • creating space for regional engagement

  • utilising a multi-level approach, which draws on insights from field-level research that is informed by and informs policy decisions

  • showcasing relevant institutional models

In the field, the program focuses on testing and ensuring access to water and energy efficient sustainable intensification technologies including:

  • crop system diversification and optimisation

  • zero and minimum till approaches (including use of the Happy Seeder direct drill and the Versatile Multi Planter)

  • options for mechanisation

  • improved water management

  • access to markets; and

  • gender gaps in technology adoption

Our work is exploring the drivers and constraints that affect development in the wider South Asia region - including the growing challenges of climate change, and the need to promote gender equality by empowering women and girls.


Where we work

Explore the Eastern Gangetic Plains, a region which extends across India, Nepal and Bangladesh.

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Latest stories

Read stories of impact as we roll out ACIAR SDIP across the Eastern Gangetic Plains.

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