ACIAR-CSIRO workshop on modelling agriculture and water in the Eastern Gangetic Plain

As part of the DFAT Sustainable Development Investment Portfolio and other programs, Australian research organizations including ACIAR, CSIRO and their partners are developing a range of modelling systems related to agriculture and water in the river basins of the Eastern Gangetic Plains (EGP).

Modelling in these projects encompasses climate-hydrological modelling, water resources assessment and integrated social and biophysical modelling, at scales ranging from basin/region, to local and farm scale modelling. There is potential to integrate this work to address challenges related to climate change, agriculture development, livelihood improvement, gender and environmental outcomes as well as disaster risk reduction.

A joint ACIAR-CSIRO workshop was held on the 15-16 March in Canberra, to share experience and expertise in modelling of the EGP region across the range of disciplines, scales and approaches represented in the ongoing activities. Participants included representatives from ACIAR, CSIRO, DFAT, IFRPI, ICIMOD, the Australian Water Partnership, the ANU, Deakin University, USQ and UWS.

The aim of the workshop was to identify areas where we could better integrate across scales and sectors to improve understanding of multiple impacts and responses to major drivers of change. This will in turn guide future research and capacity building in support of integrated food, energy and water resources policy, planning and management.

Farmers live out the interdependencies between water, food and energy on a daily basis, and that is why it is critical to look at this dynamic space to improve management. Capturing these interdependencies in models can help address demands for information from governments and policy makers, and bridge the field to policy divide.

The workshop discussions focused on two broad areas of future work: opportunities for working across scales in water resources modeling; and opportunities to use existing work on village scale studies in Bangladesh to explore what is possible with scaling up and out. 

Several activities were identified that will be prioritized, including social modeling to explore the use of household typologies and census data to validate and scale out qualitative data from surveys and FGDs. Efforts to link APSIM and hydrology models will continue, building on the significant amount of work that has already gone into the separate models, to analyse the impacts of intensification of farming practices on water quantity and quality. Detailed meta-analysis and review of existing hydrological models is needed to compile and compare results, particularly for Bangladesh, where there is a considerable body of existing work.

Efforts will be made to improve collaboration and information exchange between groups working in the EGP to facilitate provision of key model parameters and feedback for validation and comparison. In the longer term, partners will explore the application of APSIM over wide areas to quantify yield gaps across the EGP. There is also the potential to use the rich and diverse datasets available in Bangladesh and Nepal to explore approaches to integration, and provide basis for recommendations on how best to design future trans-disciplinary studies.

Follow on work will be incorporated into the ongoing work under SDIP Phase 2, and coordinated between partners.

NewsTamara Jackson