On 8 December 2020, the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the Australian Water Partnership, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), and the Australian Government Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) was extended for a further two and a half years (until June 2023).
The MoU—originally established in December 2017—was signed by FAO’s Assistant Director-General and Regional Representative, Mr Jong-Jin Kim, DFAT’s Assistant Secretary of the Agriculture, Infrastructure and Water Branch, Mr David Higgins, and eWater Ltd Chair Dr Don Blackmore AM on behalf of the Australian Water Partnership.
The collaboration with FAO is developing through the implementation of the ‘Next Generation Irrigation and Water Management for the Asia-Pacific Program’. The ‘NextGen Program’ is being implemented by Australian Partners Charles Sturt University (CSU), Blackwatch Consulting, and the Institute of Sustainable Futures University of Technology Sydney (ISF-UTS).
Although the COVID-19 pandemic has caused delays in developing the NextGen Program, three activities are underway, with Cambodia Irrigation Performance Assessment completed in September 2020. This assessment benchmarked irrigation services and produced a framework to support the improvement of agricultural productivity in the Indo-Pacific.
The activity on modernising irrigated agriculture to protect and restore aquatic biodiversity and ecosystem services in Indonesia and Myanmar aims to contribute towards ending hunger and malnutrition. Irrigation systems focusing on delivering water for agriculture efficiently has affected aquatic life, so the team led by CSU completed fish surveys upstream and downstream of an irrigation dam in Indonesia. The results helped to inform plans to modernise irrigation systems and to fill an important data gap on the impacts these systems have on freshwater biodiversity and ecosystem services. Meanwhile, in Myanmar, the focus has been to enhance fish passage in a way that vulnerable people are benefited—a component that is being developed in collaboration with ISF-UTS. Together with FAO, the team is looking at adapting to COVID-19 restrictions by training local implementing partners.
The gender, water and food synergies activity in Myanmar aims to develop knowledge and capacity to provide guidance on how water management can be gender transformative and have a positive influence on food security. The activity addresses existing significant gender inequality issues in Myanmar, even though women have multiple roles in the agricultural sector on top of household responsibilities. A workshop with local stakeholders discussed how gender equality issues intersect with water and agriculture management. This initial engagement also helped to establish trusted relationships with Myanmar-based organisations and individuals. To foster networks and to continue sharing knowledge on how to apply gender equality principles, an online Community of Practice was launched last year with international and Myanmar based experts, NGOs, donors and government representatives.
AWP’s ongoing partnership with FAO will leverage better outcomes and strengthen efforts to contribute to the Sustainable Development Goals in the region through a water lens.