As I complete my first year as Founding Executive Director of the Robert B. Daugherty Water for Food Institute at the University of Nebraska, I am writing to share my excitement about our growth and to engage you in ongoing and upcoming events. As you will see from the brief highlights below, our young Institute is growing rapidly and expanding its reach through new programs, partnerships and people.
- The 2012 global Water for Food Conference “Blue Water, Green Water and the Future of Agriculture” brought together more than 500 innovative leaders and thinkers from 28 countries to discuss critical issues facing water use in agriculture. The conference proceedings will be available online and in hard copy in March.
- The December issue of the Stockholm Water Front magazine featured a cover story contributed by our Institute that dealt with this year’s devastating drought in Nebraska and much of the USA. See it at http://www.siwi.org/Resources/Water_Front/WF-4-2012_web.pdf
- The Global Yield Gap and Water Productivity Atlas, funded by our Institute and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, is growing fast. Work has begun in South America, South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa and will soon be extended to Jordan, Morocco, and Tunisia as a part of our collaboration with the US Agency for International Development (USAID). Learn more at www.yieldgap.org
- The Institute provided second-year funding to five research projects led by affiliated faculty, of which two focus on Nebraska (on the Sustainable Management of the High Plains Aquifer and on Collaborative Governance in the Platte River), two focus on sub-Saharan Africa (Watershed Management in Ethiopia and Aquifer Characterization across the region), and one is global in scope (the Yield Gap and Water Productivity Atlas, above).
- The MSc. dual degree program developed by our Institute and the UNESCO-IHE Institute for Water Education in Delft, the Netherlands, will be offered in September 2013. As part of our partnership, 19 IHE students visited Nebraska during the summer of 2012 for a field methods course.
- The Institute actively participated in the 6th World Water Forum Marseille and World Water Week in Stockholm, organizing several high-profile events with a delegation led by University of Nebraska President James B. Milliken.
- A collaborative agreement with USAID was initiated in February, with a focus on expanding research and development capacities related to water management in the Middle East and North Africa, principally through USAID’s Middle East and North Africa Network of Water Centers of Excellence.
- A partnership with Jain Irrigation Systems Ltd. in Jalgaon, India, was initiated in May. Initial activities are focusing on improving drought and salt tolerance of maize and bananas; biotechnology training; and crop water productivity and best irrigation management practices.
- In July, the Institute initiated a collaborative agreement with the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). Initial activities include a joint expert consultation on yield and water productivity gaps, and the participation of FAO climate scientists in this year’s Water for Food Conference (see below). The institute is also sharing the very positive experience of Nebraska’s Natural Resources Districts at an FAO expert consultation on water governance held this week in Rome.
- During the year, the Institute worked closely with the Water Technology Center of the Indian Agricultural Research Institute in Delhi to develop a program of work on agricultural drought monitoring, stress tolerant crops, and micro-irrigation systems for drought prone areas. A formal agreement will be signed next month.
- Monica Norby became the Associate Director of the Institute in July, having served as Assistant Vice Chancellor in the Office of Research of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, where she had helped lead development of the Institute from the idea stage on up.
- Three recently hired faculty affiliates bring expertise critical to our mission: crop simulation modelers Haishun Yang and Guillermo Baigorria-Paz, and irrigation engineer Derek Heeren. A fourth faculty affiliate, hydro-informaticist Francisco Muñoz-Arriola, is joining on 1 February.
- We are in the process of recruiting Directors for Research, Policy and the Nebraska Water Center, and plan to bring these searches to a successful conclusion in the near future.
Going forward, there is much to which we look forward. We hope you will join us for the fifth annual Water for Food Conference “Too Hot, Too Wet, Too Dry: Building Resilient Agroecosystems.” It will be held May 5 – 8 here in Lincoln and will examine how we can increase the capacity of our food, water and natural ecosystems to adapt to a changing climate.
We had an excellent year in 2012 and anticipate much growth and productivity in 2013. On behalf of all of us at the Robert B. Daugherty Water for Food Institute at the University of Nebraska: Happy New Year!
Founding Executive Director
Robert B. Daugherty Water for Food Institute
University of Nebraska
2200 Vine Street, Lincoln NE 68683, USA