The Water for Food Global Institute program rests on three closely inter-related pillars – research and policy, education, and communication – all including a critical component of active engagement. Integral to the success of this work are strong partnerships to help us carry out our work and communicate results. All elements of our program contribute to our mission and lead to one or more specific plan period objectives. Institute activities are principally determined by demand, taking into account areas of faculty and partner strength and opportunities to make a difference.
Active engagement is a critical component of WFI’s program strategy that cuts across all aspects of its program activities. Engagement is a tool to build the capacity to get things done and achieve a defined objective, most often driven by the need of various individuals and entities to come together to achieve an objective that they would otherwise not achieve on their own. Our engagement work includes policy analysis, advisory services, decision tool development and knowledge delivery that use the results of scientific and policy research to inform policy and advise policy makers. It builds on the University’s long-term commitment to service to the agricultural community and its expertise and know-how in extension services.
Our Subject Areas of Focus
The WFI concentrates on four subject areas that are vital to water and food security in Nebraska and around the world, bridging the worlds of large-scale and smallholder agriculture:
- Closing water and agricultural productivity gaps, building on the pioneering work of the Global Yield Gap and Water Productivity Atlas, as well as the university’s expertise in plant breeding and biotechnology development, to reduce productivity gaps in crop and livestock systems.
- Improving groundwater management for agricultural production, drawing on the vast experience of Nebraska’s water governance institutions and farmers, focusing on scientific and policy research to improve understanding of the human and natural dynamics of groundwater.
- Enhancing high productivity irrigated agriculture, working in partnership with the private sector, NGOs and social entrepreneurial groups to provide research, technology transfer, education and outreach to further the goal of increasing water productivity in all forms of irrigated agriculture.
- Freshwater and agricultural ecosystems and public health, ensuring that efforts to improve water and food security also advance public health and protect ecosystem integrity, and drawing on the university’s leadership in natural resources management, water quality analysis and public health.
Research and Policy
WFI’s research and policy programs focus on innovation in technologies and management practices and their practical application; they emphasize data collection, analytical thinking, evidence-based decision-making, and contextual contrasts (e.g. Nebraska and globally). Research encompasses both the critical application of the natural and social sciences to assess specific interventions (policy analysis) and the development of mechanisms and policy instruments to achieve policy goals (policy design) and focus on science-based policies that are firmly grounded in technical considerations.
WFI sees education, in both formal and informal settings, as building knowledge for now and for the future. In keeping with the Institute’s mission, there is a concerted effort to educate the next generation and engage young talent. Our educational strategy is includes a variety of delivery formats to best meet the needs of participants, including academic teaching, extension, web-based education delivery, seminars and workshops, special events and community outreach.
WFI Faculty Fellows who have not yet received graduate student or post-doctoral scholar support from the Institute are eligible to apply for student support. To learn more, contact Rachael Herpel at 402.472.4977 or firstname.lastname@example.org
WFI’s research and policy work is advanced through communication. Communication facilitates research, policy development and education by sharing program outputs and outcomes with stakeholders in the U.S. and around the world. Audiences include: agricultural producers and other water managers; local, state, national and international decision makers; practitioners and decision makers in industry groups, private companies, non-profits and NGOs; faculty, scholars, and undergraduate/graduate students at NU and other educational institutions; and the general public. The Institute encourages data- and research-based policy dialogue in a variety of forums and at various levels, including at its annual Water for Food Conferences. Its communications works helps build relationships, using the most appropriate media and communication format, to position WFI as the preeminent US-based resource for sustainable water and food system research, innovation and education. WFI’s communications strategy is closely aligned and coordinated with the communications activities of University of Nebraska Central Administration.
In evaluating external impacts, the institute will define outputs as measurable products (e.g. websites, publications, trainees) and outcomes as “stories” that demonstrate a change in knowledge (e.g. participant learning or awareness), action (e.g. participant behavioral change), or condition (e.g. change in societal or resource condition due to participants’ actions).
The institute will evaluate its internal impacts by monitoring its success in involving more faculty and students with the work of WFI to expand its sphere of influence and engagement within the university. In its reporting, WFI will provide data on the number of faculty and students engaged in its programs.