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Scaling out resilient water and agricultural systems (scaleWAYS)

The research and development project analyzes up scaling options for water and land management practices for the resilient and sustainable intensification of rice and fodder production systems in the Lake Victoria Basin.

About scaleWAYS

scaleWAYS aims to develop an integrated scaling simulation framework providing actors with an improved understanding of the scaling process of successful pilots of sustainable and resilient agricultural production systems in the extended Lake Victoria Basin.


A rapidly increasing population and urbanization, economic growth, degradation of the environment and ecosystem, and the impacts of projected climate change for the coming decades challenge the resilience of land and water systems with potential detrimental impacts on human wellbeing. The project seeks solution pathways for selected agro-ecosystems chosen by regional stakeholders, namely rice and livestock/fodder systems.

Several pilot initiatives, that involve a bundle of management practices, have been introduced over the last years by various development actors in the region to tackle such challenges. However, their larger-scale implementation remains limited.

The simulation framework combines biophysical suitability analysis, governance analysis, and agro-economic optimization. The suitability analysis conducted at high spatial resolution aims to identify suitable area for the management practices based on a combination of various biophysical factors, while governance and ago-economic analyses aims to identify the optimal economic and institutional conditions for scaling such practices.

Who we are

We are an interdisciplinary team of researchers at the International Institute for Applied System Analysis (IIASA), and the International Crops Research Institute for Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT). We partner with the Lake Victoria Basin Commission (LVBC) of the East African Community (EAC) and its seven countries. We work across disciplines, including natural and social sciences to analyse strategic opportunities for scaling proven technologies and practices supporting the sustainable and resilient intensification of key agricultural commodities in the extended Lake Victoria Basin (eLVB) in East Africa.


What we do

scaleWAYS is a research for development project that investigates agricultural, water and environmental management practices to enhance the resilience of land and water resources and improve human wellbeing and ecosystems in the eLVB  in view of increasing food demand and climate change.

The simulation framework we develop combines biophysical crop suitability analysis, governance analysis, and agro-economic optimization. The biophysical suitability analysis at high spatial resolution identifies suitable areas for resilient agricultural management. Together with food demand projections we  develop multi-dimensional upscaling simulations using accounting frameworks and optimization to identify strategic opportunities in the eLVB. . However, such opportunities can only be realized when political-economy aspects are conducive to implementation. Therefore, governance and cultural aspects including gender are analysed to uncover enablers and obstacles and seek to determine the optimal economic and institutional conditions for scaling resilient agricultural practices.

Project history

The IIASA flagship research initiative, ‘Water Futures and Solutions (WFaS), sought to incorporate water science into water policy, planning and applied water management practices. With funding from the Austrian Development Agency, IIASA has been leading the implementation of a research project on ‘Advancing WFaS for East Africa: Accelerating Transition Towards Resilient Water and Food Systems’.

That project co-developed East African regional water scenarios for 2050 . The spatially nested scenario approach included a quantitative hydro-economic modelling framework to examine the current and future water balance in the extended Lake Victoria Basin (eLVB), the headwaters of the river Nile until its outlet in Laropi, Unganda. Cost-efficient future water supply and demand trajectories across different economic sectors and the environment were identified for two scenarios. A Middle of the Road scenario was contrasted with an East Africa Regional Vision scenario building on existing local vision documents and input from two stakeholder workshops in December 2017 and December 2018 involving government, academia, civil society, and the private sector. For key results, please refer to http://www.iiasa.ac.at/wfas-eastafrica. scaleWAYS builds on analyses carried out in that project and modelling results for the eLVB provide input for scaleWAYS analysis.

Among others, results highlight agriculture as the primary driver of water demand in the Regional Vision scenario. In consultation with regional stakeholders, this has led to more focused research in scaleWAYS about sustainable intensification options for agricultural production.