SRFSI is ACIAR’s contribution to the the Sustainable Development Investment Portfolio (SDIP)

The Sustainable Development Investment Portfolio (SDIP)

SDIP is coordinated by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) and targets a sub-region of South Asia defined by three major Himalayan river basins—the Indus, Ganges and Brahmaputra—covering north-east Pakistan, northern India, Bangladesh, Nepal and Bhutan. The SDIP targets sectors where Australia has a comparative advantage including:

  1. Water resource management
  2. Agricultural productivity
  3. Energy access and trade

The SDIP operates through a portfolio approach where partners are given core funding to progress an overarching goal. Partnerships are established following a comprehensive institutional assessment that identifies each partners’ institutional capacity, mandate, purpose and history of performance.

There are six current partners to the SDIP: ACIAR, Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), Consumer Unity and Trust Society (CUTS) International, International Centre of Excellence for Water Resource Management (ICE WaRM)International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) and South Asia Water Initiative (SAWI)

ACIAR’s role in SDIP - Sustainable and resilient farming systems intensification in the eastern Gangetic Plains (SRFSI)

ACIAR’s role in SDIP is to improve the livelihoods and resilience of smallholder farmers to climate variability by facilitating the adoption of more productive, profitable, and lower-risk farming systems in the Eastern Gangetic Plains. ACIAR’s SRFSI project forms part of this program, and is jointly funded by both ACIAR and DFAT. Read more about the SRFSI progress in SRFSI project highlight one’


The project centres on the following five themes;

1. Sustainable and resilient farming systems intensification for poverty reduction

In the Eastern Gangetic Plains, growing population density puts pressure on an already fragile environment. Home to some 300 million people, the EGP contains the highest remaining density of rural poverty in world.   Agricultural productivity in the region is low and predominately limited by minimal crop diversity, poorly developed markets, lack of access to knowledge and technology and inadequate development of water resources. As the global and local population continues to grow, there is a unique opportunity to reduce poverty in the area by sustainably intensifying agricultural.  The SRFSI project is working with farmers to introduce conservation agriculture and better management of water resources for sustainable increases of productivity. To read more about how SRFSI research is contributing to better food systems click here.

2. Food and water nexus for food security

Water, energy and food are intricately linked and cannot be easily separated.  Water is an essential input for agricultural production and energy is required to produce and distribute water and food. Energy is also required to power machinery and process agricultural goods into marketable products. The SRFSI project is working at the nexus of food and water by collaborating with farmers to introduce interventions that both improve agricultural production and encourage efficient use of water resources. 

3. Private sector engagement and development for delivering innovations at scale

It is widely recognised that sustainable economic development, led by the private sector is the most effective way to reduce poverty. In fact, in most of the world’s poorest regions, 9 out of 10 new jobs are created by the private sector.  In theEGP, funding available to government for agricultural research and extension is limited and markets are too poorly developed to attract major private sector investment. As a result women and men farmers have little access to essential input and output markets and services to help them adopt appropriate technologies for increasing their productivity and incomes.  In order to strengthen the private sector and improve markets for smallholders, the SRFSI project is designing its activities to enhance both private sector engagement and private sector development. To read more about ACIAR’s engagement with the private sector, click here. To read more about SRFSI’s engagement with the private sector click here.

4.  The empowerment of women and girls through gender-sensitive research

Women play a major role in agriculture in developing countries.  In South Asia, women contribute 60–80% of agricultural labour and yet they are paid signigicantly less than their male counterparts and are often excluded from decision making and training activities.  In addition, in many areas women cannot hold land titles, making them ineligible for formal credit. The Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) of the United Nations estimates that agricultural yields could increase by 20–30% if women had similar access to resources as men. This would raise the total agricultural output in developing countries by 2.5–4% and reduce the number of hungry people in the world by 12–17%.  With this in mind, the SRFSI project is incorporating considerations of gender into the development and implementation of all it’s activities. 

Project gender strategies include the following;

  • Gender sensitisation of project teams:
  • Disaggregated data collection:
  • Women-only focus group discussions:
  • Drafting of a gender strategy paper: and
  • A concerted effort to maximise the participation of women in all activities and across all levels.

To read more about SRFSIs approach to gender, click here. Read more on SRFSIs progress on gender in SRFSI project highlight two: gender’.

5. Transboundary knowledge sharing and linkages

Capacity building at individual, organisational and institutional level is crucial to improving agricultural productivity and livelihoods in a sustained way in the EGP.  It is essential to ensuring quality technical inputs that contribute to improved productivity like enhanced rotations or modern no-till drills.  Without an improvement in knowledge and capacity, machines remain unused, adoption rates are limited and wider impact is unlikely. For this reason, the SRFSI project is focusing on capacity building in order to add value to the innovations and scaling efforts. In its first year alone, the project has succeeded in training or providing knowledge to over 6000 people at all levels including farmers (women and men), service providers and researcher and development and policy professionals across all three participating countries.  In addition, the SRFSI project is working with over 20 partners across 3 countries, contributing to transboundary knowledge sharing and institutional capacity building. Read more about SRFSIs progress in capacity building in SRFSI project highlight three: capacity building’

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