Asian Mega-Deltas


Home to 177 million people, the densely populated Asian mega-deltas are biodiverse, fertile and productive food baskets dominated by rice, fisheries and aquaculture and so hold a great potential to make the regional and food systems more sustainable. They support millions of people beyond the delta dwellers themselves. Deltas are nearing a significant tipping point. Tens of millions of small-scale producers in Asian mega-deltas face risks to food and nutrition security and livelihoods from the impacts of climate change. 

Recent models of coastal elevation show that the Asian mega-deltas are much lower than previously assumed and will be severely affected by more frequent and more intense floods, sea-level rise and salinization of freshwater and soil. The models also predict water shortages, severe cyclones and climate extremes, which could lead to an annual loss of 6% of GDP in Southeast Asia, over twice the global average. These trends will put increased pressure on those remaining. The result is likely further erosion of food security and increased poverty and hunger. 


This Initiative aims to create resilient, inclusive and productive deltas, which maintain socio-ecological integrity, adapt to climatic and other stressors, and support human prosperity and wellbeing, by removing systemic barriers to the scaling of transformative technologies and practices at community, national and regional levels. 


This objective will be achieved through:

  • Improving deltaic production systems by working with farmers and local governments to identify, synthesize, evaluate and scale interventions to ensure systems can adapt to and mitigate the effects of climate change. 
  • Developing nutrition-sensitive deltaic agrifood systems by promoting sustainable production and consumption of nutritious foods, involving institutional stakeholders in the co-design of investment strategies and interventions. 
  • Reducing risk in delta-oriented value chains by using evidence-based decision-support tools and engaging with stakeholders at all levels to identify, prioritize and support the most inclusive and appropriate land-water use options and management systems.  
  • Facilitating joined-up, gender-equitable, inclusive deltaic systems governance by working with communities, local governments and civil society partners to co-design and implement social processes that enable marginalized groups, women and youth to better access delta resources and technologies and become more equal partners in food systems innovation.   
  • Introducing evidence-based delta development planning by assessing climatic and socioeconomic trends, developing trans-boundary change scenarios and facilitating the co-development of policies and collaboration mechanisms. Coordination across deltas will ensure a coherent approach to lessons learned. 


    This Initiative will work in the following countries: Bangladesh, Cambodia, India, Myanmar and Vietnam. Lessons with regional and global relevance will be shared.


    Proposed 3-year outcomes include:

      1. A network of inclusive learning alliances comprising at least 200 stakeholder communities and 30 organizations in each delta, supported by at least three national/sub-national policies, that can scale up diversification of agrifood systems to accelerate adaptation by 150,000 smallholders and improve management of 100,000 hectares. 
      2. At least three national governments or international development partners work with grassroots actors, including marginalized women and youth, to co-design gender-equitable and socially inclusive joined-up natural resources and food systems governance policies or strategies. 
      3. Digital climate advisory and bundled services, both public and private, are used by at least 0.8 million smallholders (at least 29% women) with at least one financing partnership plan established.  
      4. Ministries and major NGOs in at least three countries use co-produced knowledge and evidence to table at least three nutrition-sensitive interventions to reduce mortality, disability-adjusted life years and micronutrient deficiencies for 20,000 Asian mega-delta producers (80% women) and 100,000 consumers. 
      5. High-level policymakers and development partners in at least two deltas that are involved in knowledge integration networks make public statements on the importance of One CGIAR and Asian mega-deltas and engage with the Initiative to design climate adaptation-oriented policies and projects, and investment plans with the nominal value of at least US$1.8. billion are developed.


              Projected impacts and benefits include:



              Around 4.8 million people benefit from climate adaptation through use of digital climate advisory services, improved agronomic practices and income gains derived from use of these innovations. 


              Around 1.24 million people in Asian mega-deltas are anticipated to benefit from improved nutrition both directly and indirectly, including via nutrition-sensitive policies and interventions, as well as higher incomes and averted losses due to enhanced agricultural performance, adoption of digital climate advisory services, and more inclusive cross-sectoral governance. 


              Climate-smart agricultural practices, bundled services, and nutrition-sensitive interventions will contribute to poverty reduction by boosting farm incomes and employment for around 14.3 million people, 1.7 million of whom were previously living below the poverty line. Poverty will also be reduced via the impacts of improved natural resource governance. 


              Around 4.7 million women benefit as members of smallholder households gaining income from improved farming practices, as participants in nutrition-sensitive agricultural interventions, as users of digital climate advisory services and as users of natural resources under improved governance. 


              Fine-scale land suitability assessment will identify diverse agri-production options to address soil health, biodiversity and ecosystem services across Asian mega-deltas, improving outcomes for management, environmental health and biodiversity over 2.6 million hectares of land. 


              For more details, view the Initiative proposal


              Header photo: A farmer tends to her maize crop, an example of recession agriculture on the floodplains of the Tonle Sap at Phat Sanday, Cambodia. Photo by N. Palmer/IWMI.