Agricultural water innovations in the tropics – AgWIT

This project seeks to contribute to agricultural resilience to climate change in Costa Rica and Brazil by developing more sustainable soil and water management strategies. Using integrated modelling techniques, the researchers will test the impact of biochar additions on crop yields, water retention, and soil amendment of irrigated and rain-fed tropical agricultural systems. Biochar is charcoal produced from plant matter that can be used for a range of applications as an agent for soil improvement, improved resource use efficiency, remediation and/or protection against particular environmental pollution, and as an avenue for greenhouse gas mitigation.

By the end of its 36 months, the project is expected to have developed a unique dataset of crop and water responses to biochar amendments as well as irrigation strategies of interest to producers and other water management decision-makers. The new recommendations will be made available to the farmers through training, and the results will be transmitted through participatory workshops. Ultimately, the project will enable small- to medium-scale producers in Brazil and Costa Rica to improve their competitiveness while also providing crucial information needed for manufacturers to compute product environmental footprints.

AgWIT is a partnership project funded and operated by several donors and implementing partners. It includes researchers from Canada (lead is the University of British Columbia), Brazil (Instituto de Pesquisa Ambiental a Amazônia, IPAM), Costa Rica (Universidad Nacional de Costa Rica, UNA), Germany (Max Plank Institute for Biochemistry), Denmark (Technical University of Denmark), Sweden (Stockholm University), and Taiwan (National Taiwan University).

The project was selected following a peer-reviewed process and was approved for funding through the research competition of the Water JPI (Joint Programming Initiative) in the framework of the European Research Area (ERANET) Cofund WaterWorks2015. The Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada will support the Canadian team, and IDRC will support the participants from Brazil and Costa Rica. The other institutions will receive funding from BMEL (Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture, Germany), FORMAS (Swedish Research Council), Innovation Fund Denmark, and MOST (Ministry of Science and Technology, Taiwan).

Project ID


Project status



36 months

IDRC Officer

Melanie Robertson

Total funding

CA$ 141,700


Brazil, Costa Rica


Climate Change

Project Leader

Paulo Brando


Instituto de Pesquisa Ambiental Da Amazonia

Institution Country


Institution Website

Project Leader

Andrea Suarez Serrano


Universidad Nacional

Institution Country

Costa Rica

Institution Website