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Managing Water for Climate Smart Agriculture in South Asia

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About the Program

About the Program

Hosted by the Visiting International Professional Program (VIPP), and sponsored by USDA-FAS, the Managing Water for Climate Smart Agriculture in South Asia Program (MW-CSA-SA) brings research Fellows from South Asia to Michigan State University for a 12-week research residency fellowship program in the fall of 2023. The program's goal is to develop the Fellows’ research capacity in climate-smart agriculture (CSA), with a focus on managing water for agricultural food productivity while curbing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to help mitigate the impacts of climate change.

The program utilizes Michigan State University's world-leading research expertise in water and related areas, including food and energy. A faculty team from diverse academic, professional, and cultural backgrounds offers multi-disciplinary expertise and real-life experiences in the study of environment and climate change.

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Fellowship Program Objectives

  • Support South Asia to establish climate smart agriculture (CSA) to help guide actions to transform agri-food systems towards green and climate resilient practices, by training young scientists in the latest CSA approaches to enhance productivity, curb greenhouse gas emissions, improve soil health, enhance carbon sequestration, and explore other practices that help to mitigate the impacts of climate change in South Asia.
  • Equip the fellows with needed technical and managerial skills in leading their communities to increase climate resiliency, particularly in addressing the bottleneck problems in South Asia, water availability, stability, and accessibility in agriculture systems.
  • Train the fellows on leadership and science communication to empower them to advocate for sound policy to peers, decision-makers, and the general public.
  • Facilitate the development of the strategic goals and objectives of USDA, individual fellows, the host institutions, and promoting science-based agendas in a “real-world” environment and creating direct impacts on international trade, food security, and economic growth under climate challenges.
  • Create an opportunity to establish collaborations with and gain insights from relevant stakeholders, including the U.S. regulatory agencies and the Office of the United States Trade Representative.

Length of Fellowship

All selected fellows will form a cohort to work together during the 12-week Fellowship to enhance their research communication, policy advocacy, and leadership skills. In addition, each Fellow will be assigned an MSU mentor who will guide the fellow’s research and training. All program proposals must include goals that are achievable within that timeframe. The MSU mentor will visit the fellow’s home institution within six months to one year after the conclusion of the U.S. portion of the Fellowship.


The Fellowship is fully funded with all expenses paid including international and domestic travel to the U.S., J-1 visiting scholar visa application fee, health insurance in the U.S., lodging, and per diem. The Fellowship does not pay for salary or fringe benefits, nor does it pay any personal expenses.


For more information about the MW-CSA-SA Fellowship Program, please contact:

Visiting International Professional Program (VIPP)
International Studies and Programs
Michigan State University
Wonders Hall
891 Birch Rd, Room N44
East Lansing, MI 48825



Meet the Fellows

Meet the Fellows

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Professor Bibhuti Ojha, Nepal

Project: Mitigating the impacts of climate change while enhancing agricultural productivity and resilience

MSU Mentor: Dr. Mywish Maredia, professor of Development Economics in the Department of Agricultural, Food, and Resource Economics, and Interim Co-Director of the department’s Food Security Group

Bibhuti Ojha, an Associate Professor at Nepal Engineering College-Nepal, is teaching water resources related subjects (Irrigation, Water Supply, Environmental Impact Assessment and Sanitary Engineering) for undergraduate civil engineering students since 2013. She earned a Master of Engineering degree from AIT-Thailand in 2013 and BE-Civil from Nepal in 2007. Apart from academic involvement, during her career, she has honed her expertise by engaging in various projects such as irrigation system design, water supply and sanitary design, construction site supervision and municipal sewerage system design projects. Professor Ojha is also active as a researcher and her research works are focused on sustainable sanitation, economic water allocation among competing users and sustainable waste management using Life Cycle Assessment and Multi Criterion Decision Making process. Professor Ojha is selected for MSU VIPP as a Fellow on USDA FAS sponsored program for 2023. The three-month fellowship program is focused on managing water for Climate Smart Agriculture for South Asia. In this program, her work will be focused on the economic value of water, Climate Smart Agriculture and Life Cycle assessment, aimed at mitigating the impacts of climate change while enhancing agricultural productivity and resilience.


Dr. Haroon.jpgDr. Muhammad Haroon U Rashid, Pakistan

Project: Enhancing carbon sequestration to mitigate climate change by optimizing phosphorus levels in different clones of Populus deltoides under arid/semi-arid conditions

MSU Mentor: Dr. David SkoleProfessor, Global Ecology, Climate Change, Earth Observations, Department of Forestry

I am Dr. Muhammad Haroon U Rashid currently working as an Assistant Professor at the Department of Forestry and Range Management, University of Agriculture, Faisalabad (UAF), Pakistan. I earned my Ph.D. from Fujian Agriculture and Forestry University, China. My research areas are forest cultivation, forest ecology, and silviculture practices. My academic voyage sculpted the understanding of these remarkable habitats, unraveling their delicate interplay of flora, fauna, and environment. Other than academics I have a co-curricular background and received a Gold Medal and University Color Award as well from the University of Agriculture Faisalabad and serving as the Associate Senior Tutor for enhancing the student’s personal development activities under the Office of the Senior Tutor, UAF. I also bagged a Silver Award in Action Project Competition from National Taiwan University, Taiwan. Currently, I am also serving as a Focal Person of the Green Youth Movement Club, a Project of the Higher Education Commission of Pakistan that extends my expertise in ecosystem dynamics, biodiversity conservation, and sustainable resource management. As a forest ecologist, I believe that understanding and respecting the rhythms of the forest is paramount in creating a harmonious coexistence between humanity and the natural world.


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Dr. Nani Maiya Sujakhu, Nepal

Project: Building farming communities resilient to climate change through water resource management in Nepal 

 MSU Mentor: Dr. Wei Liao, professor and director of the Anaerobic Digestion Research and Education Center in the Department of Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering

 Dr. Nani Maiya Sujakhu is a dedicated climate change researcher with a strong commitment to unraveling the vulnerabilities faced by mountain farming communities. Holding a Ph.D. in Natural Science from the prestigious Kunming Institute of Botany, University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, she brings over a decade of experience in research and development to her work. Her expertise lies in livelihood vulnerability assessment, providing a holistic understanding of climate change's impact, particularly on extreme events and their adaptation strategies. Dr. Sujakhu's research interests include exploring the gender dimensions of climate change and adaptive measures, water resource management for climate-smart and sustainable agriculture, integrating indigenous knowledge with climate change adaptation strategies, and conducting climate analogue analysis and assessing crop yield potential.


Dr. Mahmud.jpgDr. Mir Nurul Hasan Mahmud, Bangladesh

Project: Precision of water usage through sensor and internet of things based smart irrigation technologies and practices in rice cultivation for sustainable water resources management in two regions of Bangladesh.

I am a Senior Scientist at the Bangladesh Rice Research Institute, specializing in irrigation and water management. I obtained my PhD from Murdoch University, Australia. The research I conducted relates to groundwater recharge enhancement from rain through minimum soil disturbance crop establishment practices. With a focus on optimizing rice production, my research centers on efficient water use to enhance crop productivity. I explore the relationship between soil properties, water infiltration, root zone soil water balance, and utilization efficiency, striving to balance agricultural output with environmental sustainability. Modernizing water-saving techniques and precision irrigation are key aspects of my work, particularly in adopting sensors and IoT for advanced irrigation methods like alternate wetting and drying, and sprinkler irrigation system. I am also investigating efficient irrigation water conveyance techniques in rice fields. Over a decade, I've monitored river and canal water salinity to enable effective surface water resource management for crop production in the southern coastal region of Bangladesh. My expertise extends to bridging research with practice, as I've actively engaged in extension work, disseminating water-saving and surface water management techniques to farmers. By integrating cutting-edge technology, sustainable practices, and effective dissemination, I contribute to the progress of agricultural innovation and resource management.


Sujeet.JPGDr. Sujeet Desai, India

Project: Flood susceptibility modelling in a coastal river basin using geospatial techniques and machine learning models under changing climate

Dr. Sujeet Desai is working as a scientist in the discipline of Land and Water Management Engineering at ICAR-Central Coastal Agricultural Research Institute, Goa, India. Dr. Desai earned his Masters and Ph.D. in Soil and Water Conservation Engineering from ICAR- Indian Agricultural Research Institute, New Delhi. Dr. Sujeet Desai has received national fellowships, the National Society Award, and the Team Award. His research interests include Soil and water conservation, Hydrological modelling under climate change and Watershed hydrology. He is primarily focused in studies on the sustainable management of land and water resources of the coastal region. Dr. Desai has participated in International and National conferences and has been awarded best paper and poster awards. He is currently handling a multi-disciplinary and mega project on watershed development sponsored by the Govt. of India. He has more than 7 years of experience in research, training and extension in the field of land and water management. Apart from research, Dr. Desai is also involved in the outreach programs related to water management. He has demonstrated the rain water harvesting ponds with gravity-based micro-irrigation system models at different locations in the farmer’s field on the hill slopes.


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Dr. Prasad Neelawala, Sri Lanka

Project: Adaptation of renewable energy for dry zone, mid country, and hill country agriculture practices in Sri Lanka.

MSU Mentor: Dr. Raju Pokharel, Assistant Professor, Forest Resource Economics, Department of Forestry

Dr. Prasad Neelawala is a Senior Lecturer in the Faculty of Animal Science and Export Agriculture, Uva Wellassa University of Sri Lanka. He has completed the BSc in Agriculture at the University of Peradeniya Sri Lanka and the PhD in Environmental Economics at Queensland University of Technology, Australia. He was also involved in consultations and as an advisor to several government institutes in Sri Lanka. Further, as a senior lecturer, he has educated and empowered key resource personnel in Sri Lanka related to environmental sustainability both in the public and private sectors. Dr. Neelawala has more than ten years of experience in theoretical and practical applications of environmental valuation, emission control through market-based instruments and agriculture-related environmental impacts. His research expertise spans over spatial analysis of geoeconomic impacts of environmental externalities, integration of renewable energy into agriculture practices, impacts of major development projects on the environment and sustainable agriculture practices in rural Sri Lanka.


Farzana.jpgMs. Farzana Akter, Bangladesh

Project: Waste water recycling with the use of algae

MSU Mentor: Dr. Younsuk Dong, Assistant Professor and Extension Specialist, Biosystems & Agricultural Engineering (BAE)

I am Farzana Akter, a scientist at the Irrigation and Water Management Division of the Bangladesh Agricultural Research Institute (BARI) in Bangladesh. I have been working in this institute since 2012. My main responsibility in this position is centred around advancing water management technologies. These technologies include enhancing water use efficiency both in the presence and absence of water stress, exploring mulching systems, utilization of saline water and wastewater for irrigation while assessing their impact on plants and soil. Additionally, I am engaged in tackling groundwater depletion and executing integrated water management strategies to bolster resilience against the influences of climate change on agriculture and water resources. I hold a Master's in Irrigation and Water Management (2010) and a Bachelor's in Agricultural Engineering (2008) from Bangladesh Agricultural University, Bangladesh. As a participant in this fellowship program, I intend to scrutinize advanced recycling techniques that not only extract wastewater suitable for irrigation but also enhance its nutrient content, thereby facilitating the nourishment of crops. Additionally, I seek to analyse the integration of decentralized water treatment systems within agricultural landscapes, fostering a cyclical relationship between water use and cultivation that ameliorates stress on freshwater sources.


Bim.jpgDr. Bim Prasad Shrestha, Nepal

MSU Mentor: Dr. Yadu Pokhrel, Associate Professor, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering

Professor Bim Prasad Shrestha, PhD is currently Professor at School of Engineering, Kathmandu University. He has also been serving as Affiliate Professor in the Department of Bioengineering at University of Washington Seattle since October, 2021. He started his career as a lecturer at Tribhuvan University upon completion of his Bachelor’s degree in Agricultural Engineering from Kerala Agricultural University India under USAID Scholarship and subsequently his interest grew in agricultural mechanization and life science and environment conservation eventually Bio systems engineering.

Professor Shrestha completed his Masters in agricultural mechanization at the University of Miyazaki in Japan and PhD from Kagoshima University, Japan in Science of Life Environment and Conservation majoring in Agricultural Engineering both under Japanese Government Scholarship followed by postdoc at Michigan State University, USA under USDA program in Bio-Systems Engineering in 2004. His research areas are automation, agriculture and rural development focusing on energy sector, image processing and spectral analysis, sanitation, etc. Apart from teaching and research responsibilities, he is actively involved in developing collaboration and linkages with national and international Universities and agencies. He has led projects with the World Bank, KOICA, JICA, JST, JASSO, IFS, DANIDA, EU, US Embassy/ Department of State, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Professor Shrestha is married to Anina Rajbhandari and blessed with a son Abhi Shrestha currently studying at Thammasat University in Bangkok and a daughter Aneeva Shrestha. Prof Shrestha is fluent and converses well in Nepal Bhasa, Nepali, Hindi, Japanese and English languages.

Research Workshop Series

Research Workshop Series

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 In support of the fellows' research and program at MSU, VIPP is hosting a series of workshops featuring multi-disciplinary experts in the study of environment and climate change. The workshops are open to all in the MSU community.

Download the Research Workshop Series Flyer (PDF).

Friday, September 22: Human-Centered Design for Climate Smart Innovation

Dr. Hashini Galhena

2:00 pm - 6:00 pm
Location: ISP 303

Session 1 Flyer (PDF)

Friday, October 6: Panel Discussion with Climate Change Engaged Scholars

Dr. David Skole, Dr. Pouyan Nejadhashem, Dr. Dave Tschirley

2:30 pm - 3:30 pm
Location: BCCPV M036

Session 2 Flyer (PDF)

Friday, October 13: Addressing Water and Food Security

Dr. Joan Rose

2:30 pm - 3:30 pm
Location: BCCPV M036

Session 3 Flyer (PDF)

Friday, October 27: Dr. Verghese Kurien Memorial Lecture

Dr. Himanshu Pathak

Location: MPS 1200 (Dinner to Follow)

Friday, November 3: South Asia Partnership Networking Event

Dr. Sejuti Gupta

4:30 pm - 6:00 pm
Location: Food Safety Building 1621 (Dinner to Follow)

Monday, November 6: Reimagining Solutions to Address Emerging Contaminants in Recycled Irrigation Water

Dr. Amy Sapkota, Maryland Institute for Applied Environmental Health

2:00 pm - 3:30 pm
Location: ISP 303

Friday, November 17: Forest Value Chain

Dr. Bishnu Chandra Poudel in collaboration with Asian Studies Center and Asia Hub

Event Flyer

2:00 pm - 3:00 pm
Location: STEM Building 2130, followed by guided STEM Building tour and carbon storage discussion with Sandra Lupien, Director of Mass Timber at MSU



The Earth's climate has been changing at a rate unprecedented in modern civilization, primarily due to human activities such as greenhouse gas emissions. The impacts of climate change can be felt around the globe through the changes in weather patterns, resulting in more frequent catastrophic events, including heatwaves, floods, droughts, and other hazards such as the ones in Pakistan last year. Such changes in climate can significantly impact humans and the environment, creating challenges in water resources, agriculture and food security, energy production, transportation, migration and infrastructure, biodiversity and environmental and human health, and many other systems. These challenges are often intertwined with social, cultural, and geopolitical structures, adding complexity to the climate change crisis. These challenges are particularly prevalent in South Asia, making the region one of the most vulnerable regions in the world to climate disasters.

Lack of advanced technologies in irrigation, insufficient data and information for effective water management, poor communications to coordinate water resources distribution, limited technology transfer programs for efficient water uses, and lack of specific water related policies add to the difficulty of mitigating these negative climate impacts in the region. Recognizing the important role of water in mitigating climate impacts, building the capacity around water resources management in climate smart agriculture (CSA) is a viable solution to meet the climate change related challenges. Further, it is crucial to recognize that managing water resources in SA to alleviate climate change requires a multidisciplinary and holistic CSA approach, including ways and means to overcome the gender gap.

Program Framework

Program Framework & Components

MW-CSA-SA's Knowledge-Technology-Management framework is specifically designed to equip the selected Fellows with needed technical and managerial skills in leading their communities to increase climate resiliency, particularly in addressing the bottleneck problem in SA, water availability, stability, and accessibility of agriculture systems. The overall expected outcomes of the research fellowship include building Fellows’ capacities in coping with climate induced challenges by improving the Fellows’ understanding of key knowledge, their proficiency with advanced technologies, and ability to adopt holistic management strategies in CSA.

Program Themes

The general program topic, Water Management, was designed at MSU with three thematic research areas: Managing water for; 1) Enhanced and healthy food security, 2) Alternative green energy to reduce emissions, and 3) Enhanced resilience through gender equity and viable economic trading.

1) Enhanced and healthy food security

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  • Wastewater recycling & harvesting methods and techniques.
  • Smart irrigation technologies and practices.
  • Desalinization and soil improvement methods and techniques.
  • Molecular or plant breeding methods and techniques for crop improvement.
  • Geospatial analyses and technologies for flood-prone agricultural areas.
  • Hydrological modeling of climate and glacier bursts for river basin planning purposes.
  • Climate variability assessment methods and modeling.
  • Forest conservation and restoration methods and practices.

2) Alternative green energy to reduce emissions

  • Methods & utilization of alternative energy sources.
  • Green transportation systems.

3) Enhanced resilience through gender equity and viable economic trading

  • Women's role in resilience enhancements & wastewater management.
  • Supply chain research methods for virtual water trading.
  • Advanced, information-based, natural resource management practices.