This week, from 1 – 6 September, world leaders, NGOs and businesses will gather in Stockholm to discuss the future of water security at World Water Week.
Taking place during the UN’s International year of Water Cooperation the week will focus on ‘Cooperation for a Water Wise World’, which will include discussions on international cooperation, sanitation and community ownership of water.
Issues relating to water scarcity have been moving up the development agenda in recent years as more pressure has been placed on this resource than ever before. World Water Week will occur just under a month after World ‘Overshoot Day’, a day that marks the moment when the world has officially consumed more natural resources than the biosphere can replace this year. ‘Overshoot Day’ has been reached two days earlier than last year, demonstrating the increasing pressure on the world’s resources.
As the world works to achieve sustainable development, cooperation between sectors is essential to address the unprecedented pressures on natural resources.
The Importance of Agriculture in Achieving Water Security
The agriculture sector uses 70% of the world’s water – more than any other industry. As we look to feed a world of nine billion people by 2050 our demand for food – and water – is an interrelated, global challenge. Therefore there can be no solution for water security without agriculture.
Moreover, increased water scarcity is expected to lead to a decline in food production, harming many major crops throughout the world. For example the production of irrigated rice could fall by as much as 27%, rainfed wheat by as much as 25% and rainfed maize by 15%.
Gaining Momentum – Agriculture Acknowledged at World Water Week 2012
Last year the overarching theme of World Water Week was ‘Water and Food Security’, which looked at the close connections between the agriculture sector and water use, suggesting that a sustainable solution would only be achieved if both elements were considered.
A central discussion point of the week was the water-food-energy nexus and the need for holistic solutions to tackle some of the world’s biggest challenges. Food production uses a vast amount of the world’s water and energy resources but at the same time decreasing water and energy resources are having a dramatic impact on food security.
One of the major conclusions of the event was the need to produce ‘more with less’, increasing agriculture productivity using fewer resources. The conclusive report from the event states:
“Sustainable intensification of agriculture is critical to meet present and future food demand and will require effective action across a number of strategic areas. Maximising energy efficiency, improving irrigation productivity and expanding the safe re-use of water and nutrient resources are clearly needed to achieve this goal.”
The recognition of agriculture in providing solutions to water security at last year’s event was welcomed by Farming First, as agriculture holds a unique position both as a challenge and a solution to some of the world’s most pressing issues.
World Water Week 2013 – What role can agriculture play?
2.6 billion people still lack improved sanitation and just under one billion go to bed hungry every day. These two devastating statistics can be overcome if cooperation between water and agriculture policies can be achieved.
Farming First hopes that World Water Week 2013 will build on the promising discussions from last year on the water-food-energy nexus and acknowledge the agriculture sector as a key player in water security solutions.
The 2013 World Water Week report, released on 19 August, is a positive start to this year’s event, with agriculture being recognised throughout as vital “to achieve both food security and green growth objectives”.
The report suggests that this year’s theme of cooperation will look at the need to link stakeholders from water, food and energy sectors, stating:
“With renewed global focus on the ‘green economy’, and the challenge of meeting the sharply increasing food and energy demands, the need to address water, energy and food security as a particularly important ‘nexus’ has been highlighted. This calls for increased cooperation between these fields, with an ecosystems services perspective, sharing water benefits, costs and risks, and cooperating with the stakeholders concerned.”
Farming First hopes that uniting all these sectors to achieve water security next month will help to build substantial partnerships between key water and agriculture stakeholders, with sustainable agriculture being seen as a central solution to achieving water security.
Read the 2013 report here
To read more about World Water Week 2012 read Farming First’s highlights blog
Members of the Farming First coalition believe that:
- Water is a precious resource so improving its use is essential.
- Adopting proven sustainable agricultural practices reduces water use per bushel.
- Research, innovation, and access to improved technologies, seeds, and improved irrigation techniques are essential to increasing the efficiency of water use.
- Agriculture needs to be part of watershed management.