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“How will we grow an adequate quantity—and quality—of food to feed and nourish a rapidly growing, urbanizing world in the face of increasing water insecurity?” This was the primary problem considered by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs at the 2019 Global Food Security Symposium in Washington DC last week. This year’s symposium, ‘From Scarcity to Security: Managing Water for a Nutritious Food Future’ saw the release of a 149-page report by the Council and focus on three central topics: the nature of the threat to water security; strategies to enhance water, food, and nutrition security; and ensuring that water solutions reach smallholder farmers. Continue reading
This week, The Chicago Council on Global Affairs has released the new report: ‘From Scarcity to Security: Managing Water for a Nutritious Food Future’. With more than a third of all people on Earth – approximately 2.4 billion – living in water-scarce conditions, water management is already a priority. Yet the present situation pales in comparison to the worst-case scenario of the coming decades, according to the report authors.
With the global population expected to reach 9.8 billion people by the middle of the century, and with climate change anticipated to destabilize weather patterns in the coming years, the world faces a dual crisis of booming demand and a less predictable supply of water. The report highlights that over one-half of the world’s population could be at risk due to water stress in 2050.
Agriculture is responsible for 71 per cent of global water consumption, and the report cites that that water consumption for farming will increase by 21 per cent by 2050. Farmers will have to increasingly compete with industrial and domestic water demand, with 70 per cent of 2050’s population residing in rapidly growing urban areas which will increasingly demand more diverse and ‘western’ diets that place further demand on water supply. However, both climate change and the over-extraction of groundwater will mean that the supply of this water risks being ever more precarious in the coming decades.
In order to safeguard water resources for farmers and protect their harvests for coming generations, the report highlights several strategies to enhance water security, including: improving governance and institutions for effective water management, incentivising efficient water use through effective water policies, increasing water productivity through investment in agricultural research, development, and technology, shifting diets and diversifying agriculture to reduce demand for water and improve nutrition, and increase the managed water supply and expand irrigated areas.
Many of the report’s strategies emphasise the role of policymakers in changing the institutional and incentive structures for producers and consumers, but there is a great deal that can be done on the ground.
For example, increasing water productivity through agricultural research requires not just investment and incentives from governments, but initiative and action from farmers themselves to enact economic and cultural change, the report details. Concrete steps to increase water productivity include optimizing the efficiency and quality of livestock diets, adopting water-saving irrigation methods and systems, capturing more rainwater and using it more efficiently, and using advanced crop-management techniques enabled by new technology. Furthermore, research initiatives in plant breeding, agronomic and soil management, reducing post harvest losses, and mitigating pollution can allow existing water resources to feed more people.
Increasing the amount of irrigated area, so as to allow greater agricultural productivity than ever before, and increase the resilience of smallholders in the face of climate change is already working. This is especially important for smallholder farmers, who are the least likely to use irrigation methods. As smallholders tend to live in the regions facing the greatest increase in demand for food and the most water insecurity from climate change, it is paramount that innovations in irrigation reach this set of farmers. Thus, a major emphasis of the report is strategies to ensure that these water solutions reach smallholders.
Key means which are set out to ensure this include creating a conducive policy environment, introducing affordable technologies and precision agriculture solutions, expanding financial access, improving the value chain, expanding infrastructure, emboldening institutions to support irrigation management, investing in research and extension services, and building access to assets for women.
“The stakes are high for protecting our water resources, as increasing scarcity threatens to undermine the progress that has been made on global food and nutrition security,” argues managing director of the global food and agriculture program at the Council, Alesha Black, “Failure to treat water as a strategic, valuable and limited resource will accelerate water insecurity, even for historically water-secure populations, and it may threaten the economic and political security of nations, including the United States.”
Featured photo credits: REUTERS Mohamed al-Sayaghi / Anuwar Hazarika
In this guest post, Sithembile Ndema Mwamakamba, Programme Manager at FANRPAN and Farming First steering committee member, shares steps for helping African youth to realize their potential to transform the continent’s food systems. This post originally appeared on the Chicago Council’s Global Food for Thought blog.
There are more young people in the world than ever before.
1.8 billion young people between the ages of 10 and 24, according to UN estimates. For some, this presents an unprecedented potential for economic and social progress. For Africa, however, the world’s youngest region and home to over 200 million young people, this could easily be a ticking time bomb.
According to the 2016 Africa Agriculture Status Report, the region’s rapid population growth is due to rising life expectancy, declines in death rates, particularly of children, and more recently to lower fertility rates, especially among educated urban women. While child mortality rates have declined, fertility rates have remained high, leading to the “youth bulge” that the region is now experiencing.
Youth unemployment, vulnerable employment and working poverty levels in Africa are at an all-time high, with little signs of potential recovery, according to the ILO’s World Employment and Social Outlook (2016). Youth employment has, therefore, become an important policy priority in most countries. There is great interest to identify sources of productive employment and effective strategies to promote job creation and economic growth in Africa.
The agriculture sector in Africa holds tremendous promise for catalyzing growth and creating employment opportunities for the world’s largest youth population. The importance of the agricultural sector as an employer, is likely to grow with continued transformation of food systems and growth in domestic demand for food. African leaders have committed to create job opportunities for at least 30% of the youth in agricultural value chains by 2025.
But this will not happen overnight. Young people wanting to break into the agriculture sector face several challenges that undermine their economic potential and ability to influence existing policy processes. Studies conducted by FANRPAN in 12 East and Southern African countries found that many young people are unable to fulfil their potential because they face constraints in gaining access to land, credit, training, new technologies.
African youth want to engage in policy
Policy makers generally view young people as passive recipients of support, rather than active agents capable of solving problems. As such, they are rarely included in decision-making and policy processes. Currently very few youths understand how policies are made and how they can engage and use their experiences to contribute to evidence-based policies that address their challenges.
Young people are keen to participate in the decisions and policies that impact their lives and can give practical, valuable advice on how to make youth and employment policies and programs more impactful. A growing body of research from development experts, including the MasterCard Foundation’s 2015-2016 Youth Think Tank Report, confirms that young people want to be engaged at different levels of decision-making on issues that affect them directly. However, they lack the skills and know-how of how to engage effectively once they have access to these channels of decision making.
The MasterCard Foundation recognizes that these challenges can only be addressed if those most affected by the problems are equipped with solutions. They have partnered with FANRPAN to demystify the notion that policy development should be left to government alone. FANRPAN is documenting a policy engagement model that will help young people understand the policy cycle.
Involving the private sector
There are other initiatives focusing on youth in agriculture at regional level in Africa. Of note is the Empowering Novel Agri-Business – Led Employment (ENABLE) youth program being championed by the African Development Bank (AfDB) and the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), with support from prominent African private sector players, Aliko Dangote and Tony Elumelu. The program is targeting to help young graduates establish 300,000 agribusinesses in the process create 1.5 Million Jobs for Youth ln the next 5 years. Similarly, the Young Professionals for Young Professionals for Agricultural Development (YPARD), an international movement that supports young professionals realize their full potential and contribute proactively towards innovative agricultural transformation.
Sindiso Ngwenya, the Secretary General of the Common Market for East and Southern Africa (COMESA), believes young people will indeed lead the transformation that the continent so desperately needs, for the simple reason that young people are fearless, and not afraid to try new things and even fail at them. Speaking at the Africa 2017 Forum in December, he stressed that for Africa to be part of the 4th Industrial revolution, policy makers and governments should look to the youth of the continent as they are the ones that are already leading the transformation.
Last year, I met three very impressive young people who are at the forefront of transforming the agriculture sector.
Salif Romano Niang put his PhD studies at Purdue University on hold in 2011 to launch Malô, a Mali-based social enterprise that enhances food security by milling, fortifying, and selling rice grown by smallholder farmers in West Africa under the brand name Supermalô. His vision is to turn Supermalô into the Uncle Ben’s of Africa—providing everyone with access to affordable and nutritious rice.
Emma Naluyima, is a smallholder pig farmer and private veterinarian focusing on clinical medicine and herd health. She has helped improve the genetics of dairy herds in Uganda through artificial insemination. She also runs the MST Junior Academy, a school she started to educate children about innovative farming techniques.
Lilian Uwintwali is the founder and CEO of MAHWI TECH Ltd. Her firm provides m-lima, an online and mobile-based platform that links over 10,000 farmers in Rwanda to markets, banks, insurance companies and extension services. Lilian was recently appointed Board Secretary of the Panafrican EYE (Emerging Young Entrepreneur), inspiring a generational shift in the African Agribusiness industry through improved access to technology, innovation, mentorship and finance.
These are just but a few young Africans who are doing their bit to transform the African agriculture landscape. It is time that policy discussions move from how governments should engage youth in agriculture to how youth can be supported to be drivers of agricultural transformation.
Farming First is proud to be a media partner for the Chicago Council’s Global Food Security Symposium 2018. For more information on the conference, click here.
Featured image credit: G. Smith / CIAT
Roger Thurow has written a book that explains why the first 1,000 days of a child’s life is so critical for their health, and by extension, their communities and economies. Here’s how he thinks this knowledge can be harnessed to end malnutrition.
Filmed as part of Farming First’s #SDG2countdown campaign, exploring SDG2.2 on ending malnutrition.
Music: Ben Sounds
When people think of malnutrition, many think only of the distended bellies of the protein deficient children in sub-Saharan Africa. It is easy to forget that malnutrition comes in many forms, has many manifestations and knows no boundaries, race or gender.
The First 1,000 Days by Roger Thurow is the story of four mothers in the four corners of the world, and their plight to ensure their babies get the correct nutrients for a happy and healthy life. But it is also a snapshot of the hidden hunger haunting childhoods and limiting adults from reaching their full potential all over the world.