Over two thousand politicians, CEOs, scientists and leaders of international organisations have descended on Stockholm for World Water Week, the annual knowledge-sharing event hosted by the Stockholm International Water Institute. The theme of this year’s conference is “Water and Food Security”.
The week opened with a global call to action to reduce food waste as a means to preserve water. At the opening session, global leaders called for substantial increases in public and private sector investment to reduce losses of food in the supply chain, enhance water efficiency in agriculture and curb consumer waste.
Speaking at the opening session, Torgny Holmgren, Executive Director of the Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI) said:
More than one-fourth of all the water we use worldwide is taken to grow over one billion tons of food that nobody eats. That water, together with the billions of dollars spent to grow, ship, package and purchase the food, is sent down the drain. Reducing the waste of food is the smartest and most direct route to relieve pressure on water and land resources. It’s an opportunity we cannot afford to overlook.
Over 100 sessions are scheduled to take place throughout the week, where convening experts will debate and showcase solutions to ensure that the world’s limited water resources can meet the needs of growing economies and support a healthy global population.
José Graziano da Silva, Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), urged that agriculture has the potential to be an important part of the solution to achieving water security:
The numbers show that agriculture is a thirsty activity. But that also means that agriculture holds the key to sustainable water use. Investment in smallholder farmers is critical to achieve food and water security for all people.
Last week the Stockholm International Water Institute released a report: “Feeding a thirsty world: Challenges and opportunities for a water and food secure future”. Authored by a dozen experts from SIWI, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the International Water Management Institute (IWMI), the report provides new evidence that shows how continuing current trends in food production could lead to increased shortages and intense competition for scarce water resources in many regions across the world.
Globally, 900 million people are hungry and two billion more people are under nourished. With 70 percent of all water withdrawals used in agriculture, growing more food to feed an additional 2 billion people by 2050 will place greater pressure on available water and land. These statistics speak for themselves and the solution is not simple and has many facets. As the report says:
Addressing the challenges related to “water and food security”, through the entire chain from production to beneficial use and waste, calls for focus on a wide range of technical, economic, financial, institutional, governance and political issues, with the “triple bottom line” of economic development, social equity and environmental sustainability guiding us.
Get involved with World Water Week and watch the live webcast.
Read more about applying the Farming First principles to increase water use efficiency.