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Highlights from World Water Week 2013

World Water Week 2013, which took place in Stockholm from 1-6 September, ended with a call to action for the UN to consider water when establishing the Post-2015 Sustainable Development goals.

This year’s event took place during the UN’s International Year of Water Cooperation, adding extra emphasis on the need for all countries, organisations and industries to collaborate to find realistic and effective solutions for global water security.

The closing Stockholm Statement outlined three suggested goals that the UN should consider to for the post-2015 agenda, these included:

–  Doubling of global water productivity: Through stronger and smarter incentives for water use and innovative governance, it is possible to globally double the value from each litre of water used.

A realisation of the human right to safe drinking water and sanitation: The need for global policies to recognise access to safe drinking water as a basic human right.

Increased resilience to water related disasters: Wise water management, building on ecosystem-based approaches, is a prerequisite for securing resilience. Integrating water resource management at all levels in the planning, building and governing of our societies will save lives, livelihoods and assets.

Water, Agriculture and Sustainable Irrigation 

Integrating water management into all levels of society is particularly important for agriculture, as this will help to underline the use of water in farming, which currently uses 70% of the world’s water resources.

This relationship between water and agriculture was highlighted in a recent Guardian Development discussion on how irrigation methods can be made more efficient and sustainable.

The panel included Rajendra Uperty, agriculture office at the Ministry of Agriculture Development in Nepal; Richard Munang, Africa regional climate change coordinator for the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and Julien Hardelin, agricultural policy analyst for the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

Uperty commented that:  “Improving irrigation efficiency requires technical solutions at the farm-level, but it is also important to establish long-term strategies and create incentives for farmers and other key stakeholders to value the economic, social and environmental value of water systems.”

The panel then moved on to discuss how farmers in developing countries can gain better access to water and what role corporations can play in ensuring irrigation methods are sustainable and don’t deprive the poorest of vital water resources.

Munang offered an interesting example of how farmers in developing countries are using water sustainably, even in the face of serious water shortages:

“Farmers in Burkina Faso have a pioneered a novel method of conserving water on their farms by digging medium-sized holes called zai (water pockets) in rows across their fields during the dry season. Once each zai fills up with leaves, farmers add manure, attracting termites during the dry months, the termites then create a network of underground tunnels beneath the holes and bring up nutrients from the deeper soils. When the rainy season arrives, rainwater is captures in the zais, which are then sown with seeds.

Since beginning this unusual irrigation method farmers have consistently reported increased yields.”

Despite the success of this method in Burkina Faso Hardelin was keen to point out that there is no “one size fits all” solution, and that successful methods need to be adapted to suit different farming methods and environments.

The discussion came to a close with the panel sharing an initiative they felt would have the most impact for sustainable irrigation over the next ten years.

Herdelin suggested that the sustainability of groundwater resources should be a key priority going forward, as groundwater resources “represent a significant share of total agricultural freshwater withdrawals (above 30%)”.

For more information and all comments from the discussion click here

Water Grand Challenge for Development

One of the biggest outcomes from this year’s World Water Week was the launch of the Water Grand Challenge for Development from USAID and Sida. The programme will see $25 million donated to drive sustainable scientific and technological innovations to improve the use of water around the world, particularly in agriculture.

Dr Rajiv Shah, the administrator of USAID, underlined the relationship between water security and agriculture, saying “water scarcity and its impact on food security affects everyone on the planet. By harnessing the expertise and creativity of the world’s brightest innovators we can tackle this critical challenge with new thinking and partnerships”

World Water Week 2014

The theme for discussions at next years World Water Week will focus on the relationship between water and energy, to find out more about next years event and to watch highlights from World Water Week 2014 visit:


IFA Vice-President Mr. Abdulrahman Jawahery on the Post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals

This blog post was written by Mr. Abdulrahman A. Hussain Jawahery President of the Gulf Petrochemical Industries Co (GPIC) and Vice-President for Sustainable Development for the International Fertilizer Industry Association (IFA).

In the aftermath of Rio+20, and bearing the legacy of the Millennium Development Goals, the Sustainable Development Goals aim to generate a multidimensional approach for our global future. This new set of goals has the challenging mission to guide policy-makers, private industry, NGOs, national and regional governments in the measures they devise in the upcoming years; measures that are aimed at bringing about a healthier world, one in which wealth and resources are equitably distributed both between countries and within them, while environmental security and biodiversity are safeguarded.

Public engagement is unprecedented. The response to calls for submitting proposals, providing research and voicing concerns has been immense, aided by social media and modern communication platforms. All this commotion is an encouraging sign. A testament to the collective efforts which everyone – big and small, rich and poor – is making towards an overarching goal: a better and more sustainable future.

I believe that the new goals ought to be aspirational, ambitious, yet realistic. They should inspire all actors to find innovative ways of leading to their accomplishment, while allowing for the achievement of intermediary goals, which constitute check points along the steps to the top of the pyramid. Bearing this in mind, the Farming First coalition is working actively to make sure that agriculture remains at the top of the agenda and proposes two goals relating to agriculture and food security.

The first one is to eradicate hunger and malnutrition by 2025, because it can be done in our lifetime and because the realisation of this goal would have immense repercussions on most other goals aiming at overall economic development. Farmers and rural dwellers tend to make up the poorest fringes of the population worldwide, while at the same time producing the food we eat. By bringing farmers out of poverty we can achieve goals relating to gender equality, education, health, economic opportunities. The Farming First coalition and the fertilizer industry support the Zero Hunger Challenge, which advocates access to food all year round, eliminating stunted growth in children through improving the nutrient quality of food, sustainability across all food systems, increase in smallholder productivity and income and zero food waste or loss.

The second goal we propose is the adoption of sustainable agricultural practices, to plan for the agriculture of the future by raising agricultural productivity while protecting the environment. Countries and farmers will transition to more sustainable practices if their specific circumstances and needs are considered by policy-makers. Special attention should be given to women and to indigenous groups. The Farming First coalition and the fertilizer industry support the concept of sustainable intensification: producing more food per unit of land, while preserving or even enhancing soil quality, using less water and adopting integrated measures to reduce crop deterioration. The solutions will differ by region and by landscape to address the diversity of agricultural systems, farming practices and technologies, as well as benchmarks for balanced diets. In this context, such a transition to sustainable intensification cannot happen if we do not close the efficiency gap between farmers in the developing and the developed countries. Access to quality inputs and the knowledge to use them are essential to close this gap.

Gulf Petrochemicals Industries Co. employees are trained to provide them with skills, competencies and empowerment for their continuous improvement in health, safety and environmental best practices.

Gulf Petrochemicals Industries Co. employees are trained to provide them with skills, competencies and empowerment for their continuous improvement in health, safety and environmental best practices.

As a private sector representative, I can confidently state that returns on investment in sustainability are high and readily quantifiable. They translate into better resource allocation, a lower incidence of accidents and greater overall performance. My company, Gulf Petrochemicals Industries Co. (GPIC) has invested in its employees, its surrounding communities and its natural environment. Ever since becoming President of the company, I have been advocating tirelessly for the adoption of a culture of safety, health and environmental awareness. This is sustained by training our employees and providing them with skills, competencies and empowerment to continuously improve, as they are the key to the success in implanting HSE best practices. As a result, our production site now hosts; a fish farm where 100,000 sea bream fish are released into the deep sea annually to enrich marine life, a bird sanctuary which hosts over 30,000 birds with a record of 78 different species, and a number of gardens specifically made to plant rare indigenous, aromatic and desert plants to form a case study for educating school students on environmental natural presentation.

On-site gardens at Gulf Petrochemicals Industries Co., hosting rare indigenous, aromatic and desert plants to form a case study for educating school students on environmental natural presentation.

On-site fish farm at Gulf Petrochemicals Industries Co., hosting 100,000 sea bream fish that are released into the deep sea annually to enrich marine life.

On-site fish farm at Gulf Petrochemicals Industries Co., hosting 100,000 sea bream fish that are released into the deep sea annually to enrich marine life.

On-site bird sanctuary at Gulf Petrochemicals Industries Co., hosting over 30,000 birds with a record of 78 different species.

On-site bird sanctuary at Gulf Petrochemicals Industries Co., hosting over 30,000 birds with a record of 78 different species.

We have worked extensively with UNEP to demonstrate that industrial development can be carried out in a manner that is respectful to both communities and the environment. In our commitment to mitigate climate change risks, we commissioned the first carbon dioxide recovery plant in the Middle East, in 2010. Our efforts at GPIC have not gone unnoticed. GPIC’s pioneer sustainable development program received recognition from the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) UK, which awarded us the Sir George Earl Trophy. We are also one of only two organizations in the Arabian Gulf region to receive the accolade of the Robert Campbell Award from the US National Safety Council, for achievement in EHS. This not only honors us, it also motivates us to continue to strive to surpass our targets in sustainable development.

Both my professional experience and my personal commitment to sustainable development have strengthened my conviction that private sector involvement is imperative to improving the status quo. Therefore, in the words of UN Secretary General Ban-Ki Moon, I urge all leaders in the corporate world “to deliver value not just financially – but also in social, environmental and ethical terms.”

Let’s not be limited by challenges and difficulties, but be motivated by possibilities!

About the author:

Mr. Abdulrahman A. Hussain JAWAHERY is a Farming First spokesperson. He is President of the Gulf Petrochemical Industries Co (GPIC) and Vice-President for Sustainable Development for the International Fertilizer Industry Association (IFA). Mr. Jawahery is actively involved in the post-2015 and SDG process on behalf of the fertilizer industry. His company, GPIC, is a Methanol, Ammonia and a Nitrogen Fertilizer manufacturer company based in Bahrain with an annual production of 1.5 million tons of Petrochemical and Fertilizer products to supply the world’s farmers. Mr. Jawahery is a Chartered Chemical Engineer with a BSc and an MSc from the UK. An acclaimed environmental champion, he holds numerous positions within renowned scientific and environmental organizations throughout the UK, US and Bahrain.

Placing Agriculture at the Heart of the Sustainable Development Goals Beyond 2015 – Reflections on the High Level Panel Report

As the global community increasingly focuses on the post-2015 development agenda, the recent Report from the High Level Panel on the Post-2015 Development Agenda has underlined the central role that agriculture will play in achieving sustainable development and food and nutrition security.

Established by the UN Secretary General in May 2012, the High Level Panel is mandated with providing recommendations on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to succeed the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The publication of its final report, “A New Global Partnership: Eradicate Poverty and Transform Economies through Sustainable Development” on 30th May 2013, sets out “a universal agenda to eradicate extreme poverty from the face of the earth by 2030, and deliver on the promise of sustainable development”.

In this blog, we offer an overview of key outcomes of this critical High Level Panel Report and Farming First’s response to it, in line with our recently published position paper.

Report from the High Level Panel on the Post-2015 Development Agenda

The Report offers a clear outline of what should be expected for the future of sustainable development, outlining a set of 12 goals and 54 measurable targets. These goals and targets build on the framework set-out by the Millennium Development Goals and go beyond health, education and poverty to focus on areas now seen as central to achieving sustainable development: infrastructure, property rights, governance, personal safety, an end to violence and discrimination, and gender equality.

The Panel agreed that five “transformational shifts” would be needed to achieve these goals:
• Leave No One Behind: end poverty by 2030;
• Putting sustainable development at the core of action – no longer separating the environmental and development agendas;
• Transforming economies for jobs and inclusive growth – putting focus on promoting jobs through business and entrepreneurship, infrastructure, education and skills, and trade;
• Building peace and effective, open and accountable institutions for all through responsive and legitimate institutions;
• Forging a new Global Partnership that is not just about national governments but also includes businesses, community groups, donors, local governments and others, working together to eradicate extreme poverty.

Forging new partnerships is crucial to the effective role of agriculture and achieving sustainable development, with Farming First acting to bring together all stakeholders in the agricultural sector to lay the foundations for future development.

Recognising the role of agriculture

In our key messages for the post-2015 development agenda, Farming First has underlined the importance of agriculture and food and nutrition security as being central to realising the post-2015 agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals.

Farming First is encouraged to see that both the specific goals detailed in the Report and the transitional shifts underline the key role of agriculture in achieving Goal 5: Ensure Food Security and Good Nutrition, with specific targets:

• 5a. End hunger and protect the right of everyone to have access to sufficient, safe, affordable, and nutritious food
• 5b. Reduce stunting by x%, wasting by y%, and anemia by z% for all children under five
• 5c. Increase agricultural productivity by x%, with a focus on sustainably increasing smallholder yields and access to irrigation
• 5d. Adopt sustainable agricultural, ocean and freshwater fishery practices and rebuild designated fish stocks to sustainable levels
• 5e. Reduce postharvest loss and food waste by x%

The Report acknowledges the need to invest in agriculture, stating:

“Moving to large-scale sustainable agriculture, while increasing the volume of food produced, is the great challenge we face. It can be done, but this will require a dramatic shift. Agriculture has for many years suffered from neglect. Too few policies are in place to improve rural livelihoods. Too little investment has been made in research…Specific investments, interventions and policies can deliver results. Agricultural investments reduce poverty more than investments in any other sector. In developed countries, agricultural research provides returns of 20 to 80 per cent – a great investment in any economy.”

Ensuring Food Security and Good Nutrition can only be achieved if agriculture becomes a part of the Sustainable Development Goals. As the report clearly states:

“Food security is not just about getting everyone enough nutritious food. It is also about access, ending waste, moving toward sustainable, efficient production and consumption.”

In other words, the sustainable production of enough nutritious food requires investing in agriculture.

Farming First Positioning Document on the Post-2015 agenda

In May, Farming First outlined its five key messages for the post-2015 development agenda and we are encouraged to see the movement towards recognition of the role of agriculture.

Before the Panel released its final report, Farming First published a positioning document on the post-2015 agenda highlighting that there should be two goals dealing with agriculture and nutrition:

Goal 1: SDG: Eradicating hunger and malnutrition
Why? Because “We can end hunger, extreme poverty and the worst impacts of malnutrition and food security within a generation” (Madrid Consultation FAO-WFP, 4 April 2013).

Goal 2: SDG: Adoption of sustainable agricultural practices
Why? Because this goal should recognise and support a wide diversity of agricultural systems, farming practices, technologies and farmers, as well as balanced diets. It should also recognise that sustainable agriculture differs by landscapes. Thus, countries and farmers need flexibility and a variety of solutions.

We also emphasised that:
• Agriculture and food and nutrition security are central to realising the post-2015 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals;
• Farmers in the developing world can become as productive as those in the developed world —while supporting continuous gains in sustainability for all;
• It is imperative to re-commit to empower farmers via support to knowledge sharing and deliver accessible, quality extension in farm management and marketing;
• Agriculture requires supportive frameworks for investment in infrastructure and inclusive markets;
• A greater focus is necessary on working with farmers and other actors across the value chain to address not just food waste but food loss.

Farming First aims to play an important role in the debates surrounding the post-2015 agenda and SDGs in order to bring together the collective voice of farmers, scientists and businesses working in agriculture. Farmers must be at the heart of solutions provided to achieve sustainable development, with investments in agriculture having no parallels with other sectors in terms of the potential to promote human development and sustainable economic growth.

To read our position statement in full, see here.

World Water Week

2013 has by the UN General Assembly been declared the “International Year of Water Cooperation“. The questions to be addressed in 2013 include: why do we need to cooperate, on what, for what aim, at what level, with whom and, not least, how?

From 1-6 September the Stockholm International Water Institute will host the annual World Water Week in Stockholm, Sweden in an attempt to answer some of these questions.

World Water Week will see leading organisations, politicians, NGOs and UN representatives discuss the fragility of the world’s most important resource, water.

The event’s main theme is ‘Water Cooperation – Building Partnerships’ to coincide with the UN’s year of water and the programme includes thematic discussions, an ideas marketplace and field visits.

Farming First will Tweet live and post regular updates on the outcomes of the event, follow @farmingfirst to stay up to date.

For more information about the event click here

World Food Day 2012

The 39th Committee on World Food Security celebrated World Food Day today in Rome.

This morning’s ceremony featured speeches from UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, Executive Director of the UN World Food Programme (WFP) Ertharin Cousin, Director-General of the FAO José Graziano da Silva and Pope Benedict XVI, whose message was delivered by Archbishop Luigi Travaglino.

This years theme was agricultural cooperatives, as José Graziano da Silva explains:

This theme was chosen to highlight the many, concrete ways in which agricultural cooperatives and producer organizations help to provide food security, generate employment, and lift people out of poverty. For FAO and its partners, agricultural cooperatives are natural allies in the fight against hunger and extreme poverty.
The Director-General of the FAO then went on to discuss the struggles of smallholder farmers:
Every day, small producers around the world continue to face constraints that keep them from reaping the benefits of their labour and contributing to food security not only for themselves but for all through active participation in markets.
[…] What is needed is the establishment of an enabling environment that allows small producers to take full advantage of available opportunities. Strong cooperatives and producer organizations are an essential part of that enabling environment.”
Ban Ki-Moon also acknowledged that agricultural cooperatives “are invaluable in our aim to double the income and productivity of smallholder farmers”.
IFAD President Kanayo Nwanze joined discussions on the collective power of smallholder farmers:
Individually, these smallholders have little power. But when they join together, they have greater purchasing power. They have greater bargaining power in the marketplace. And they have greater power to influence the policies that affect their lives.
President Nwanze also reiterated the UN’s ‘zero hungry’ promise, stressing:
In a world of plenty, as long as one child dies of hunger or suffers from malnutrition, our work is not done yet.  And there is nothing to celebrate.
Women farmers were also a key topic of the morning with Pope Benedict XVI’s message emphasizing the “invaluable role of women” in retaining the family role as well as upholding rural traditions.Ertharin Cousin concluded the event, urging the committee to increase productivity by educating farmers:

If farmers know there’s a market, if they receive training, they will produce more food with higher nutritional value
The 39th Committee on World Food Security will continue until the 20th October 2012.

United Nations Commission on the Status of Women Opens in New York

The 56th session of the Commission on the Status of Women opened today at United Nations headquarters, focused on the theme of empowerment of rural women and their role in poverty and hunger eradication, sustainable development and current challenges.


UN Women Executive Director, Michelle Bachelet delivered an introductory speech:

This is a matter of human rights, equality and justice on behalf of women. And it is even more. Rural women and girls comprise one in four people worldwide and they constitute a large share of the agricultural workforce. Listening to and supporting rural women is fundamental to ending poverty and hunger and achieving peace and development that is sustainable.

Research shows that empowering women is not just good for women. It is good for all of us — for peace, the growth of our economies, for food security, for human security — in short, for the well-being of current and future generations.

Over the next two weeks, talks will be held to determine concrete actions for empowering rural women.

Follow the live streaming of the conference

Follow @UN_CSW on twitter or use the hashtag #CSW56