Stories tagged: Water

New Report Outlines Strategies for Food and Water Security

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

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2017 World Water Week

27 August – 1 September 2017

Stockholm, Sweden

World Water Week provides a unique forum for the exchange of views, experiences and practices between the scientific, business, policy and civic communities. It focuses on new thinking and positive action toward water-related challenges and their impact on the world’s environment, health, climate, economic and poverty reduction agendas. Read more >>

New infographic: Managing Water and Fertilizer for Sustainable Agricultural Intensification

To celebrate World Water Week, the International Fertilizer Industry Association and partners have produced an infographic that visualises the necessary steps for the optimization of water and fertilizer use.

Both water and fertilizers play a critcal role in agricultural production – in fact, each depends on the other. Fertilizer’s influence on yield depends on the water available to crops, and water’s impact on yield depends on nutrients’ availability to crops. Continue reading

World Water Summit Coverage – Key Themes for Agriculture

Farming First attended the day-long World Water Summit in London, hosted by The Economist, urging those in the water sector that now is the “time for action.”

Several of the panel sessions looked at the intersection of water management and agriculture.  Here are some of the key issues and themes which emerged from the discussions:

Bridging the Data Gap

Several speakers focused on the need for more and better data to inform business and policymaking in the water sector.

Guido Schmidt-Traub, Executive Director of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Solutions Netwok (UNSDSN), said that there is a vast amount of data out there (including within the agricultural sector), but that it has not been mobilised to inform policymaking for water management. Continue reading

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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

Water and food security: where to next?

As World Water Week (see our previous blog) came to a close at the end of last Friday in Stockholm, some of the standout themes that emerged during the week were the water-food-energy nexus, partnerships, tools, and data.

The nexus concept was established in Bonn, Germany, in 2011 when experts met to discuss the need for a holistic approach to the three elements of food, water and energy. With 70% of the earth’s water being used within agriculture it is clear that the connection between food and water is vital in sustaining our resources.

World Water Week put the nexus concept at the forefront of sustainability discussions but the real success of the nexus concept will be in the actions that follow, particularly at a policy level. Projects are already being implemented that not only demonstrate understanding of the link between the three issues, but also recognise that we can no longer tackle resource issues on an individual basis. Partnerships were highlighted as key to addressing some of the bigger water challenges facing business, government and communities.

Following on from the discussions in Stockholm, Guardian Sustainable Business asked a panel of experts what they believed were the key themes and outcomes of World Water Week. The online debate, called Water and food security: where to next?, in association with brewing company SABMiller, discussed the outcomes of World Water Week including the nexus concept and the role of the consumer in water sustainability.

Members of the panel included Conor Linstead, Senior Water Policy Advisor at WWF, Greg Koch, Managing Director of the global stewardship Coca Cola, and Andy Wales, Head of Sustainable Development at SABMiller.

To initiate the debate panel, members were asked what they believed to be the common themes that came out during the week. Marielle Welkel, Director of Corporate Freshwater Strategies at Conservation International said:

The food-water-energy nexus was a huge theme of discussion that came up time and again throughout World Water Week. Although there is ever-increasing focus on collaboration (e.g. NGO-private sector, across the agricultural value chain from field to market), it was clear that more needs to be done.

Andy Wales noted the necessity for governments to begin thinking holistically:

Understanding the resource ‘nexus’ is critical to green growth. Government departments work in silos – often with water, food and energy policy set with no or little regard to each other. Government departments must start working together and that is the next crucial piece of progress.

The panel were later asked how they thought we best combine food production and environmental protection. Kari Vigerstol, hydrologist on the global freshwater team at Nature Conservancy, suggested the key is ‘sustainable intensification’:

The idea here is that we find ways to grow more food with the resources that we have. There is a lot of room to improve production on the lands that are already being cultivated through improved agricultural techniques, technology and innovation. The potential for this improvement varies throughout the world. For example, there is a much greater potential to improve agricultural production efficiencies in Sub-Saharan Africa than in the U.S. or Western Europe. However, I do think that we can still do a much better job of using water more efficiently in almost all areas around the world.

The panel concluded the discussion by adding their own thoughts about what people can do to make a difference. Conor Linsted identified the need to increase people’s awareness of their ‘water footprint’:

A good first step is to understand your personal water footprint and use it to guide your personal purchasing decision and dietary choices, but bearing in mind that where the water comes from is at least as important as the size of the footprint, using a cubic metre of water from Scotland in winter does not have the same impact as the same volume taken from a river in a water stressed area in the dry season.

Greg Koch also replied:

First, seek to understand what watershed your water actually comes from — not the reservoir, well or treatment works but the actual watershed. Then find out what is stressing the water quality and quantity. Groups like The Nature Conservancy, WWF, Conservation International and many local organizations may well have a program where you can lend your voice to their actions and even volunteer in field projects. Once you know the issues, speak to your government representative and make your views known.

 Read Farming First’s position on water.