The agriculture sector needs to get more efficient at using water, better at keeping pollutants out of water bodies and more resilient to climate change.
This is according to deputy director-general of the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), Maria Helena Semedo.
Over 700 million people face high and critical water stress, and over 90% of natural disasters are water-related.
“In many places, water withdrawals exceed recharge rates. Climate change is causing droughts and floods all over the globe. Water bodies that support vital biodiversity and production of food – both aquatic and on land – are compromised by reduced irregular flows and pollution.”
Semedo said global water availability and quality are deteriorating, while climate change is intensifying.
“Competition between sectors and countries is increasing. By 2050, two-thirds of the world’s population could face water shortages.”
She added that agriculture currently accounts for 72% of freshwater withdrawals.
35% more water
“On current trends, an additional 35% in water resources will be needed by 2050 to meet growing demand for food, fibre and feed.” At the same time, demand for other uses is increasing.
Semedo said this is hugely worrying for efforts to end hunger and poverty because there can be no food and agriculture and the livelihoods it supports without clean and sufficient water for agricultural purposes.
She added that agriculture – including forestry, fisheries and aquaculture – also plays a crucial role in the management of surface water, ground-water recharge and even the circulation of atmospheric water.
Proper planning can reverse land and water system degradation and reduce competition for resources when combined with innovative technical, institutional governance and financial support, she said.
According to her, targeted investments and innovations in solutions for treated wastewater reuse, coping with drought and water scarcity and circular bioeconomy approaches can help tackle water-related challenges.
Semedo noted that these top-level approaches will only work if they filter down to the people who will implement the changes.
“We need to support those who grow and produce food on rain-fed systems, water harvesting, efficient irrigation methods, drought-resistant crops, and much more.”
Support is also needed to restore wetlands and other ecosystems.
Semedo added that under the FAO and United Nations environment programme-led ‘UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration’, country-led projects – supported by partners – are revitalising hundreds of millions of hectares of vital ecosystems, from forests to oceans and wetlands. FAO is backing country-led national water roadmaps, which create a big picture approach to integrated and sustainable water management within nations, she said.
“Yes, we are in a water crisis. But we can exit this crisis together, and agriculture must lead the way.”
[Source – Republikein]