World Water Week 2012
|When||Aug 26, 2012 to Aug 31, 2012|
|Contact Phone||+46 8 522 139 60|
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Thematic Scope for 2012 is Water and Food Security
Increasing imbalances in the world’s water and food security situation are unfolding. The differences between those who have access to plenty of food, for whom water seldom is an issue, and those who are less provided for are obvious.
Areas with high population growth face severe problems associated with poverty and low adaptive capacity. In addition, climate change is increasing the unpredictability of rainfall, the rate of evapotranspiration and the occurrence of extreme events. In a situation where the competition for water is getting stiffer, these changes are making food production, including fisheries and aquaculture, riskier and more uncertain.
The drama in the landscape is increasing socio-economic and political tensions. During recent years, prices on agricultural and energy inputs have risen and are becoming increasingly volatile, adding a new challenge to farmers and to food security aspirations. The era of low prices is over, affecting producers and consumers in positive as well as negative ways.
Increasing water efficiency in all aspects of food production
A more productive use of limited, highly demanded and unreliable water resources is necessary. In most debates, an increase in water productivity is associated with a more efficient irrigation. This is important. But it must be complemented with better use of local rains combined with small scale supplemental irrigation. A better coordination between land and water resource management, with strong and early involvement of farmers is vital. This requires financial and policy support to farmers and farmers' organizations from authorities and private actors.
While improved 'green water' management will contribute to meeting the increased food demand, investments in ‘blue water’ infrastructure, such as dams and irrigation systems, are still needed. These investments need to ensure optimal returns to society at large, including more 'jobs per drop'.
A large proportion of the world’s food production is based on un-sustainable exploitation of groundwater that at the same time are threatened by increasing pollution by agro-chemicals.
Given the increasing variability of rainfall, farmers need systems for early warning of drought risks, as well as early information on opportunities for promising cultivation seasons. Improvements in modelling and data compilation and dissemination can provide timely guidance to farmers about likely water situations at various time and geographical scales.
Producing more staple crops alone does not increase food security. Diversification is vital for farmers to be able to sell their produce at decent prices. It also offers the possibility to use variable water resources more efficiently, contributing to stronger resilience to climate change.
Linking food production to human health and ecosystem services
Water for food production, as for any other use, needs to be considered and managed in terms of both quantity and quality. An obvious win-win between the two is the safe re-use of wastewater and the recognition of faecal products as resources rather than waste. Effective water and nutrient use in rural and urban agriculture, controlling 'point' and 'non-point' pollution from the food chain, safe reclamation of wastewater for local food production, and reduced leakage of nutrients are important aspects of agricultural water management. Multi-functional use of land and ecosystems, e.g. through payment for ecosystem services, improves the incentives for food production in tune with nature.
Water interventions for food security, at production and household levels, need to focus on improved nutrition, better health, critical bio-diversity and sustainable livelihoods, achieving co-benefits for environmental as well as human health.
The food production in the world is more than enough to feed all its inhabitants properly. Yet, a billion are undernourished, around two billion are overeating, and staggering amounts of food are lost or wasted. In addition, food alone will not eradicate hunger as up to 50% of malnutrition is related to unclean water, inadequate sanitation or poor hygiene.
Paying more attention to the supply chain - from field to fork
There is no such thing as a post-agricultural society. But society outside agriculture is expanding. Perceptions about food, water and life support systems are changing with the growth of the urban population, often disconnected from food production. This context calls for increased attention to supply chain issues. It is in the interest of producers, consumers and society at large to ensure that agricultural produce is optimally used.
Urbanization and a growing affluence alter the food demand towards more resource intensive diets. Geographical distance between producers and consumers increase the need for better post-harvest operations. Today, a large and growing fraction of the food produced is either lost, converted or wasted. There are enormous imbalances and significant synergies at the water and food nexus.
Securing water and food security in an urbanizing world
Urban areas are the engines of economic growth and rely heavily on water, energy and food to sustain this growth. Many cities in developing countries face the challenges of water scarcity and food insecurity, with major impacts on the urban poor, especially women and children. Furthermore, many agricultural practices have negative environmental effects, particularly on water quality, adding to the urban water challenge.
While the complexity of the relationship between water, food and cities may be daunting, there are huge untapped synergies that can be realised through coherent planning and management. By better understanding of the urban water and food nexus innovative ways of closing the water and nutrient loops can turn problems into resources.
Moving towards a green economy - recognizing the water-food-energy nexus
Throughout the food chain, water and energy inputs are both crucial and interlinked. On one hand, making water of acceptable quality available for food production carries a heavy energy bill. On the other, energy production is associated with significant water consumption, e.g. when energy and agriculture meet in the production of first generation bio-fuels that can consume up to 20-30 tonnes of water per litre bio-fuel.
As is often said: climate change mitigation is mainly about energy and adaptation mainly about land and water. Improved agro-forestry, 're-carbonizing the landscape' and increased consciousness about water and energy linkages will be a cornerstone of future food, water and energy security
The food-energy linkages are also about costs. Higher energy prices affect the cost of agricultural inputs, including water, and consequently food prices. High energy prices also increase the incentive for growing crops for fuel rather than food. The volatility of energy prices is hence transferred to the price of food contributing to increased food security risks.
Trading food - and virtual water
Food trade is often seen as an opportunity to transfer a surplus to areas of shortage. But there are obstacles that could impede a sound trade for food security. The current rush for land and water outside national territories is modifying international food trade. Food will be exported silently away from people and from areas where food security is hard to accomplish. Growing swathes of water and land are controlled by interests far from the location of these resources and normal trade principles may not apply. The socio-economic implications of trade and overseas land acquisition for national and global food security need to be explored and addressed further. On one hand, land acquisition may stimulate investments in regions that otherwise would be stagnant. On the other, it may be detrimental for the ambitions to reduce poverty and the number of people suffering from malnourishment.
When food is transported substantial volumes of virtual water flows within it. For every kilogram of food produced, between 5 and 25 tonnes of water is used. Moving food from areas with high water availability, and high water use efficiency, to areas with scarcity or low productivity may result in considerable overall water savings.
Water, food and energy are closely linked in many of the world’s transboundary river basins where riparian states share water as well as the benefits derived from its use. Turning competing demands for limited water resources into mutually beneficial benefit sharing is both a major challenge and a major opportunity.
Building new partnerships for knowledge and good governance
Like the circulatory system of the human body ensures the integrity of functions by different organs, a sound water management system is critical to sustain practically all sectors of society. Water is critical for food security, energy security, health security and has key democracy, human rights and equality dimensions. The Integrated Water Resources Management approach attempts to address competing demands from different sectors and the sustenance of ecosystem livelihoods and biodiversity by involving all stakeholder groups in decision making. Developing new partnerships with civil society and the private sector throughout the food chain, from production in the field, through the food industry and transport system to the retail link and the consumers is vital to wise resource management.
Stakeholder interaction is important in both the creation and sharing of values, including getting fair access to the goods and services that are created, and in implementing corporate social responsibility. Only informed stakeholders can make this system work, calling for both generation of knowledge through research, technology development and innovation, and dissemination of knowledge in all parts of the chain.
In a rapidly globalizing world, good governance of the water and food security system - securing the institutions, information and investments - calls for improvements at all scales, from the local through the national and regional to the global level.