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Its about time to get serious about water and food security

September 6, 2012

© Ms. Shanta Roy

The World Water Week, concluded in August, highlighted the pressing need for linking water and food security this year. Its about time.

Ever since I stepped into the arena of managing the water resources for sustainable agriculture, common goods, quality, quantity, urbanization and so on, none of the issues has been a more daunting than the food security.

Global food prices are becoming increasingly linked to availability of water for irrigation. Energy is another factor that quickly comes into play, after water, as energy is needed for  supplying water for irrigation from various sources such as canals, groundwater, rivers and others. As a result, this leads to an increase in the food prices. One can imagine that for farmers increase in food price should be good, however the down side is that this does not have the impact on the urban poor, landless farmers or the hundreds of millions of small and marginalized farmers especially in the developing countries. I have seen them struggle to make both ends meet for their family and have no produce left to sell in the market in the end.

A new set of recommendations on how the world can cope with the growing problem of water scarcity was presented at the World Water Week. There is a slight twist as these are essentially the principles and not the solutions enclosed in the U.N. Food and Agricultural Organization’s latest report, “Coping with water scarcity: An action framework for agriculture and food security and include:

  • Knowledge – strategies should be based on “best-available evidence” and not on intuition.
  • Impact – actions should be carried out after a careful analysis of each option’s cost-effectiveness.
  • Capacity – better definition of roles and responsibilities of institutions need to be in place.
  • Context-specificity – actions should be tailored to local conditions.
  • Coherence – water policies should be aligned with food security and agriculture.
  • Preparedness – management systems need to be flexible in response to future changes brought on by climate change, economic shocks and international agreements.

There is no way to undermine the need for enabling the small and marginalized farmers for achieving economic growth. This need becomes even more challenging in the wake of climate change and the limited and ever dwindling availability of land, water and energy resources.

One can envisage that the global and cross sectoral cooperation shall go a long way in building the resilience of the farmers and promoting the worldwide economic growth.

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