“Water and Food Security” the Theme of 2012 World Water Week

Posted by on August 31st, 2012 | 0 Comments »

Water could become a key constraint to increasing global agricultural productivity at a rate that will feed a global population estimated to reach 9 billion people by 2050. The Stockholm Water Institute’s World Water Week concludes today, having brought together around 2000 world leaders to discuss and share ideas on role of water conservation in addressing poverty, health, local economies and the environment.

The events and discussions at Stockholm were focused on a practical approach to food security. For example, the 2012 Stockholm Water Prize went to Sri Lanka’s International Water Management Institute for pioneering a small-scale irrigation process that provides an accessible alternative to expensive dams and large-scale irrigation systems.

Another focus of World Water Week was the water that could be saved by reducing post-harvest loss and consumption inefficiencies. Achieving these improvements would require the cooperation of all entities along the value chain. A five minute video presentation shown at the World Food Week conference illustrates that the potential for water conservation exists on both the input and output sides of the agricultural value chain, including the following factoids:

  • One-third of the world’s food is lost or wasted, 1.3 billion tons of food are thrown away each year
  • Global food losses and waste account for more than a quarter of global water use for irrigation
  • In throwing away one liter of milk, you lose 1,000 liters of water consumed by the cow to produce that milk

Today agriculture is responsible for 70 percent of global withdrawals, with the amount varying greatly across regions. While the world’s predominant agricultural production systems are rainfed, irrigated agriculture continues to expand, doubling in the past 50 years. Today it is practiced on 20 percent of cultivated land, accounting for 40 percent of global food output.  Irrigation enables much higher yields, sometimes twice the amount obtained from rainfed agriculture.

To meet future demand for food and agriculture, investment in research and development of science-based technologies that improve water use efficiency and quality is essential. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimates that $1 trillion in investment for irrigation technologies will be required by 2050. One example is micro-irrigation, an innovative means of bringing water to crops i­­n arid and dry land regions. Micro-irrigation technology was pioneered by Dr. Daniel Hillel, who was awarded the 2012 World Food Prize for his innovation and leadership. Further investments in the infrastructure and technology that will reduce post-harvest loss – refrigeration and roads – will also reduce the amount of water that is needed to feed the world’s growing population.

Learn about GHI’s focus on the importance of water for global food security.

The Global Harvest Initiative will release our third annual Global Agricultural Productivity Report® (GAP Report®) at the upcoming World Food Prize. The 2012 GAP Report will feature GHI’s updated analysis detailing global and regional trends in agricultural productivity to sustainably meet the food demands of the world’s population. Please join us in Des Moines!

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