Better water management needed in global agriculture: F.A.O.

by Bryan Salvage
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ISTANBUL, TURKEY — More attention must be paid to water management in agriculture and support and guidance increased for farmers in developing countries to tackle water scarcity and the related problem of hunger, said Jacques Diouf, director-general of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.

Water needs for food animals vary greatly depending on the temperature and stage of production.

"The future of water is in a more efficient agriculture," Mr. Diouf said at the opening of the Ministerial Conference of the 5th World Water Forum being held in Istanbul, Turkey.

"The millions of farmers (and ranchers) around the world who provide us with the food we eat must be at the center of any process of change," he added. "They need to be encouraged and guided to produce more with less water. This requires well targeted investment, incentives, and the right policy environment."

Agriculture accounts for 70% of all global freshwater withdrawals, though important differences may exist depending on the stage of development of countries. It takes only two to three liters of water to satisfy the daily drinking requirements of a person, but 3,000 liters to produce the equivalent of our daily requirements for food.

"Agriculture has a prime responsibility in meeting current and future demand for food but also managing the environmental impacts of production," Mr. Diouf said.  

He said growing hunger in the world, with nearly 1 billion human beings, or 15% of the world’s population not getting enough to eat, could get worse unless "bold decisions are made and concrete and urgent actions are undertaken."

"The world is facing rapid and unprecedented global changes, including population growth, migration, urbanization, climate change, desertification, drought, land degradation and major shifts in dietary preferences," he said.

Agriculture today must close the gap between supply and demand, both in the short and in the long run, and it also must prevent future shocks, increase resilience of the most vulnerable and mitigate environmental impacts, he said.

"It is only by investing in productive sustainable agriculture based on good water management that we will meet our food and energy needs while at the same time safeguarding the natural resources on which our future depends," Mr. Diouf concluded.

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