Millions of small-scale farmers face significant challenges, including food and water insecurity, dependence on unpredictable rain, and increasing frequency of natural disasters. While a lot of progress has been made on sustainable agriculture, there is much work yet to be done to meet rising food and water demands in a resource finite world – in addition to improving the lives of small-scale farmers. Farmer-led irrigation offers opportunities for inclusive, sustainable, and positive change. However, urgent international commitment to and investments in farmer-led irrigation are required to tackle the water and food challenges of our time.
Khatlon Region is one of the most populated areas of Tajikistan and located to the south of the conference venue in the nation’s capital of Dushanbe. About 60 percent of the region’s people are employed by the agricultural sector, which depends almost entirely on irrigation. However, growing numbers of rural women in Khatlon are being left behind to manage farms, while males migrate elsewhere in search of work. With little social and financial support, these women struggle to find productive roles in the irrigation management system that replaced the centralized Soviet model. Improving gender inclusiveness in irrigation management may improve the country’s food security, rural livelihood opportunities, and social stability.
Editor's Note: The global water crisis is a crisis of too much, too polluted and too little. At the World Bank, our job is to find and implement solutions to tackle this crisis. In the “Water Solutions” blog series, you’ll read about World Bank-supported projects in different countries which demonstrated solutions to the world’s most pressing water issues, to fulfill our vision for a water-secure world.
Water scarcity is a pervasive problem across much of China. By the numbers, per capita water resources stand at only 2,100 cubic meters, which is one-fourth of the global average. Population growth, agricultural demands, and the adverse impacts of climate change further compound the challenge.
As China moves to secure water for all and provide a foundation for continued sustainable social, economic, and environmental development, there are many important lessons that have global relevance and application.
How can we think in new ways about expanding farmer-led irrigation in support of global food security and poverty reduction? This was the question at the heart of the 2017 Water for Food International Forum. The theme, “Water for Food Security: From Local Lessons to Global Impacts,” was based on the premise that global breakthroughs are so often driven by local action.
Organized by the World Bank and the Daugherty Water for Food Institute (DWFI) at the University of Nebraska, and supported by several partners, the event showcased voices from farmer representatives, the private sector, national and regional policymakers, and major international financing institutions – galvanizing a coalition of support to legitimize farmer-led irrigation as a major development agenda, particularly for Africa.
Whenever you bite into a piece of food, do you think about where it comes from? How did it get from the ground to your table? Who are the farmers and entrepreneurs who cultivated and sourced it? It’s strange to think that this doesn’t cross our minds more often.
This issue is one we should be thinking about more and more often. As populations continue to grow, there needs to be new innovations to increase sustainable food production, without draining the earth. With factors such as climate change impacting water supplies and security, business-as-usual just won’t cut it.
For this reason, on January 29th, 2018, the Water for Food International Forum Innovation Fair: Innovate to Irrigate, gathered together 19 organizations who are leading the way in this challenge, through creative technologies that support farmer-led irrigation practices.
Water scarcity, lack of access and rights to water for irrigation, and climate shocks are just a few of the challenges that global farmers face. These issues emerged as major themes during the Water for Food International Forum taking place today and tomorrow (January 29-30, 2018) at the World Bank, which brought together farmers, governments, private food and technology companies, financial institutions, and researchers and practitioners from around the world.
The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) has become a hotspot of unsustainable water use, with more than half of current water withdrawals in some countries exceeding the amount naturally available. This could have serious long-term consequences for the region’s growth and stability. Solutions for narrowing the gap between the supply of and demand for water are an urgent priority.
As the Fourth Arab Water Forum gets underway next week in Cairo, Egypt, much is at stake in the region’s water management. Armed conflict and massive numbers of refugees have put tremendous additional stress on land and water resources in MENA as well as on infrastructure in communities receiving the refugees. In Jordan alone, according to the country’s Ministry of Water and Irrigation, climate change and the refugee crisis have reduced water availability per person to 140 cubic meters, far below the globally recognized threshold of 500 cubic meters for severe water scarcity.
These recent developments compound the impact of decades of rapid population growth, urbanization and agricultural intensification. A recent World Bank report notes that more than 60% of the region’s population is concentrated in places affected by high or very high surface water stress, compared to a global average of about 35%. The report further warns that climate-related water scarcity is expected to cause economic losses estimated at 6-14% of GDP by 2050 – the highest in the world.
As governments search for solutions, two trends in particular could present game-changing opportunities to bolster water security. As captured in two recent reports by the International Water Management Institute (IWMI), the viability of these solutions will depend on how governments and societies respond to them.
Everybody depends on it; there is no substitute for it if we run out; in some places, it’s more valuable than oil. Freshwater is at the very core of human development: it is inextricably linked to food security, economic growth, and poverty reduction.
At face value, water use for food production today largely occurs at the expense of ecosystems, which is the number one reason for their rapid degradation. Already, a quarter of the world’s major rivers no longer reach the ocean.
According to a new study published by Nature Communications, about 40% of global irrigation water is used unsustainably and violates life-supporting environmental flows of rivers. To achieve the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 6, these water volumes need to be re-allocated to the ecosystem, which puts a heavy strain on current agricultural water use: food production would drop by at least 10% on half of all irrigated land, with losses of 20-30% at the country level, especially in Central and South Asia.
The first time I visited Chokwe district in the province of Gaza, which is located some 230 km from the capital city of Maputo, tales of agriculture riches popped into my head. For years, the official narrative has labelled Chokwe district the nation’s food basket. “Well, at least for the southern part of the country,” I thought out loud, somewhat unconvinced while driving there. That was before I laid eyes on the gigantic, and arguably the largest, gravity-irrigated system ever built in the country, covering 37,000 hectares of fertile land downstream the majestic Limpopo River. There, I witnessed the harvesting of tomatoes, and other vegetables, and the overall upbeat mood among farmers, traders, and residents of the rich valley.