WATER SECURITY REQUIRED FOR FOODSECURITY112SUSTAINABLE WATERDR ANIA GROBICKI, EXECUTIVE SECRETARY, GLOBAL WATER PARTNERSHIP (GWP)
SUSTAINABLE WATER113ecent events have placed food security atcentre stage. Unprecedented rising offood prices since 2007, the financialcrisis of 2008, the growing awareness ofthe impact of climate change on food production andconcern about the effect of political turmoil in theMiddle East on energy supplies have all put pressure onfood resources. Fundamental to this drama in manycountries, but not receiving the attention it deserves, is the quantity and quality of water available for agriculture. When world food prices increase, the poor suffer themost. The hardest hit regions are South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa where 95 per cent of the world'spoverty and hunger reside. Many factors influence foodsecurity: farming practices, irrigation schemes, soilfertility, transport, trade, etc. But looking at thechallenges faced by these two regions shows how waterand food are intricately connected.In South Asia, an overwhelming 85 per cent of watergoes to irrigation in agriculture. This high consumptionis caused by inefficient practices, making waterproductivity, measured as "crop per drop", one of thelowest in the world and depriving other sectors of wateruse. In contrast, in sub-Saharan Africa, 97 per cent of agricultural production is dependent on rainfall and only three per cent of the cultivated area is under irrigation.Pressure on water resources stem from other dynamicsas well: rapid population growth, urbanisation andeconomic growth are causing changes in foodpreferences that require more water-intensive crops,meats, fish, fruits and vegetables. Yet the context isvastly different from nation to nation because ofdifferences in natural resource endowments, stages of" R"WATER IS THECONNECTINGTHREAD ACROSSECONOMIC SECTORS WHICHCAN NURTURE AND SUPPORTGREEN GROWTH development and the extent of population pressure onthe land. These local realities must be understood ifgovernments are to find credible solutions.Then there is the threat of climate variability andclimate change. Greater frequency of extreme weatherevents, warmer temperatures, increased incidence oftemperature-related diseases and pests, and increaseduncertainty from temperature and precipitationvariability are already evident.In South Asia, severe flooding in 2007 along theGanges and Brahmaputra rivers affected over 13million people in Bangladesh and the cost was overUS$1 billion; flooding in Pakistan in 2010 along theIndus River severely affected 20 million people andthe cost was nearly US$10 billion. India sufferednumerous events of extreme rainfall, flooding anddroughts. Sea level rise hurts the sustainability ofhuman settlements in low lying areas in Bangladeshand Sri Lanka.Sub-Saharan Africa already has increasedtemperatures and evaporation rates, greater rainfallvariability and higher incidences of pests and diseases.Mozambique, Uganda, Kenya and South Africaexperienced extreme flooding in 2000 and 2001, withdrought thereafter. In several African countries (e.g.,Ethiopia, Kenya, Zimbabwe), GDP and rainfall areclosely related, with GDP falling dramatically indrought years as well as in flood years. The long-term effects of climate change are not yetknown, but in all likelihood they will compoundexisting problems by increasing the difficulty ofmanaging water resources development and waterservices. Climate change will amplify the need forgroundwater to protect agriculture against droughtwhile simultaneously heightening the threat to theresource: aquifer levels are already dropping rapidly.Growing variability in precipitation will intensify theunreliability of irrigating from surface reservoirs. The likely effects include abandonment of cultivableareas, forced changes in cropping patterns to lesswater-intensive crops, forced changes in foodproduction locations, higher food imports and greatervulnerability of the poorest households -mostlywomen and children. A recent McKinsey report notedthat some solutions will require potentially unpopularpolicy changes and the adoption of water-savingtechniques and technologies by millions of farmers. The human suffering is, and will be, tragic. Millions oftonnes of food production are lost, adding an unknownnumber of food security-related deaths to thethousands of deaths already from flooding and itsaftermath, including the spread of disease.The Global Water Partnership urges, together withmany of its partners, a set of practical steps to helpAbove:In South Asia, 85per cent of water goes toirrigation in agriculture,such as rice cultivationOver page:Dr AniaGrobicki?