2.2 Contribute to food security by optimal use of water

Key organisations :
International Commission on Irrigation and Drainage, Indian Farmers Associations, International Youth Council, French Ministry of Agriculture, Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture, Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO)

The World population is projected to increase from 6.5 billion at present to 9 billion by 2050. This growth is likely to take place in the urban areas of the Emerging and Least Developed countries. Developed Countries are expected to have little or no growth anymore. In addition, the standard of living in the Emerging Countries (almost 75% of the World population) is rapidly rising, resulting in a change of diet among other effects. Estimates from different organisations differ, but are in the range of a required increase in cereal production of 70 – 100% in the next 25 – 30 years. There is also a common understanding that 80 – 90% of the increase in cereal production will have to come from existing cultivated land and only 10 – 20% from new land reclamation. However, due to urbanisation, desertification, salinisation, etc. the cultivated area is in fact decreasing.

At the cultivated area of about 1,500 million hectare (ha) most of the cultivation takes place under rainfed conditions, without any water management system (1,100 million ha). Only about 300 million ha benefits from an ability to secure water with an irrigation system (among which 60 million have drainage also) and 130 million ha with a drainage system only. At present about 55% of the food production comes from those areas irrigated or drained and 45% from other areas with no water management in place (rainfed agriculture).

Overall, global food production meets the current demand (consumption and losses). The Global Food Stock is relatively stable, although its ratio to the increasing consumption has decreased over the past years from 30 – 20%. This raises the sensitivity in case of decreases in production.

Achieving the required increase in food production is possible provided improvements are made along the full chain of options from supply to demand, i.e., from producer to consumer.

This Thematic Priority, in fact, has identified specific targets that address this continuum. Improvement of the cultivated areas, in particular those without a water management system, is required. These measures may improve the livelihood of smallholder farmers, and their food security but will only marginally contribute to the required increase in production (5 – 10%). As far as water management is concerned the real contribution to the required increase would have to come in particular from the promotion of agricultural water management systems – from storage to management – in the production areas most vulnerable to climate variability, the modernisation, upgrading or complement of existing irrigation and drainage systems. Special attention is also given to the governance of groundwater, to the use of non-conventional waters, and to the small-holders. Finally, the post-harvest losses are dealt with in order to reduce unnecessary waste, as well as the sustainability of the diets.
The thematic priority Contribute to Food Security by Optimal Use of Water will review and focus on potential solutions. For this purpose nine Targets have been formulated that are expected to cover the important aspects.