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Why water is crucial for sustainable food systems
Thursday, 2021/04/01 | 08:48:26

IFAD News - 19 March 2021


Agriculture is a major user of freshwater withdrawals


Irrigated crops, livestock, fisheries, aquaculture and forestry, account for roughly 70 per cent of total freshwater withdrawals globally and for over 90 per cent in the majority of Least Developed Countries, of which almost 67 per cent is estimated to be used by irrigation. Nevertheless, enhancing irrigation efficiency is not a priority in policy agendas, being overshadowed by the global issue of access to drinking water and sanitation. IFAD is incentivizing practices that enhance irrigation efficiency and increase water productivity, adoption of climate resilient irrigation infrastructure, adopt adequate on farm soil and water management practices, and use high-yielding and drought-tolerant crop varieties.


Most of the population in the world depends primarily on rainfed agriculture for food production


Rainfed agriculture produces more than 60 per cent of the food consumed globally. When effective rainfall is lacking, food security is at risk. For some countries, the decline in yield from rain-fed agriculture could be as much as 50 per cent. Adoption of resilient water resource management, soil and water conservation, drought-tolerant varieties, and supplemental irrigation would benefit rainfed smallholder farming. IFAD’s investments to enhance the livelihoods of poor rainfed farming communities include rainwater harvesting, soil and water conservation measures, conservation agriculture and agro-forestry.


Food production and processing can lead to pollution of water bodies


The food production and processing sectors are both a victim of pollution from industrial waste and municipal sewage discharged into freshwater bodies, and an agent of pollution and a significant amount of wastewater. Agriculture water return flow carries fertilizers and pesticides, oxygen-depleting substances, and pathogens. To address water pollution and protect ecosystems, less polluting practices have to be applied and enhanced technologies and efficiency of wastewater treatment, management and reuse, have to be promoted. IFAD promotes the safe reuse of non-conventional water including wastewater as a reliable source of water that can be safely reused to offset growing water scarcity. It can also be used as a cost-effective and sustainable source of energy, (e.g. through biogas), and nutrients (e.g. through compost).


About 30 per cent of the food produced worldwide is lost or wasted every year


In developing countries food waste and losses occur mainly at early stages of the food value chain, and can be traced back to financial, managerial and technical constraints in harvesting techniques, and storage and cooling facilities, and the lack of processing facilities for perishable products. Food loss and waste also amount to a major squandering of resources, including water, land, energy, labour and capital and needlessly produced greenhouse gas emissions. To increase efficiency in agricultural areas, IFAD invests in logistics and infrastructure, such as roads, cold chains, storage, processing and market facilities, as well as in more sustainable farming systems.


See more: https://www.ifad.org/en/web/latest/story/asset/42496497

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