- The theme for World Food Day (October 16), 2023 — ‘Water is Life, Water is Food’ — calls for urgent action in managing water wisely. This article highlights that sustainable water management is critical to address impending food and nutrition security threats.
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How is water management related to food and nutritional security?
- Affects food and nutrition security: Water availability affects every aspect of human life, especially food and nutrition security.
- For instance, about 60% of India’s net sown area is rainfed, contributing to 40% of the total food production. However, rainfed agriculture depends directly on water availability, and rain and soil moisture variations can severely affect food and nutrition security.
- Depleting freshwater resources: Decades of poor water management, misuse and pollution, and the climate crisis have degraded freshwater supplies and ecosystems, adding to the vulnerability of small-scale producers to climate shocks and land degradation in some of the world’s most fragile ecosystems.
- For instance, Irrigated agriculture accounts for 72% of global freshwater withdrawals.
- About 40% of the planet’s total land area is degraded, leaving farmers with less productive land.
- Climate crisis and water availability: Extreme weather events and variability in water availability, changes in rainfall and higher temperatures affect crop productivity by changing agro ecological conditions, thereby reducing food availability.
Impact of climate change
- The Government of India has assessed the impact of climate change in 2050 and 2080 using climate projections and crop simulation models and found that climate change without adequate adaptation measures
- Reduces crop yields and
- Lowers the nutritional quality of produce.
- For instance, without adaptation measures, rainfed rice yields in India are projected to reduce by 20% in 2050, and by 47% in 2080 scenarios.
Climate change adaptation
- The UN’s food agencies namely The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) lay stress on the need to adopt innovative and collaborative approaches for improved management, conservation and availability of scarce water resources.
- The UN’s food agencies work closely with the Government of India and State governments on innovations such as Solar 4 Resilience, Secure Fishing, and the revival of millets for renewable energy promotion, food security and nutrition.
- A crop forecasting framework and model: The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), in Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Himachal Pradesh, and Maharashtra, is piloting a crop forecasting framework and model incorporating climate (weather), soil characteristics and market information to aid rainfed farmers in making informed decisions contributing to food security.
- Climate smart agriculture practices: The FAO also supports the sustainable transformation of agrifood systems and climate-smart agriculture practices to improve water-use efficiency.
- It supported the farmer water school programme in Uttar Pradesh and Andhra Pradesh Farmers Managed Groundwater Systems project (APFAMGS).
- APFAMGS project developed a participatory hydrological monitoring programme to build farmers’ capacities by giving them the requisite knowledge, data and skills to understand the hydrology of groundwater resources.
- The WFP supports soil and water conservation, the building or fixing of irrigation canals, dams, ponds, and dykes, as well as flood barriers through food assistance in exchange for labor.
- The WFP is collaborating with the Government of Odisha to develop solutions for smallholder farmers, focusing on women whose goal is to enhance resilience through solar technologies, establish community-based climate advisory services to help manage climate impacts and promote a millet-value chain that reduces water usage and improves nutrition.
- IFAD sets ambitious targets in terms of leveraging climate financing to mitigate climate change by addressing the adverse impacts of agriculture and helping farmers to
- Adapt to the increasing volatility of weather conditions,
- By investing in the restoration and preservation of soil health, water resources and
- Merging modern technologies with indigenous knowledge systems to build productive and resilient production systems and value chains.
- IFAD-supported projects in Maharashtra, Odisha, Uttarakhand, Nagaland and Mizoram incorporate climate-resilient seed varieties and crops, including millets, and train farmers in climate-sensitive agricultural practices and soil management to cope with increased water stress.
- The IFAD supports Indian States in leveraging the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act scheme.
- IFAD ensures that micro-irrigation infrastructure is environmentally and socially sustainable and financially viable through safeguards during design and planning and encouraging participatory institutional development.
Measures to be taken
- There is an urgent need to adapt to climate change by promoting technologies and practices that make rainfed production more resilient and sustainable.
- To achieve global food and nutrition security, the needed policies and investments must promote innovative and proven technologies that allow farmers to
- Increase their productivity, adapt to climate change and become more resilient to shocks
- Environmentally and socially sustainable and financially viable irrigation and water management strategies
- Reduce their climate footprint of agricultural production, as well as bio-hazards and environmental pollution
- Bring sanitation and drinking water supplies closer to rural households
- Adopt efficient food and water recycling strategies and strengthen institutional arrangements and capacity for sustainable and equitable water regulations, management, access and ownership.