World Water Week, Stockholm, Sweden | 24th August 2011
Co-convened by UN-Water and FAO's Natural Resources Department, through its Land andWater Division, this seminar officially launched next year's World Water Day theme: Water and Food Security. Held during the World Water Week in Stockholm, it addressed the status and prospects for food security and illustrated the water-related implications.
FAO's Assistant Director General, Alexander Müller, praised the breadth of the panellists who represented UN agencies, smallholding farmers, biodiversity interests, academia, youth and women, but having heard the debate, he warned that there was now a need for action.
"If we agree on the challenges, there is no excuse for not acting," said Muller.
Professor Jan Lundqvist of Stockholm International Water Institute said it was important to put the notion of food productivity in context. While there has been a per capita increase in food production in the last 15 years, the number of undernourished people has also increased. "If we recognise that large amounts of food are being lost in storage or never reach markets, then efficiency of food production is now lower than if we concentrate on the figures for production per se."
Panellists agreed there was a need to protect and enhance the role of smallholding farmers in terms of access to water resources. Mohammad Ait Kadi, Chair of the Technical Advisory Committee of the Global Water Partnership, said agriculture represented 25 per cent of the GDP and 50 per cent of the labour force in his country Morocco. "One dollar invested in agriculture creates ten times the employment of one dollar invested in industry," said Ait Kadi, "But we don´t have the resources to sustain this type of agriculture and what is happening in the Arab world will only become worse because of the transfer of water away from agriculture."
Kebele Ayele, Director of the International Development Enterprises (IDE) in Ethiopia, which represents the interests of smallholding farmers, said his organisation treated farmers as customers and not as beneficiaries of its programme. IDE is seeking to help farmers invest in labour to generate sufficient income so that they can acquire pumps for irrigation to produce more profitable crops.
"In addition to sustainable production, we should not forget about access to markets for poor households as farming must be seen as a business" said Ayele.
Professor Tony Allan of King´s Collage, University of London, said it was important to get water and food security on the political agenda and that means that all the actors needs to be working more closely with governments.
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