Reconciling the water needs of agriculture and ecosystems
FAO/Netherlands International Conference on Water for Food and Ecosystems
26 January 2005, Rome/The Hague - Agriculture and natural ecosystems are increasingly competing for often scarce water resources, FAO said today.
Reconciling the water needs of the two sectors is essential to ensure food production and safeguard natural resources. An international conference in the Netherlands will discuss what actions are needed to meet this challenge.
The meeting is jointly organised by FAO and the government of the Netherlands. It will take place in The Hague, 31 January - 4 February 2005.
HRH Prince Willem Alexander, Prince of Orange, Crown Prince of the Netherlands, FAO Director-General Dr Jacques Diouf and the State Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Dr. Tekalign Mamo of Ethiopia, will deliver keynote speeches.
The conference will provide a high level platform for about 500 participants from around the globe, including a ministerial segment.
The goal of the conference is to assist and enable local communities in various agro-ecosystems in developing practical solutions for the sustainable management of water for food security and ecosystem functions.
Ecosystems under threat
Agriculture and natural ecosystems such as forests, drylands and wetlands are by far the biggest consumers of freshwater, FAO said. Their water use is inextricably linked, but competition between them has intensified with population growth, the expansion of agriculture and increasing pressure to transfer water from rural to urban areas. As a result, ecosystems are often severely under threat.
Global food production will need to increase by 60 percent by 2030 to produce food for around 8.1 billion people and to respond to changes in diets. Water withdrawals for agriculture are expected to increase by some 14 percent in that period.
The challenge of the next three decades will be to produce more food by using less water and safeguard natural ecosystems at the same time, FAO said. This requires optimizing agricultural production, while safeguarding and strengthening the multiple services that are provided by ecosystems.
To date, the critical importance of proper water management for food and ecosystems has not been addressed sufficiently by the international dialogue on water management and rural development, FAO said.
The main purpose of the Conference on Water for Food and Ecosystems 2005 is therefore to examine successful case studies of good practices in integrated water resource management and to develop new ideas on how to reconcile water needs for agriculture and ecosystems.
The Conference will directly contribute to the implementation of international water-related policies and programmes adopted by the World Summit on Sustainable Development, FAO, the Convention on Biological Diversity, the World Water Forum, the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, and other international fora.
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