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WORLD WATER DAY 2002: FAO: AGRICULTURE NEEDS TO PRODUCE MORE FOOD WITH LESS WATER

FAO Press Release 02/33


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For further information contact Erwin Northoff, Media Relations Officer, tel: 0039 06 5705 3105

Water Resources, Development and Management Service

Rome, 22 March 2002 - Irrigated crop production is set to increase by more than 80 percent by 2030 to meet the future demand for food in developing countries, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said today on the occasion of World Water Day.

"An increase by 80 percent can never be met with an increase of 80 percent more water", said FAO Assistant Director-General Louise Fresco. "With the growing competition for water from other sectors and the strongly increased costs in the development of new water sources, it is estimated that only 12 percent more water can be made available for agriculture, Agriculture needs to become more productive and needs to produce more crop per drop," Fresco said.

Ms. Fresco's remarks were made at a ceremony in Rome where FAO and the World Meteorology Organization for the first time received the "Water and Agriculture Prize" from the Italian Government. With this prize, Italy acknowledged the importance of the activities of the two UN agencies in the field of water issues, Italy's Minister of Agriculture and Forestry, Giovanni Alemanno said. Ms. Fresco received the prize on behalf of FAO Director-General Dr. Jacques Diouf.

The water emergency situation presently developing in the south of Italy may be typical for the impact of water scarcity, Ms. Fresco said. "The present water levels in the storage reservoirs in the four southern regions of Italy have fallen to below 60 percent of their normal levels, and this will have serious consequences for domestic and industrial water use, but in particular for agricultural production in 2002."

The great global challenge for the coming years will be how to produce more food with less water, Fresco said. To highlight this challenge, FAO will dedicate this year's World Food Day to the theme: "Water: Source of Food Security". On October 16, World Food Day will bring together government representatives and civil society organisations in FAO member countries to focus on solutions to the problem of water scarcity and its impact on food security.

"Under irrigated crop production, substantial scope is still available to increase water productivity. It is expected that through further advances in agricultural research and the development of more performing varieties, the yield per unit of irrigated land will be further increased by at least 35 percent, from the present 3.8 ton/ha to 5.2 ton/ha. Moreover, the introduction of more efficient irrigation technologies, such as drip and sprinkler irrigation, will considerably reduce present losses." Irrigation methods should become more effective to increase water efficiency.

Under rainfed conditions, water harvesting techniques, the preservation of soil moisture through conservation farming and the adoption of drought resistant and drought tolerant crops, give adequate scope to increase crop water productivity, Fresco said.

"Biotechnology is one of the new techniques that can play an innovative role in this, in particular in identifying key characteristics in drought resistance and other drought characteristics for rainfed crops," she said.

The development and adoption of innovative water technologies will require investments and supporting research activities in irrigation, drainage and water conservation techniques as well as adequate support to farmers to adopt such new water control technologies.

Ms. Fresco said reform of national water policies, secure water rights and water access for all users was needed to achieve effective water management. Capacity building and training will create the local institutions and organisations that need to be established to insure equal access of all to safe and clean water for drinking as well as food production and income, she said.


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