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8 October 2013

Budapest Water Summit

Opening Session

 

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Water is the lifeblood of our societies. Fundamentally, we need water to drink and to produce the food that we eat. Two liters of water are enough for daily drinking purposes. But we need a lot more water to produce the food each one of us eats: about 3000 liters per person per day. Without a doubt, agriculture and livestock production is the main consumer of fresh water around the world. This is why water, both as a resource and a service, is, and will always remain, high on the agenda of FAO.

We know that we will need more water between now and 2050 to satisfy the needs of a population of nine billion. We also know that agriculture faces complex challenges:

First, producing more food while using less water and land;

Second, adapting to changes in climate and coping with floods and droughts; contributing to climate change mitigation and clean energy supply;

Third, providing rural people with resources and opportunities to live a healthy and productive life; and,

Fourth, applying clean technologies that ensure environmental sustainability.

The question we need to ask ourselves is not whether agriculture will be able to respond to those demands. It certainly will. What we need to ask is how it will be done. And the answer needs to point us toward greater sustainability, efficiency and equity. So, my message today is a plea for a more inclusive way of addressing the world’s pressing challenges. Allow me to use FAO’s new Strategic Objectives, unanimously approved by the Organization’s Members, to elaborate on what I mean by this.

Our first Strategic Objective is to contribute to the eradication of hunger, food insecurity and malnutrition. We know that hunger is not only a question of production; it is primarily a question of access to basic assets that we need to produce food. For many rural people, water is often the primary production factor that needs to be secured. We promote easily affordable agricultural water management solutions to increase food security.

Our second Strategic Objective is to increase and improve the provision of goods and services from agriculture, forestry and fisheries in a sustainable manner. Tremendous progress in food production in the last half century has made it possible to provide more food of better quality to more people than ever in history. Too often, however, this has been achieved through the intensive use of inputs and at the expense of water resources and of the health of the ecosystems. To address this challenge, we are supporting intensification models that are clean and resource-efficient, and technologies and management approaches that raise the productivity of water across the domestic, industrial and agricultural uses. 

Our third Strategic Objective is to reduce rural poverty. Secure, equitable and reliable access to land and water is essential to improve the position of the rural poor. This implies improved governance, increased transparency and participation, institutional reform and capacity development at all levels, as well as targeted investment. FAO supports programs that improve access to water by the poor, including better water governance and increased service delivery efficiency.

Our fourth Strategic Objective is to enable more inclusive and efficient agricultural and food systems. Since food production uses so much water, wasting food implies wasting water. Considerable savings are possible in storage, transportation, food processing, wholesale and retail components of the supply chain.

In our fifth Strategic Objective we stress the need to increase the resilience of livelihoods to threats and crises. Climate variability and change will lead to more frequent and intense, extreme events like droughts and floods. Sound water management is essential for building resilience against increased risks in the food systems.

Ladies and gentlemen,

The awareness of the interactions between food, energy, poverty, environment and climate change is increasing, as well as the recognition that water plays a central role in all these issues. As we move into the post-2015 era, the global community has been discussing how best we can move towards implementing our collective vision of a sustainable world.

In this context, I would like to share two messages before finishing with you. The first is the need to give water the prominence it deserves in its full spectrum, covering drinking water, sanitation, and hygiene; water resources management; water’s productive uses; and the issue of water quality, in a holistic manner. The second message is to achieve inclusiveness and cooperation across political, sectoral and developmental boundaries that will benefit all and leave no one out.

In closing, I would like to encourage you to make full use of the Budapest Water Summit as a multi-stakeholder platform setting the stage for integral inclusion of water in the further development of the Post-2015 Development Agenda.

Thank you for your attention.