The central focus of FAO/Netherlands Conference is on promoting sustainable
management of water for food and ecosystems, based on a stakeholder-centred
approach that facilitates sound, efficient and equitable decision making
in the assessment, allocation and regulation of water resources, in
terms of both quantity and quality.
The water needs of food and agriculture have to be reconciled with
the conservation needs of ecosystems, and also integrated with demand
from other water users, such as the energy, navigation and industry
sectors. Trade-offs over water allocation must balance the competing
needs of rural and urban areas and of productive and non-productive
uses, and related policy priorities from the local to the international
level. The conference will contribute to the new prospect of water for
food and ecosystems.
Within the central focus on "Supporting stakeholders to manage
water for food and ecosystems," the Conference aims at determining
how local practices and national policies can be supported. This process
needs to be based on a solid understanding of past local experiences,
using local cases to identify "success stories" and arrive
at recommendations for different agro-ecosystems.
The Conference will focus on three interrelated themes:
- Fostering Implementation: Know-how for Action:
We need to know more about the complex interactions of water for food
and ecosystems. Increased knowledge, reliable information and greater
awareness, will help improve the capacity of stakeholders and ensure
that sound decisions are made, mostly at local level, on inputs (water
quantity and quality), outputs and impacts. Through focussing on best
practices, this theme will contribute, in a practical way, to implementing
our commitments to effectively balance water for livelihoods and resilient
ecosystems. Key questions facing the Conference, therefore, are: a)
how to enhance effective stakeholder involvement and b) how to integrate
and apply knowledge for managing the intertwined relation between
water for food and ecosystems?
- A "New Economy" for Water for Food
and Ecosystem. Inputs, services and impacts must then be analysed
in terms of their social, economic, and environmental values for each
stakeholder. The goal is to help all involved stakeholders make well
informed, transparent decisions on the allocation of natural resources,
and ensure that their decisions are consistent with higher level (national/cross
boundary) priorities. This will lead to a new prospect, "a new
economy" of Water for Food and Ecosystems. Some key questions
include a) how to assess the various positive and negative externalities
of water use? and b) How to ensure that the diverse value of water
is included in decision making processes by stakeholders?
- The Enabling Environment. Finally, promising
institutional and managerial arrangements must be adopted at local
and national/cross boundary levels to enable sustainable water management
for food and ecosystems, equitable representation of all stakeholders
in the decision making process, and consistency at all levels. key
questions facing the conference are a) What institutional arrangements
and policies help to enable local stakeholders to manage their resources
and to accommodate the diverse users and uses of water? b) How can
institutions and organizations offer a platform for joint decision
making/negotiation involving fishers, pastoralists, rainfed agriculturists,
industries, that includes the specific needs of nature and environment?
THEME 1 - Fostering Implementation: Know-how for action
Generating knowledge on needs and impacts to support stakeholder management
of water for food and ecosystems
Ecosystem services include the production of food and goods and the
provision of clean water and, ultimately, play a major role in determining
the development prospects of nations. Ecosystems are interconnected
by water and set the eco-hydrological conditions for biological diversity
in any habitat. Crops, trees, cattle, fish, and other biomass production
depend on accessible renewable freshwater. Humans have dramatically
altered the carrying capacity of ecosystems through increased food production
and other sectoral outputs, often neglecting the supply of goods that
may be of equal importance - such as clean water, timber, biodiversity
or flood control.
There is a strong need to move beyond the current focus on "trade-offs
between competing uses", which creates a dichotomy between water
for food production and water for welfare-supporting ecosystem services.
Reconciling food and ecosystems is not a matter of allocating sufficient
water to each, nor of making compromises in the use of a shared and
limited supply. It is really about reconciling needs and services for
both systems. Food systems need to be managed as ecosystems with attached
services, while ecosystems need to be considered not only in their environmental
dimensions but also in their capacity to produce food or generate incomes,
which in turn alleviate poverty and hunger.
This integration has rarely been factored into decision-making, mainly
due to the lack of information and to inadequate institutional arrangements.
While information about environmental conditions and pressures on ecosystems
is available for many areas, this information often lacks the coherence,
comprehensiveness and integration needed to support policy and management
decisions. Sectoral approaches make sense when trade-offs among goods
and services are modest. However, ecosystem and agricultural management
today must meet conflicting goals and take into account the linkages
among water and environmental problems. Aggregate benefits from the
bundle of goods and services produced by an ecosystem would, otherwise,
be hidden in a sector-oriented assessment.
We do not know the actual freshwater requirements for generating key
ecosystem services appropriated by the present global human population.
Using freshwater more efficiently in existing ecosystems and food production
requires a shift in the management of water to combining water resources
management and an integrated ecosystems approach.
The stakeholder process of management of water for food and eco-systems
needs to be based on solid, reliable knowledge about the needs, the
outputs and impacts for various uses that depend on water. Key questions
facing the Conference, therefore, are:
a) How to integrate and apply knowledge for managing
the intertwined relation between water for food and ecosystems?
b) How to enhance effective stakeholder involvement?
Drawing lessons from experience
The Conference will seek to learn more about the role of water in the
integration of food and ecosystems. Local cases will help draw lessons
from past experiences, identify successful approaches and make recommendations
for future knowledge generation and for making knowledge available to
support stakeholder management. Some questions to be addressed are:
a) Integrated knowledge for managing the intertwined
relation between water for food and ecosystems
- What are the water needs/requirements of ecosystems
in terms of quantity, quality and timing, and how can they be accounted
for in water allocation/regulation policies and practices?
- What are the positive sum effects (positive externalities)
of ecosystems - in terms of water retention, water treatment, erosion
control etc. - and how can they effectively be accounted for and nurtured
in "environmental service" (payments)?
- What are the impacts for the various ecosystems,
in terms of water quantity and quality, of agricultural development
and practices (in rainfed, irrigated, agro-pastoralist, intensive
and subsistence systems), and how can they be off-set and managed
by diversified but comprehensive strategies?
- Which innovations have proven effective in making
optimum use of the symbiotic relations between agricultural production
and ecosystems conservation?
- How can we achieve water productivity gains in
agriculture without compromising ecosystem water requirements?
- What technologies are available for ecosystem design,
engineering and rehabilitation, and how effective are they in improving
ecosystem functioning, services, and productivity?
The Conference will also investigate how stakeholders use knowledge
and information in their decisions on water management, and which forms
of water governance ensure that decisions by individuals and organizations
are made for the benefit of all.
b) Effective stakeholder involvement
- How to mobilize existing groups and networks to
contribute to the further development and implementation of an integrated
approach to the management of water, land and biodiversity?
- Participation in (management) institutions requires
social, and often capital investment, which may represent a practical
entry-barrier for the poorest and most vulnerable segments of society.
How can IWRM be institutionalized with the inclusion of the poor and
- How are local stakeholders using knowledge and
information on water for food and ecosystems in their decision making
- How do stakeholders invest in knowledge and information
development to feed the process?
- How can we raise the capacity of the stakeholders
to increase their knowledge?
- What is the role of intermediate and national stakeholders
in ensuring the process of wise use?
- In what format should knowledge be made available
to local stakeholders?
- What governance set up suits best local conditions
without compromising effectiveness and consistency at upper level?
THEME 2 - A "new economy" of Water for Food and Ecosystems
Making well-informed, transparent and fair choices, based on appropriate
methodologies for assessing multi-dimensional water values.
Intensifying competition for water resources increases the need to
account for the value of water in its various forms and uses. Increased
water scarcities call for more prudent usage to ensure that it is utilized
where it has most value and in ways that reflects this value. Stakeholders
need to be supported in making sound decisions on the use and management
of water resources, and to make choices between various - potentially
conflicting - needs. Key questions here include: how to reconcile the
water needs of the environment and the maintenance of biodiversity with
water needs for economic activities such as agriculture, industry, hydropower
and recreation? How to assess the various positive and negative externalities
of water use, and how to ensure that these values are included in decision
making? How to support stakeholders in managing water in a way that
reflects the economic, social and environmental values of all its uses?
Currently, numerous reliable valuation methodologies are available to
support stakeholders in making well-informed, transparent and fair choices
on water management. The question, however, is to how these methodologies
work in practice, and how values are being "taken on board"
by local and national stakeholders in their management of competing
water uses. This conference theme examines the possibilities for a "new
economy" for water for food and ecosystems by learning from successful
practices. A good understanding is required of the productivity and
socio-economic value of current and feasible water uses that can be
weighed in decision-making processes.
Drawing lessons from experience
This theme examines the role of valuation in cases
where attempts have been made to manage water in a way that reflects
its different values, such as Payment for Environmental Service schemes,
quotas, water markets or state-controlled allocation and distribution
systems. Questions to be addressed :
- How are stakeholders valuing water-related services
for food and ecosystems
- Which "vulnerable groups" and ecosystem
components are insufficiently valued and need a more equal representation
of their values in decision-making?
- How are existing valuation methodologies being
used in these "real-world" water management processes?
- How are those who generally have no strong voice
in the decision making - such as the rural poor and the environment
itself - expressing their water values?
- Do current water allocation mechanisms/decisions
reflect the values different stakeholders place on water? Who is losing
out? Could this be corrected and how? What about the "ethics"
of water allocation?
- How have valuation methodologies or tools helped
stakeholders to make choices between different or conflicting uses?
- Does a more explicit and transparent valuation
help stakeholders to reconcile potentially conflicting needs and how
does it help stakeholders in identifying ways to add value through
their water management decisions?
- In the end, does valuation help to improve the
economic productivity as well as the distributional equity of water
uses? Who benefits from the water-related services in those systems,
and how are the benefits distributed among water uses?
From these experiences, lessons can then be learned on issues such
- How to take into account different aspects of ecosystem
services that are currently underestimated by, or invisible to, decision
makers (e.g. the value of fish in rice-based systems)
- Which methodologies and approaches to valuation
of water work well in practice for different agro-ecosystems?
- How can they help stakeholders to ensure productive
use of water resources, to negotiate trade-offs and compensation and
to create value among uses?
- How can stakeholders and needs be supported to
express and voice their values? (e.g. guaranteeing environmental base
flows to meet ecosystem needs? Water as a human right? How to ensure
food security for all?)
- What are the current gaps in valuation processes?
- How can water valuation principles be translated
into allocation decisions, policy instruments and institutional structures
(i.e. can water use values be correlated to water charges, payment
for environmental services, rights-based water markets?). This last
question overlaps and links with the third Conference theme: Institutions.
THEME 3 - The Enabling Environment
Providing the institutional framework that enables stakeholders to
manage their resources
The decision making processes of local stakeholder are embedded in
a patchwork of systems of larger scale. Sound national policies and
institutions are essential for successful water management by stakeholders,
and for framing and aggregating local arrangements in a consistent way.
The sectoral structures that characterize most existing institutions
are often ill-suited to provide an effective forum for local stakeholders
in managing water for food security and ecosystems in an integrated
and sustainable way. What institutional arrangements and policies help
to enable local stakeholders to manage their resources and to accommodate
the multiple users and uses of water?
While institutional reforms have been implemented or are being planned
in various countries, there is clearly no universal blueprint for their
successful design. Therefore, there is need to take stock of the impacts
of the various institutional reform processes, and to see how the different
institutional reforms have affected the ability of local stakeholders
to manage their water resources.
Drawing lessons from experience
This theme will draw lessons from past and ongoing institutional reform
processes, to see how different institutional arrangements help to improve
water management. The organizational and institutional aspects to be
included in these cases are wide and varied. However, most will have
in common that they were formulated in response to global pressures
towards decentralization, privatization and liberalization of national
institutions. Examples of such institutional reforms are the introduction
of water markets, public-private partnerships, instruments such as pricing
and the polluter-pays principle, decentralized structures such as Water
User Associations, and rights-based approaches.
Some relevant questions for case analysis are:
- How do institutions and organizations affect -
positively and negatively - stakeholder management practices?
- What is the impact of different institutional arrangements
on the specific needs of the environment and of vulnerable groups?
- Participation in management institutions requires
social, and often capital, investment of participants, which may represent
a practical entry-barrier. How did the institutions enable the participation
of the poorest and most vulnerable segments of society?
- Who in these institutions represent the rural poor
and the ecosystems?
- How do different institutional arrangements promote
or prevent cooperation and integration across sectors and across scales
(i.e. simultaneous multiple uses of water)?
- How are values and voices converted into decisions
within stakeholder processes? And how can we ensure balanced decision
- Are local (sectoral) institutions, such as Water
User Associations and Irrigation Unions, appropriate for non-irrigation
- Are market-based structures (water markets, pricing,
public-private partnerships) appropriate to safeguard public needs?
Conversely, are centralized management systems fulfilling these needs?
- What are the options and limitations in transplanting
institutional arrangements among countries and among agro-ecosystems?
From these experiences, lessons can be drawn on issues such as:
- How can institutions and organizations offer a
platform for joint decision making/negotiation involving fishers,
pastoralists, rainfed agriculturalists, industries, that includes
the specific needs of nature and environment?
- How do we craft institutions that support water
management by local stakeholders - including poor and vulnerable groups
- and ensure consideration of ecosystem needs?
- How can we ensure that (new) local water institutions
fit in the existing formal and informal institutional structures?
- How can we assist vulnerable groups in developing
their capacity to become a meaningful actor in the water management
- How can cross-sectoral, multi-user oriented policies
be crafted in order to effectively enable public and civil participation
- What are the benefits and limitations of different
- What new institutional and governance roles and
qualities are required for reconciling water for food and ecosystems,
planning water supply and demand/productivity across the sectors of
water use, and accommodating decentralized planning and development
with centralized regulation of water resources?
- How can we translate lessons from other countries
and regions into the design of more effective, locally responsive
and flexible water management institutions?