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Making every drop count: Rethinking irrigation for global food security

06/11/2016 Chiang Mai, Thailand

Adapting agriculture to a changing climate and world will mean developing and implementing new approaches to irrigation policies and practices the world over, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) warned today.

These new approaches were discussed at the beginning of the 2nd World Irrigation Forum underway today in Chiang Mai, Thailand. With continuing population and economic growth, combined with the threat of climate change adversely affecting freshwater sources, the 2nd World Irrigation Forum brings together stakeholders from around the world to rethink water management to achieve sustainable food security for all.

Achieving food security, especially in developing countries, goes hand-in-hand with ensuring regular access to water for irrigation. From ending poverty, hunger and malnutrition, to sustaining our natural resources and responding to climate change, sustainable irrigation plays a crucial role, and is therefore a key factor to help transform rural societies and economies.

“There will be no solution to the problems faced by agriculture without addressing water issues and there will be no solution to today’s water problems without addressing those of food production,” said Kundhavi Kadiresan, Assistant Director-General and FAO Regional Representative for Asia and the Pacific. “Future irrigation practices should also move beyond conventional approaches of productivity gains, and also focus on rural prosperity, facilitating inclusive, equitable and greener growth,” she added.

Kadiresan made her remarks at the opening of the global forum, hosted by the Thai National Committee on Irrigation and Drainage (THAICID). The theme is “Water Management in a Changing World: Role of Irrigation in Sustainable Food Production.”

Every drop counts

With a global population of some nine billion expected by 2050, a significant increase in demand for food and water will require a scaling up of agricultural productivity in order to feed everyone. However, at the same time, water is needed for domestic and industrial uses and to maintain water dependent ecosystems. Therefore, to feed a growing population in the face of various challenges, the world must transition to more productive, equitable, resilient and sustainable forms of agriculture, including adaptation of water management systems.

The forum is also adopting a Ministerial declaration on delivering SDGs through agriculture water management. Introducing the theme of this declaration, Kadiresan further highlighted FAO’s new global initiative “Coping with Water Scarcity in Agriculture: a Global Framework for Action in a changing climate.” The main objective of the initiative, which will build on the technical capacity available at FAO and its partners, is to support the development and implementation of policies and programmes for the sustainable use of water in agriculture sectors worldwide. The official launch of the Global Framework for Action will take place during the COP22 UN Climate Change Conference in Morocco.

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