Natural Resources
     and Environment

News, Publications & Announcements - Water Resources

June 2008
Water and the Rural Poor
Interventions for improving livelihoods in sub-Saharan Africa

A joint FAO- International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) Report. The primary goal of this report is to contribute to the development of strategies to reduce rural poverty in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) through investments in the agricultural water sector. An estimated 75 percent of the world’s poorest people – 880 million women, children and men – live in rural areas, and the majority of them depend on agriculture and related activities for their livelihoods (World Bank, 2007a). One-quarter of these rural poor live in SSA, where agricultural output has not kept pace with population growth in recent decades and where yields on land have been stagnant or declining, causing reductions in agricultural income and in per capita food production. Efforts to reduce or eradicate poverty in the region will not be successful without substantial gains in agricultural income. The present report relies strongly on the view that agriculture in SSA is the most promising option for broad-based poverty reduction in rural areas, and sets the role of water improvements in a wider context of overall reforms and investments in agriculture. Several commentators have noted the high cost of developing irrigation projects in SSA, while others have described the high cost of ...

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April 2008
Irrigation Management Transfer
Worldwide efforts and results. FAO Water Reports 32

Agriculture is by far the largest user of the world’s water, soil and biodiversity. Today, it finds itself at the centre of the debate on how to conserve the world’s environments. It accounts for 70 percent of the total water withdrawals of the globe, a percentage that is close to 85 percent when considering only the developing countries. As the world’s welfare improves, demands from other water subsectors are increasing. Domestic water supply, industry and manufacturing, and the environment itself, are now in direct competition with the agriculture sector for increasingly scarce water resources. Thus, competition for water resources can only lead to the agriculture sector having to review, and adjust accordingly, its share of water. The international community is increasingly scrutinizing and monitoring water consumption patterns in agriculture and its corresponding water-use allocation and efficiencies. The approximately 1 260 million ha under rainfed agriculture (corresponding to 80 percent of the world’s total cultivated land) supply 60 percent of the world’s food; while the 277 million ha under irrigation (the remaining 20 percent of land under cultivation) contribute the other 40 percent of the food supplies. On average, crop yields per hectare under irrigated agriculture are 2.3 times higher than those ...

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January 2008
Remediation of arsenic for agriculture sustainability, food security and health in Bangladesh
Working paper

Arsenic in groundwater is a major health concern in Asia and the risks from using shallow tube wells for drinking-water are well-known. At present, twelve countries in the Asian region have reported high arsenic levels in part of their groundwater resources. Bangladesh has the highest percentage of contaminated shallow tube wells (~20 percent) and an estimated 30 million people are dependent on those wells for domestic purposes. The problem originates in arsenic-rich bedrock of the Brahmaputra river basin that filters drinking water pumped to the surface through millions of tube wells. Since an initial investigation on arsenic accumulation in rice undertaken by FAO with support from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in 2001, further scientific studies in the last couple of years have reported potential risks from arsenic from dietary exposures. The most well-known concern is arsenic entering the food chain, affecting food safety. This poses a potential dietary risk to human health in addition to the risk from drinking contaminated groundwater. Less well-known but potentially more serious is the risk of arsenic to crop production. Continuous build up of arsenic in the soil from arsenic-contaminated irrigation water reduces crop yields in the long term. As part of the ...

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January 2008
Water monitoring: Mapping existing global systems & initiatives - Background Document - August 2006
Prepared by FAO on behalf of the UN-Water Task Force on Monitoring

The long-term sustainability of water is in doubt in many regions of the world. Currently, humans use about half the water that is readily available. Water use has been growing at more than twice the population rate, and a number of regions are already chronically short of water. Both water quantity and water quality are becoming dominant issues in many countries. Problems relate to poor water allocation and pricing, inefficient use, and lack of adequate integrated management. The major withdrawals of water are for agriculture, industry, and domestic consumption. Most of the water used by industries and municipalities is often returned to watercourses degraded in quality. Irrigation agriculture, responsible for nearly 40% of world food production, uses about 70% of total water withdrawals (90% in the dry tropics). Groundwater, which supplies one third of the world’s population, is increasingly being used for irrigation. Water tables are being lowered in many areas making it more expensive to access. Every day, diarrhoeal diseases from easily preventable causes claim the lives of approximately 5000 young children throughout the world. Sufficient and better quality drinking water and basic sanitation can cut this toll dramatically, and simple, low-cost household water treatment has the potential to save ...

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December 2007
Arsenic threat in rice
Reducing arsenic levels in rice through improved irrigation practices

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