The Land and Water Division aims at enhancing the agricultural productivity and advancing the sustainable use of land and water resources through their improved tenure, management, development and conservation. It addresses the challenges member countries face in ensuring productive and efficient use of land and water resources in order to meet present and future demands for agricultural products, while ensuring the long-term sustainability of the land and water quantity and quality. It promotes equitable access to these natural resources with a view to enhancing productivity, livelihoods and ecosystem services. It provides assistance to member nations in developing policies, programmes, best practices and tools in the fields of irrigation and drainage, soil conservation, drought mitigation, land tenure, water rights, access to natural resources, and improvement of land markets.
Integrated land and water management is promoted through the development and improvement of irrigated and rainfed agriculture and through a river basin management approach, paying particular attention to enhancing the quality of the land and water resources and to reducing the impact of extreme climate events.
Secure access to land and other natural resources is a direct factor in the alleviation of hunger and rural poverty. FAO assists member states in ensuring that tenure policies adequately protect the rights of the poor; promote environmentally-sound land use practices; and ensure gender equality.
FAO is currently active in many areas of land tenure, including: investigations of the land tenure implications of climate change scenarios and of policy options in relation to the rapid growth of land use for bioenergy production; land tenure in emergency and post-emergency work; compulsory purchase of land and compensation; state land management; low-cost land tenure security; good governance in land administration; and making land information accessible for the poor.
Much emphasis is further given to the development of consensus on voluntary guidelines and policies on responsible governance of tenure and the mainstreaming of the principles and actions of the Voluntary Guidelines of the Right to Food into land tenure
FAO undertakes various activities in the area of land management, land planning and land use. It promotes the development of cost-effective methods for land and soil survey and classification including testing and identification of soil constraints; provides documentation, information and technical guidance for the assessment, conservation and productive management of land resources; maintains a database and web-based information system on land resources and land use at national and regional level for comparative studies and analysis; and advises governments and other stakeholders in the formulation and implementation of appropriate land use and land management policies, strategies and action plans.
In the face of increasing water scarcity, and the dominance of agricultural water use, FAO is actively supporting member countries and regions to enhance food security by improving the technical, socio-economical and environmental performance of irrigated and rainfed production, hence reducing pressures on already strained water resource systems.
FAO is therefore engaged in a programmatic approach to agricultural water management that addresses water use efficiency and productivity, and deploys best practices for water use and conservation. This approach is applied, throughout the system continuum, from water sources to final uses. Given the instrumental value of water to all types of agricultural production, NRL collaborates with all technical divisions of FAO in order to generate a coherent and comprehensive FAO-Water programme. This programme is specifically designed to make an effective and lasting contribution to the achievement of the related Millennium Development Goals.
Specific targets are integrated water resources management, water harvesting, groundwater, use of non-conventional water, reuse of treated waste water, modernization of irrigation systems, on-farm water management, water quality management, agriculture-environment interactions, water and climate change, drought impact mitigation, water and food security, institutional capacities, national water strategies and policies, river basin and transboundary waters management.
The Division further develops and maintains various information systems, including its continually updated water information system, AQUASTAT, and tools for analysis such as CROPWAT, AQUACROP and MASSCOTE , thereby contributing to the formulation of national and regional water management strategies and perspective studies.