April 2008  -  Announcement of a publication

Irrigation Management Transfer

Worldwide efforts and results

FAO Water Reports 32

by Carlos Garces-Restrepo
and Giovanni Muñoz
FAO Land and Water Division

and Douglas Vermillion
Former International Water Management Institute (IWMI) Senior Researcher

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 from rainfed areas. Together with the figures from the previous paragraph, these numbers demonstrate that irrigated agriculture has had, and will continue to have, an important role to play both in the provision of the world’s food supply and beyond.

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