FAO Regional Office for Africa

FAO shared initiatives on water management for agricultural development at the 9th World Water Forum

"Water is life, health, happiness, wealth" is a common saying. It covers about 70% of the planet, i.e. about 1.4 billion km³. Of all this water, 97.2% is salt water and only 2.8% is fresh water, that is why two out of five people in the world have difficulty accessing it easily. In an attempt to respond to this type of challenge, more than 8,000 public and private stakeholders in the water and sanitation sector from all over the world, including several heads of state and ministers, met in Dakar for the 9th World Water Forum held from 21 to 26 March 2022. Organised every three years, this was the first time this important forum was held in sub-Saharan Africa, twenty-five years after the first edition in Marrakech, Morocco. "Water security for peace and development" was the central theme that guided all the meeting including high-level panels, special and regular technical sessions and exhibitions.

FAO actively participated by coordinating several special and regular sessions and moderating and facilitating many high-level panels. FAO was co-leader of the priority "Water for Rural Development" and on this occasion, the FAO Director-General delivered a video message at the second round table dedicated to this important Forum priority. The Director of FAO's Land and Water Division, Dr. Lifeng Li; the FAO Subregional Coordinator for West Africa, Dr. Gouantoueu Robert Guei; the Soil and Water Officer at headquarters, Ms. Virginie Gillet the Senior Development and Water Management Officer at the FAO Regional Office for Africa, M. Valère Nzeyimana and the Land and Water Officer at the Sub-regional Office for West Africa, M. Eugène Rurangwa as well as experts and project coordinators on water issues facilitated more than 30 sessions to share existing innovative solutions in water management for the benefit of people around the world.

Overall, the discussions noted that water is a major input and requirement for ensuring food and nutrition security, for food supply - from production to household needs, for energy and industrial production, and for maintaining important water-dependent ecosystems and their services. However, with increasing demand and competition for water, the world's water resources are under unprecedented stress from climate change, pollution and poor governance. FAO's work under its mandate is to propose solutions for efficient water management in the agro-sylvo-pastoral and fisheries sectors, the management of headwaters and all watersheds, especially since, according to recent FAO studies, more than 70% of freshwater resources are withdrawn for agriculture. In West Africa, FAO's water management initiatives are having a real impact on the beneficiaries. Thousands of women and young people in rural areas are benefiting from projects such as 'One Million Cisterns for the Sahel'; 'Integrated Management of the Fouta Djallon Highlands', 'Better Knowledge of Water Resources' (KnoWAT) in Senegal and various projects for the development of small-scale irrigation using solar energy. During this 9th edition of the World Water Forum, an important initiative was set up by the organisations. This was the "Dakar 2022 Initiative", whose objective was to label relevant projects and initiatives with a high impact on water resources. After receiving several hundred projects, the selection committee published a list of about one hundred labelled projects, including three (3) major FAO projects, namely the KnoWAT project, the 1 million Cisterns for the Sahel Initiative and the WaPOR project.

During the high-level roundtable on water for rural development, FAO Director-General Dr. Qu Dongyu, speaking from Rome, recalled FAO's commitment to "contribute to the international water agenda, global knowledge and development in relation to food and agriculture while strengthening advocacy in all international fora for access to water for agriculture.

As the main sponsor of the Senegalese Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Equipment (MAER), FAO in Senegal co-facilitated a panel with MAER experts to share its key findings and innovations as an important actor in knowledge generation and water management for agricultural development.

The sharing of FAO solutions and initiatives was also ensured through two well set up stands animated by its experts. There was, in fact, a common stand of the United Nations System in Senegal, where FAO was very visible with its various international projects and an individual stand within the MAER space as the main sponsor.  These stands were regularly visited by Forum participants and high-ranking personalities such as the President of the Republic of Senegal, Mr. Macky Sall, accompanied by a strong delegation including the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Equipment of Senegal, Mr. Moussa Baldé and the Executive Secretary of the Forum, Mr. Abdoulaye Sène. 

At the end of 5 days of work, the 9th World Water Forum was a platform for knowledge management, exchange of scientific experiences and networking of parliamentarians and other decision-makers to engage stakeholders to better manage water resources in the world. An International High Level Panel on Water Investments in Africa composed of current and former African Presidents was officially established. The Forum closed in style with the Dakar Declaration on the BLUE DEAL for Water and Sanitation Security for Peace and Development.

The city of Bali in Indonesia will host the 10th World Water Forum in 2024.