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Future of water is in agriculture says Diouf

Farmers need help to grow more food with less water

20 March 2009, Rome/Istanbul – FAO Director-General Jacques Diouf has called for more attention to be paid to water management in agriculture and for increased support and guidance for farmers in developing countries to tackle water scarcity and the related problem of hunger.


“The future of water is in a more efficient agriculture,” Diouf said at the opening of the Ministerial Conference of the 5th World Water Forum being held in Istanbul.

“The millions of farmers around the world who provide us with the food we eat must be at the centre of any process of change. They need to be encouraged and guided to produce more with less water. This requires well targeted investment, incentives, and the right policy environment”. 

Agriculture accounts for 70 percent of all global freshwater withdrawals, though important differences may exist depending on the stage of development of countries.


It takes only two to three litres of water to satisfy the daily drinking requirements of a person, but 3 000 litres to produce the equivalent of our daily requirements for food.

Bold decisions needed

“Agriculture has a prime responsibility in meeting current and future demand for food but also managing the environmental impacts of production,” said Diouf.  

He said growing hunger in the world — with nearly one billion human beings, or 15 percent of the world’s population — not getting enough to eat, could get worse unless “bold decisions are made and concrete and urgent actions are undertaken”. 

“The world is facing rapid and unprecedented global changes, including population growth, migration, urbanization, climate change, desertification, drought, land degradation and major shifts in dietary preferences.

Agriculture’s role today is therefore two-fold – it has to close the gap between supply and demand, both in the short and in the long run, and also has to prevent future shocks, increase resilience of the most vulnerable and mitigate environmental impacts”. 

New agricultural deal

Diouf called for a “new agriculture deal” that integrates the fundamental role of this sector in overall human development and strengthens the global governance of world food security. 

“It is only by investing in productive sustainable agriculture based on good water management that we will meet our food and energy needs while at the same time safeguarding the natural resources on which our future depends” he said.


Concluding his intervention, Diouf expressed the hope that the 5th World Water Forum will send a “call to the international community to ensure the urgent investments needed in water infrastructure in developing countries and to have a better management of water resources that can address fundamental human needs but also provide productive livelihoods for generations to come”.

Photo: ©FAO/Giulio Napolitano
Better water management in agriculture would free up resources for other uses.