FAO in North America

FAO Land and Water Director and Deputy Head to DC Following UN Water Conference


5 April 2023, Washington, DC – Following the historic - first of its kind in 50 years - United Nations Water Conference in New York, Li Lifeng Director of the Land and Water Division at the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO) and his Deputy, Sasha KooOshima, arrived to Washington, DC at the peak of the cherry blossom. Over the two-day visit from 27 to 28 March, they met with key U.S. government and multilateral stakeholders.

At the U.S. Department of State Li and KooOshima, joined by Jocelyn Brown Hall, Director of FAO’s Liaison Office for North America, met with Julien Katchinoff, Water Team Lead, to discuss the outcomes of the UN Water Conference and their efforts towards the newly agreed upon global Water Action Agenda. At the Conference, the U.S. pledged a commitment of up to $49 billion to support climate-resilient water and sanitation infrastructure and services.

In contribution to the new Water Agenda, FAO has engaged in seven commitments that include: 1) National Water Roadmaps; 2) Global Dialogue on Water Tenure; 3) Enabling the implementation of National Drought Plans; 4) Irrigation needs & potential mapping; 5) development of a Global Water Data Portal; 6) Global monitoring of actual evapotranspiration; and 7) Addressing Water Scarcity in Agriculture and the Environment (AWSAMe). In addition, recognizing that water is central to achieving all SDGs, FAO has included water on the agendas of all governing bodies for the next two years, and water will be the theme of the FAO Conference this July. 

The FAO team also met with David Wisner, Deputy of the Office of Global Food Security, and other colleagues to discuss the Vision for Adapted Crops and Soils (VACS) and provide updates on FAO’s work on soil mapping. State Department provided $20 million in funding for FAO in 2022 to support Zambia, Honduras, and Guatemala with digital soil nutrient mapping to improve fertilizer use efficiency. During the meeting, Lifeng underlines the importance of improving soil management, given that a third of the Earth's soils are already degraded.

Next, the FAO team headed to the US Department of Agriculture to meet with the Natural Resources Conservation Service team headed by Luis Tupas, Deputy Chief for Soil Science and Resource Assessment, as well as colleagues who are part of the Water Working Group. Colleagues shared common areas of interest and potential areas of collaboration as well as the new U.S. Global Water Strategy. Lifeng also shared a number of innovative tools that FAO has developed, such as the Global Framework on Water Security in Agriculture (WASAG), the solar water information system and the SolarWise Initiative, the water productivity, rainwater sensing portal.

The following day, Lifeng met with officials from the USAID Bureau for Resilience and Food Security to further discuss FAO’s work on soil health and water management and identify areas where the two organizations can better coordinate at the field level on activities to map soils. They both emphasized the importance of water for food production and security and its contribution to all of the SDGs. 

At the World Bank, Lifeng spoke with Saroj Kumar Jha, Director of the Global Water Practice, and discussed FAO’s work to help countries develop National Water Roadmaps and increase their capacity to prepare for droughts. He also met with Valerie Hickey, Global Director for Environment, Natural Resources and Blue Economy (ENB) where they deliberated on environmental flows and areas of collaboration such as the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration. Both sessions highlighted the need to make data tools more accessible to smallholder farmers and policy-makers.  

Li Feng also connected with the Global Environment Facility (GEF) colleagues Ulrich Apel, Land Degradation Focal Area Coordinator, and Peter Umunay, Food Systems Lead, to discuss priority areas such as the innovative approaches and the inclusion of Indigenous peoples and local communities (IPLCs), and key points of engagement in the lead up to the upcoming GEF Council and Assembly. The GEF is currently reviewing project submissions of which a significant number are being implemented by FAO.

The two-day mission covered a number of issue areas that FAO and the U.S. government are collaborating on and brought attention to FAO databases and software that provide users with assistance in obtaining legal, financial and technical resources for improving land and water management. 


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