Recurring droughts highlight need to better manage water resources, safeguard food security

Recurring droughts highlight need to better manage water resources, safeguard food security


Drought in some parts of the world has hurt global grain production and contributed to food price spikes virtually every other year since 2007, highlighting the need to transform the way water is used - and wasted - throughout the entire food chain.

This is one of the key messages that FAO is transmitting this week at World Water Week in Stockholm, Sweden. The annual event brings policy makers and experts from around the globe together to discuss pressing issues related to water and its management.

In a speech made today at the Week's opening ceremony, FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva stressed that "there is no food security without water security," noting that FAO's recent report,

Toward that end, FAO is proposing a new framework for water management in agriculture: Coping with water scarcity: An action framework for agriculture and food security.

FAO's framework stresses in particular the importance of the following areas where policy and action should focus:

  • Modernisation of irrigation: age-old canal irrigation schemes need to be modernized to respond to the needs of tomorrow's farmers, allow for the more efficient use of water and increase productivity. Future irrigation will increasingly be piped irrigation and combine different sources of water, including groundwater, in a sustainable way.
  • Better storage of rainwater at farm level: by storing water in small ponds or directly in the ground, farmers can reduce drought-related risks and increase productivity.
  • Recycling and re-using: water re-use, in particular treated wastewater from urban centers, can play an important role for agricultural production in arid areas. A more systematic way of safely using such water can boost local production.
  • Pollution control: better water quality regulations, together with effective enforcement mechanisms, needs to be put in place to reduce water pollution, which aggravates water scarcity.
  • Substitution and reduction of food waste: agricultural policies must consider the potential that rainfed production still offers in many places, and seek a much more integrated combination of irrigated and rainfed farming.

At the same time, the reduction of post-harvest losses must be part of any water scarcity coping strategy. Of all food produced globally, 30 percent - the equivalent of 1.3 billion tons - is lost or wasted every year along the value chain from field to fork. Reducing these losses go a long way towards reducing pressuring on natural resources that are essential to food production, like soils and water.

Additional information

World Water Week has been convened annually since 1991 by the Stockholm International Water Institute. FAO and the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) are collaborating partners for the 2012 edition which focuses on water and food security.

Share this page