The world will require 10 per cent more water to meet food production needs of over nine billion people by 2050, according to the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD).
Water and food security is the theme of this year's World Water Week. Over two thousand politicians, CEOs, scientists and leaders of international organizations from more than 100 nations are gathering in Stockholm, Sweden, from 26 to 31 August for the annual event.
Today, over 900 million people suffer from hunger, and two billion more face serious health risks from undernourishment. At the same time, 1.5 billion people overeat and over one-third of all food is lost or wasted. Demand for food and fibre is projected to increase by 70 per cent by mid-century and, without intervention, untenable pressure on water resources in many regions in the world will threaten food and water security.
“More than one-fourth of all the water we use worldwide is taken to grow over one billion tons of food that nobody eats. That water, together with the billions of dollars spent to grow, ship, package and purchase the food, is sent down the drain.” said Torgny Holmgren, Executive Director of the Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI).
“Reducing the waste of food is the smartest and most direct route to relieve pressure on water and land resources. It’s an opportunity we cannot afford to overlook,” he added.
In the over 100 sessions set to take place throughout the week, the convening experts will debate and showcase solutions to ensure that the planets limited water resources can meet the needs of growing economies and support a healthy global population. They will also discuss the latest innovations and successful practices to provide clean water and safe sanitation to the over two billion people who live without sustainable access to these basic services. Half of the cases of malnutrition worldwide result from illness and infection from dirty water or unhygienic sanitation.
Participants at the week will also deliberate on issues countries leasing foreign land for agricultural production, trade, human rights, climate change, and the inter-linkages between food, water and energy production.
“The numbers show that agriculture is a thirsty activity. But that also means that agriculture holds the key to sustainable water use,” said José Graziano da Silva, Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). He added that investment in smallholder farmers is critical to achieve food and water security for all people.
“Throughout the world, 2.6 billion small-scale producers till the land, raise animals and fish. They are the main providers of food in the developing world. If we want them to produce more sustainably, preserving natural resources, adapting to and contributing to the mitigation of climate change, we need to help them. We cannot expect them to do it alone.”
Each year the World Water Week addresses a particular theme to enable a deeper examination of a specific water-related topic. While not all events during the week relate to the overall theme, the workshops driven by the Scientific Programme Committee and many seminars and side events do focus on various aspects of the theme. The themes change each year, but each fits within a broader "niche" that covers several years. The grouping of themes within a niche is designed to develop a long-term perspective on a broad yet significant water and development issue. It also ensures that each year builds upon the previous years' outcomes and findings.
The current niche for 2009-2012 is "Responding to Global Changes", which looks at the potential and necessary responses in water policy, management and development to address pervasive and increasingly impacting global changes. The themes within the current niche are:
Organized by the Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI), World Water Week takes place every year in the Swedish capital. With a programme of debates and other events, it brings together stakeholders from all over the world so as to promote their reinforcement of capacities, the establishment of partnerships and follow up on international processes and programmes concerning water and development.
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