7 short videos on big ideas for improving water use in agriculture

ID-10038665Last week was World Water Week, an annual gathering, starting in 1991, to focus on the globe’s water issues. This year’s event, hosted and organised by the Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI), had the theme water and energy. One of the main outcomes of the events was a plea to the energy and agricultural industry to reduce waste and improve water use efficiencies ahead of UN climate talks taking place in Lima, Peru in December and in Paris next year. In particular World Water Week focused on the critical role of water in climate change, in human health and in energy and food production – the majority of the world’s freshwater withdrawals going to power and food production, and manufacturing in Brazil, Russia, India, Indonesia, China and South Africa. The agricultural sector will be key, therefore, in addressing future water resource scarcities.

A commonly cited statistic is that we will need to produce at least 70% more food to feed the global population by 2050. Such an endeavour will require a doubling of water efficiencies and significant efforts to protect water resources under climate change. Demand for fresh water is projected to grow 55% from 2000 to 2050. Alongside the need to increase production is the need to reduce food waste with around a third of food, and the water used in producing this food, thought to be wasted. In the 2013 FAO report, Food Wastage Footprint: Impacts on Natural Resources the impacts of global food wastage on the climate, water, land use, and biodiversity were explored. Torgny Holmgren, SIWI’s executive director claimed that “Reducing the waste of food is the smartest and most direct route to relieve pressure on water and land resources,”

World Water Week began with industry executives and scientists discussing how to reduce food waste and use water more efficiently in agriculture. And while many companies and individuals are taking up this challenge – the Stockholm Industry Water Award was given to PepsiCo Inc. for reducing water consumption in production and increasing water efficiency, saving almost 16 billion litres of water in 2013 from a 2006 baseline – much more needs to be done.

To highlight some of the challenges and solutions to reducing water use in farming we’ve put together some of our favourite videos on water and agriculture.

World Water Week 2014: Energy and Water

The World Water Week, held August 31 – September 5 in Stockholm, is the leading annual global event for addressing the planet’s water and development issues. Hosted by the Stockholm International Water Institute, the event attracts thousands of participants from over 130 countries. This year’s theme: Water and Energy will address some of the most urgent challenges facing our world. Global demand for energy as well as water is booming. Demand for both is projected to increase by over 50 per cent during the coming decades. This narrated piece describes the week, and this year’s theme, in more detail.

Water use on an African farm – Send a Cow

This video follows Eric in Uganda to find out how he uses water on his family farm. They need 15 jerry cans of 20 litres each every day for the home, farm animals and vegetable gardens. But it’s a one mile walk to the borehole. The family does it’s best to harvest rainwater from the roof and save water by composting, mulching and using water saving technologies like a Tip-Tap and water bottle drip irrigation.

Managing water wisely on African farms – Green Shoots

Water is precious. Using water wisely on farm is essential, believes Benson Njoroge from Kenya. In this film he explains how and why managing water wisely matters. This film, one of eleven, is being used to share good agricultural practice in Africa.

How water data can help farmers in the Upper Volta – ThinkBeyondTheTap

Fred Kitzo, based in IWMI’s Ghana office, researches the water resource challenges facing agriculture in the Upper Volta region. Water data is vital, he says, to help farmers and policy makers make more sustainable resource management decisions. [Read more…]

Agroecosystems: the future of sustainable farming

Managing-Water-and-Agroecosystems-for-Food-SecurityA new book launched last month at World Water Week in Stockholm sets out the challenges the world faces in feeding a growing population in the face of severe resource constraints and climate change. Authors of the book, the CGIAR Research Program on Water, Land and Ecosystems in partnership with the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), emphasise the importance of adopting a new way of farming, viewing farms as interfaces between achieving global food security and environmental protection or in other words as agroecosystems.

With a focus on water, the book details the importance of ecosystem services for the direct provision of food and as the ecological foundation upon which agriculture rests. In a recent UK government report ecosystem services were estimated to benefit the UK economy by as much as £1.6 billion per year with pollinators contributing some 13% of the country’s annual income from farming. Not only are these services under threat from farming systems that degrade the resource base but from such global hazards as climate and demographic change.

The book, Managing Water and Agroecosystems for Food Security, not only details the challenges we face in providing enough food to feed the population and the importance of water for agriculture and a range of other ecosystem services, it also provides practical approaches to managing water for agroecosystems. For example, increasing water productivity across a range of food producing industries as well as market mechanisms such as Payments for Ecosystems Services. As the authors acknowledge, however, an agroecosystems approach will require societal and political change at the local, landscape and global levels.