Monday, September 26, 2011

Is there enough water to increase global food production?

The world population is constantly growing, particularly in the developing world. It is expected that the world population will grow to 9.5 billion people in the year 2050, up from seven billion today. Will there be enough food for all of them?

The world is already being forced to increase food production and this trend will become even stronger in years to come. But is there enough water to not only increase future food production but also to quench the thirst of rapidly growing urban centers?

In order to answer this question the international team of scientists studied the 10 river basins: the Andes and São Francisco in South America; the Limpopo, Niger, Nile and Volta basins in Africa; and the Ganges, Indus, Karkheh, Mekong, and Yellow in Asia.

This was the most comprehensive study up to date and it took scientists for over 5 years to conclude that these most significant water basins have enough water to ensure increased food production in years to come.

What this means is that the water scarcity cannot be used as an excuse to justify the fact that there are still around one billion hungry people in the world. The political role of water management will be a crucial factor in enabling the adequate food production in years to come.

According to scientists the world is still letting huge volumes of rainwater go to waste, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa. The scientists believe that even with the minor agricultural improvements Africa could easily double or even triple its current food production.

In fact Africa has the biggest potential to increase food production but even in rice-hungry Asia there could be much more food as in the Indus and Ganges basins 23 percent of rice systems are producing about half of what they could with sustainable water management.

With more political will and adequate water management millions of people around the world would be able to improve their living standards and there wouldn't be so many poor and hungry people.

Dr. Simon Cook, of the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) believes that „with a major push to intensify rainfed agriculture, we could feed the world without increasing the strain on river basins systems."

Water is the most precious resource on our planet and the efficient water management is a key thing in ensuring humanity's future wellbeing. The global politics needs to become aware of this before it is too late.