Combatting water scarcity is an economic decision, not a technological problem – IFAD to tell agriculture ministers

While technologies may exist to ensure poor, developing-world farmers can access the water they need to grow enough food for their communities and countries, governments need to invest in them, said Perin Saint Ange, the Associate Vice-President of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) en route to the Global Forum for Food and Agriculture (GFFA) in Berlin, Germany.

Saint Ange is participating in an expert panel at the GFFA – an international conference focused on the global agri-food industry – and will provide recommendations to government ministers on how to harmonise agriculture and water policies to meet the needs of rural small-scale farmers.

“Any attempts to address water management must be environmentally, economically and socially sustainable so that we ensure long-term food security,” said Saint Ange.

Approximately 80 per cent of farmers rely on rain water for their agriculture, particularly in rural areas of developing countries. With rainfall becoming increasingly less predictable due to climate change, these farmers are particularly vulnerable.

“We know what technology is needed to address this. We know that water needs to be managed and governed. But this takes political will and economic investment,” said Saint Ange.

The World Economic Forum ranks water scarcity as one of the greatest long-term risks facing humanity and agriculture is a particularly thirsty business, with irrigation alone accounting for up to 70 per cent of freshwater withdrawals.

The GFFA precedes the meeting of the G20 agriculture ministers where water is also a key theme.