Agric solution to global water crisis, food security – FAO

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), has stated that agriculture can help conserve the world’s water resources and ensure nations have enough to eat and drink.

This is even as the Organisation’s Food Price Index Report showed that global food commodity prices declined in August, led by staples other than rice and sugar.

In his remarks at the opening of the 18th World Water Congress inBeijing, China, FAO Deputy Director-General, Maria Helena Semedo said: “By increasing efficiency, reducing negative impacts and reusing wastewater, agriculture holds the solutions to the global water crisis, as well as the key to achieving global water and food security.”

With agriculture being responsible for more than 70 per cent of global freshwater use and availability of water for agriculture widely threatened by dwindling resources, climate change and competition for other uses, water is high on FAO’s agenda.  

She said FAO is committed to the Global Water Action Agenda as agreed at the UN 2023 Water Conference to ensure there is enough water for all and it is of sufficient quantity and quality for maintaining biodiversity.

In December last year, COP15 adopted the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework – a landmark agreement that sets out an ambitious vision for a world living in harmony with nature. Food and agriculture are crucial parts of the Framework, calling for linkages between biodiversity, water and climate and food security agenda, Semedo noted.

Semedo emphasised that ecosystem-based solutions and sustainable management of natural resources are key. Prioritizing green and blue infrastructure for agriculture and fisheries and aquaculture can enhance water quality, maintain biodiversity and provide other benefits to agrifood systems and rural areas.

Meanwhile, the FAO Food Price Index, which tracks monthly changes in the international prices of globally-traded food commodities, averaged 121.4 points in August, down 2.1 per cent from July and as much as 24 per cent below its March 2022 peak.

The report however revealed that in stark contrast, the FAO All Rice Price 

Index rose by 9.8% from July to reach 15-year nominal high reflecting trade disruptions in the aftermath of a ban on Indica white rice exports by India, the world’s largest rice exporter.

“Uncertainty about the ban’s duration and concerns over export restrictions caused supply-chain actors to hold-on to stocks, re-negotiate contracts or stop making price offers, thereby limiting most trade to small volumes and previously concluded sales,” the report shows.

FAO  also released a new Cereal Supply and Demand Brief, which forecasts that world cereal production in 2023 will increase by 0.9 per cent from the previous year to reach 2 815 million tons, on par with the record output realized in 2021.

While global wheat production is set to decline by 2.6 per cent from 2022, coarse grains total output is forecast to rise by 2.7 per cent, with maize production seen reaching a new record of 1 215 million tons, buoyed by strong yields in Brazil and Ukraine.