Farming faces water issues


Agricultural countries need to balance farm water utilization to improve global food security amid challenges brought by climate change, a Germany-based research scientist said.

Dr. Judy Libra of the Department of Technology Assessment and Substance Cycles at the Leibniz-Institut für Agrartechnik Potsdam-Bornim e.V. in Germany said that countries now face the challenge of improving water productivity of farming to meet food demands of a growing world population.

“There is a need to balance the utilization of ‘green’ and ‘blue’ water resources to improve global food security,” Libra said in her keynote speech during the 2013 World Food Day Conference.

She explained these two types of water resources used in food production—the blue water resources (ground and surface water) for irrigation, and green water resources (soil and rain water) in rainfed areas.

She observed that the common focus of water sector and policies is water for irrigation, but emphasized the need to strike a balance between green and blue water resources in farm management strategies, considering that rainfed agriculture constitutes 80 percent of global farming activities. Libra said the prerequisites to improving blue and green water use in farm management are to quantify water use, calculate water demand at farm scale, and recommend the most suitable options for individual farms worldwide.

“There is a need to do more crops per drop,” the scientist said.

With a theme, “Water for food: Strategies to adapt to global change,” this year’s World Food Day Conference highlighted the specific role of water to improve global food security.

The forum stimulated the debate regarding water strategies, especially in agriculture.

Water efficiency is an integral part of this discussion as agriculture accounts for more than 70 percent of water used worldwide, of which up to 40 percent is lost due to inefficient agricultural practices.

During the conference, the United Nations also reminded that almost 870 million people worldwide who are chronically undernourished, as well as the growing threats that unsustainable models of development have on natural resources, ecosystems and biodiversity, which are necessary for the future of the world’s food supply.

At the same time the UN declared this year the “UN International Year of Water Cooperation” to raise awareness both on the potential for increased cooperation, and on the challenges facing water management in light of the increasing demand for water access, allocation and services.

Strong interest
The Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (Searca) said that the Philippines has a strong interest on the issue of water efficiency in the agriculture sector, noting the increased risk of groundwater supply depletion by 2050.

A study, which was funded by Searca, was conducted by Dr. Victor Ella of the University of the Philippines-Los Baños (UPLB) simulating the effects of a high temperature and low precipitation regime in Laguna Bay—an existing shallow aquifer that has supplied water for irrigation and domestic use for hundreds of years.

Searca Director Gil Saguiguit Jr. said the study was the first of its kind in the country, and added that the method used by Ella was the most advanced computer-aided analysis of the flow, discharge, recharge and the impact of precipitation on the rows, layers and other groundwater sources.

Saguiguit stressed that the Ella study on groundwater was a significant contribution to the ongoing campaign by government to conserve water or use it responsibly.

In view of its 9th Five-Year Plan’s thrust on water and natural resource management, and its forthcoming Umbrella Program on Food Security for Southeast Asia, Searca has also organized several capacity building activities, including the FSC Summer School 2013.

The FSC Summer School, which is currently conducted this November, is an annual activity by FSC through its regional and strategic partners. It aims to provide additional knowledge, learning skills and exposure to graduate and postdoctoral students on various topics related to food security to enhance their graduate programs.


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