Poverty and food security
There are 7 billion people to feed on the planet today and another 2 billion are expected to join by 2050.
Statistics say that each of us drinks from 2 to 4 litres of water every day, however most of the water we ‘drink’ is embedded in the food we eat: producing 1 kilo of beef for example consumes 15,000 litres of water while 1 kilo of wheat ’drinks up’ 1,500 litres
When a billion people in the world already live in chronic hunger and water resources are under pressure we cannot pretend the problem is ‘elsewhere’.
Food security exists when all people at all times have both physical and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food that meets their dietary needs for an active and healthy life.
People who have better access to water tend to have lower levels of undernourishment. The lack of water can be a major cause of famine and undernourishment, in particular in areas where people depend on local agriculture for food and income.
Erratic rainfall and seasonal differences in water availability can cause temporary food shortages. Floods and droughts can cause some of the most intensive food emergencies.
Drought ranks as the single most common cause of severe food shortages in developing countries. Drought caused more deaths during the last century than any other natural disaster, and Asia and Africa rank first among continents in the number of people directly affected
All human activities use water: drinking, cooking, washing, but also and mostly, for producing food, paper, clothes, etc.
Water scarcity already affects every continent and more than 40 percent of the people on our planet. By 2025, 1.8 billion people will be living in countries or regions with absolute water scarcity, and two-thirds of the world’s population could be living under water stressed conditions.
The lack of water limits farmers’ ability to produce enough food to eat or earn a living. South Asia, East Asia and the Middle East for example are already close to their resources limits, and their population is still growing.
Climate change is expected to impact both rainfed and irrigated agriculture, including feed and fodder for livestock, as well as forests and aquaculture. Severe reductions in river runoff and aquifer recharge are expected in the Mediterranean Basin and in the semi-arid areas of the Americas, Australia and Southern Africa, affecting water availability and quality in already stressed regions.
High latitude areas will see an increase in their potential, whereas regions near the equator will experience more frequent and severe droughts, excessive rainfall, and floods which can destroy crops and put food production at risk. Populations who live in fragile environments and depend on agriculture for their livelihoods face an immediate and increasing risk of crop failure or loss of livestock.
With population increase and economic growth, water demands for cities and for the industry are growing much faster than those of agriculture. In some regions, increasing competition for water is constraining both current availability of water for irrigation and further expansion of the irrigated area.
In agriculture alone, staples, livestock, inland fisheries and aquaculture, and non-food crops - including liquid biofuels – already compete for water resources. The steady increase of inland aquaculture also contributes to the competition for water resources. Increased competition for water often translates into loss of access to water for the poor and other vulnerable groups.
For millions of smallholder farmers, fishers and herders, water is one of the most important factors of production: without water, they cannot make a living
Key questions for research
Is there hunger in the country?
Has climate change affected crops?
Does the water supply affect the output?
How can we ensure fair access to food?
How can we engourage cooperation between countries?