UN calls for huge investments in water use for agriculture to slash hunger

31 January 2005

With more than 850 million people worldwide suffering from chronic hunger and undernourishment, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) today called for huge investments in water, agriculture and ecosystems to meet the goal of halving the number of hungry people by 2015.

With more than 850 million people worldwide suffering from chronic hunger and undernourishment, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) today called for huge investments in water, agriculture and ecosystems to meet the goal of halving the number of hungry people by 2015.

“Water, food and ecosystems are three aspects of our global well-being that are so tightly bound that they have become critical for livelihoods, sustainable development and for political stability,” the agency’s Deputy Director-General, David Harcharik, told the FAO/Netherlands International Conference on Water for Food and Ecosystems in The Hague.

“These aspects deserve more attention than we currently devote to their description and understanding,” he added in a keynote speech delivered on behalf of FAO Director-General Jacques Diouf. Halving the number of the world’s hungry by 2015 is just one of eight Millennium Development Goals (MDG) set by the UN Millennium Summit of 2000.

Huge investments in rain-fed and irrigated agriculture are urgently needed to produce more “crop per drop” in countries suffering from hunger and malnutrition, Mr Harcharik said. Investments in raising water productivity for staple foods or high value market crops should not irreparably degrade precious water resources and related ecosystems, he said.

More than 30 ministers and around 500 delegates from 140 countries are attending the five-day meeting.

Investments in agriculture need to be directed to “higher, value-added diversification that is well adapted to local resource limits,” Mr. Harcharik said. “In Africa, for instance, more emphasis needs to be given to diversifying strategies towards rain-fed mixed crop and farming systems and water harvesting, alongside irrigated agriculture. In Asia, the strong tradition of landscape moulding and hydraulic control can be diversified with improved aquaculture and biodiversity,” he added.

He called for strategic and sustainable plans to achieve a balance between natural ecosystems and agricultural production functions in river basins. “Reconciling these competing claims on our natural resource heritage and achieving a balance between natural ecosystem and agricultural production within our river basins will be critical,” he declared.

 

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