Sustainable water management is key to the future of food and agriculture: global issues

A staggering 40% of groundwater is used for global irrigation, which only goes to show the importance of this precious resource in helping populations navigate the effects of climate change. Credit: SADC Groundwater Management Institute.
  • Opinion: By Thokozani Dlamini (Pretoria, South Africa)
  • Inter press service

This is according to a scoping study on the status of groundwater resource management in SADC. The study goes on to say that more than 40% of groundwater is used for global irrigation, which only goes to show the importance of this precious resource in helping populations navigate the effects of climate change.

In many countries, groundwater has become indispensable, especially for agricultural production, and it is said to account for half of the irrigation in South Asia and China, where it provides two-thirds of the cereal crops produced.

Sustainable development of groundwater for water and food security can never be overemphasized in mitigating the worsening effects of climate change. As surface water becomes more variable and uncertain, groundwater provides an important buffer for commercial and small-scale farmers who rely on groundwater to keep their crops green.

Therefore, it is imperative that sustainable and innovative strategies are developed to ensure sustainable supply of groundwater resources for improved living standards.

Groundwater responds to water demands in a more flexible and reliable manner, allowing farmers to increase their yields and mitigate the effects of extreme water shortages. Although water is an important input to agricultural production in general and plays an essential role in food security, science shows that sub-Saharan Africa is not on track to achieve the sustainable development goal of ending hunger.

A Synthesis Report on the State of Food and Nutrition Security and Vulnerability in Southern Africa 2022 states that food and nutrition insecurity in the region remains unacceptably high and concerted efforts are needed to address the region’s multiple and growing shocks.

The report further states that the number of food insecure people is estimated at 55.7 million between 1 April 2022 and 31 March 2023 in the 12 Member States that provided data to the 2022 Regional Synthesis of Food Security, Nutrition and Vulnerability for the report.

“More food needs to be produced to meet future demands due to population growth, lifestyle changes and dietary changes, and this requires sustainable agricultural water solutions to sustainably manage water resources,” said Dr Manuel Magombey, regional researcher at the International Water Management Institute. :

B. How it can be repositioned in the broader context of overall water resource management and water security is important.

Unfortunately, according to the United Nations Development Program, at least 821 million people were chronically undernourished as of 2017, often as a direct result of environmental degradation, drought, and biodiversity loss.

Malnutrition and severe food insecurity are on the rise in almost all regions of Africa. A number of studies show that innovative agricultural water solutions are urgent if we are to achieve Sustainable Development Goal 2 – zero hunger for all by 2030, as proclaimed by the United Nations.

In the SADC region alone, at least 11 million people face critical food shortages due to climate change-induced drought. This situation calls for groundwater professionals to think deeper and look for innovative solutions to support the agricultural sector in improving food security.

According to the Agricultural Water Management in South Africa report, investment in Ag-water solutions by both the public and private sectors is an untapped opportunity. It is important that both sectors invest in Ag-water solutions to achieve the common goal of poverty alleviation and large-scale agricultural growth. Most of these ag-water solutions have been implemented on a smaller scale. It is now important that they be improved for the benefit of larger communities, especially if the solution works well.

The SADC Groundwater Management Institute has in recent years been able to assist rural communities in some SADC member states to ensure that they have access to water resources by taking advantage of existing groundwater resources in the respective countries.

Through the Sustainable Groundwater Management in SADC Member States program supported by the World Bank Group 2016-2021, SADC-GMI has been able to reach communities in Eswatini, Malawi, Mozambique, Zambia, Zimbabwe and help them unlock groundwater resources with improved for livelihood.

Tokozani Dlamini is a Communication and Knowledge Management Specialist at the SADC Groundwater Management Institute

© Inter Press Service (2023) — All rights reservedOriginal source: Inter Press Service

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