The 2012 World Water Week kicked off in Stockholm yesterday with a call for substantial increases in public and private sector investment to reduce losses of food in the supply chain, enhance water efficiency in agriculture and curb consumer waste.
“More than one-fourth of all the water we use worldwide is taken to grow over one billion tonnes of food that nobody eats,” said Torgny Holmgren, Executive Director of the Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI). “That water, together with the billions of dollars spent to grow, ship, package and purchase the food, is sent down the drain.
“Reducing the waste of food is the smartest and most direct route to relieve pressure on water and land resources. It’s an opportunity we cannot afford to overlook,” Holmgren said.
“The numbers show that agriculture is a thirsty activity. But that also means that agriculture holds the key to sustainable water use,” said José Graziano da Silva, Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), also adding that investing in smallholder farmers will help achieve food and water security globally.
“Throughout the world, 2.6 billion small-scale producers till the land, raise animals and fish. They are the main providers of food in the developing world,” said Graziano da Silva. “If we want them to produce more sustainably, preserving natural resources, adapting to and contributing to the mitigation of climate change, we need to help them. We cannot expect them to do it alone.”
“Feeding over 9 billion people by 2050 is possible, but we have to reflect on the cost to the environment in terms of water withdrawals and land resources,” added Dr Colin Chartres, Director-General of the International Water Management Institute. “Furthermore, it will put phenomenal pressure on ecosystem services on which our society depends. Saving water by reducing food waste, increasing productivity, plant breeding and wastewater recycling are critical to all of us.”
Over 2000 politicians, CEOs, scientists and leaders of international organisations from more than 100 countries are attending the annual World Water Week. This year’s focus is ‘Water and Food Security’.
HM King Carl XVI Gustav of Sweden will present the International Water Management Institute with the Stockholm Water Prize for its work to improve agriculture water management, enhance food security, protect environmental health and alleviate poverty in developing countries.