Why is water critical to achieving a world free from hunger, malnutrition and extreme poverty, the vision of the U.S. Government’s Global Food Security Strategy (GFSS)?
Well, water is a key building block of life and is a key cross-cutting theme under the GFSS. The sustainable, efficient and effective management of water resources are closely connected with achieving the GFSS’ three main objectives.
The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimates that, globally, 70 percent of water usage is for agricultural practices, 11 percent is for human drinking, sanitation and hygiene use, and 9 percent is for industrial purposes. Water is thus vital for achieving Objective 1 of the GFSS, “inclusive and sustainable agriculture-led economic growth.” Water is an input along with fertilizers, seeds, soil, etc. Irrigation systems, particularly small-scale water schemes and water management, are vital, including interventions focused on improving water quality and efficient use.
The GFSS’ second objective focuses on resilience of people and systems. More and more countries are facing water scarcity and water stress. These countries face sporadic rainfall, increased influx of salt water, significant water events (such as floods and/or droughts) and water management issues. In order to face these challenges, resilience capacities and activities must involve a set of holistic, multi-sector and multi-scale approaches. These can include adaptive agricultural approaches (drought-, heat- and flood-tolerant crop varieties), improved soil and water management, and prevention and adaptation to droughts and floods.
Access to safe drinking water, sanitation and hygiene are key to achieving important nutrition outcomes, which is Objective 3 of the GFSS. Access to and correct use of water, sanitation and hygiene can address the immediate and underlying causes of malnutrition. For example, diarrheal diseases reduce the absorption of nutrients by the body.
In short, water is a key component to the GFSS. We have a unique opportunity to connect all different uses of water in a sustainable way to promote food security, resilience and nutrition.