|Findings of the Comprehensive Assessment of Water Management in Agriculture
The Comprehensive Assessment of Water Management in Agriculture (CA) a five-year program spearheaded by IWMI, evaluated the benefits costs and impacts of the past 50 years of water development and determined what future actions are needed for the next 50 years. The Assessment pulled together the work of more than 700 scientists and practitioners from around the world who looked at the water management challenges communities face today, and the solutions people have developed in different parts of the world, to meet these challenges. IWMI contributed to the Comprehensive Assessment through its thematic research which covers critical areas such as basin water management, improving water productivity, land, water and livelihoods, peri-urban agriculture, and environmental water needs. The CA findings will enable better investment and management decisions for the future.
In 2003, 850 million people in the world were food insecure, with 70 percent of the world’s poor living in rural areas. The last fifty years also witnessed unprecedented changes in ecosystems with negative impacts. The growth in agriculture was responsible for much of this change. Problems will intensify unless they are addressed. Only if water use in agriculture is improved will we be able to meet the acute freshwater challenges facing the world over the next 50 years. According to the Assessment, targeting smallholder farmers in both rainfed and irrigated areas offers the best chance for reducing poverty quickly in developing countries.
Some of the key messages from the Comprehensive Assessment for policy makers, water managers and other decision makers are:
Policy Action 1: Change the way we think about water and agriculture.
Instead of a narrow focus on rivers and groundwater, view rain as the ultimate source of water that can be managed. View agriculture as a multiple use system and an agro-ecosystem providing services and interacting with other ecosystems.
Policy Action 2: Fight poverty by improving access to agricultural water and its use.
Target the livelihood gains of smallholder farmers by securing water access through water rights and investments in water storage and delivery infrastructure, improving value obtained by water through pro-poor technologies and operating multiple water use systems.
Policy Action 3: Manage Agriculture to Enhance Ecosystem Services
In agro-ecosystems there is scope to promote services beyond the production of food, fiber and animal protein. Because of increased water and land use however, some ecosystem change is unavoidable and difficult choices are necessary.
Policy Action 4: Increase the productivity of water
Gaining more yield and value from less water can reduce future demand for water, limiting environmental degradation and easing competition for water. More food can be produced per unit of water in all types of farming systems. The poor can benefit from water productivity gains in crop, fishery, livestock and mixed systems.
Policy Action 5: Upgrade rainfed systems. A little water can go a long way.
Rainfed agriculture is upgraded by improving soil moisture conservation and providing supplemental irrigation. These techniques hold great potential for quickly lifting large numbers of people out of poverty and for increasing water productivity in Sub-Saharan Africa and Asia.
Policy Action 6: Adapt yesterday’s irrigation to tomorrow’s needs
Modernization, a mix of technological and managerial upgrading to improve responsiveness to stakeholder needs will enable more productive and sustainable irrigation
Policy Action 7: Reform the reform process—targeting state institutions
A major policy shift is needed for water management investments important to irrigated and rainfed agriculture. The divide between rainfed and irrigated agriculture must be broken down and fishery and livestock practices must be linked to water management. Civil society and the private sector are important actors but the state is the critical driver.
Policy Action 8: Deal with trade-offs and make difficult choices.
Bold steps are needed to engage with stakeholders because people do not adapt easily to changing environments. Informed multi-stakeholder negotiations are needed to make decisions on water use and allocation. Other users such as fishers and smallholders must develop a strong collective voice.
The Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands are co-sponsors of the Assessment.
Some of the emerging findings from the CA were shared at World Water Week in Stockholm in August 2006. This resulted in unprecedented international media coverage for the CA as well as IWMI, from Australia to Asia, Europe , the Middle East and the USA.
A summary of the findings is available at :www.earthscan.co.uk