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CA Book Launch - 3/11/2003- Water productivity in agriculture: Limits and Opportunities for

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PRESS RELEASE: New research findings offer hope for the world water crisis, Nairobi – November 3.

New research offering solutions to the growing world water crisis highlights how growing food with less water is the key to future food security for the world’s poor. Water Productivity in Agriculture: Limits and Opportunities for Improvements published by the Comprehensive Assessment of Water Management in Agriculture, outlines a number of key recommendations that will contribute to greater water productivity in food production.

At a local level opportunities include breeding crops that drink less water or can thrive on
low-quality saline/alkaline water, applying low-cost precise technologies such as drip
irrigation and encouraging farmers to use new agronomic methods such as ‘zero tillage,’.
At national and regional levels the book points to policy and institutional reform needed
within and outside the water sector. It also highlights improvements that need to be
made in the management of irrigation systems.

Studies have shown that agriculture consumes between 70 and 90 per cent or more of
the world’s developed freshwater supplies. 2000 to 5000 litres of water are needed to
produce enough food to feed one person each day. An increase in water productivity will
reduce agriculture’s drain on resources, and free up water for other water users such as
cities and nature. It will also reduce the need for investments in new water storage and
irrigation infrastructure – investments many countries can’t afford.

“If we hope to maintain global water withdrawals at present day levels then we need to
increase water productivity by 40%”, warns David Molden, Leader of the Comprehensive
Assessment research program. “Getting more crop per drop is essential. We have
already lost 50% of the worlds wetlands and as countries develop there will be more
competition and conflict over limited water supplies”.

Agricultural development, including irrigation development has been instrumental in
providing enough food to feed everyone on the globe – a remarkable achievement of the
last 20 years. But in spite of huge developments in water management methods,
malnutrition remains, especially in South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa “In Sub-Saharan Africa, there remains scope for developing water resources, and the key questions is what type – large or small ? “ explains David Molden. “Most African countries need locally appropriate solutions to increase water productivity that bring individual economic benefits and make the most of limited supplies”.

Water Productivity in Agriculture is essential reading for water managers and
professionals in the fields of water and land management, agronomy, soil, and
agriculture, as well as for those working in the international development community.

Notes for Editors:

1. The Comprehensive Assessment of Water Management in Agriculture (CA) is an international research and capacity building program to take stock of the costs, benefits, and impacts of the past 50 years of water development for agriculture, the water management challenges communities are facing today, and solutions people have developed. The results of the assessment will enable farming communities, governments, and donors to make better-quality investment and management decisions to meet food and environmental security objectives in the near future and over the next 25 years. The Comprehensive Assessment of Water Management is carried out by a coalition of partners, including 11 CGIAR agricultural research centers, FAO and partners from some 40 research and development institutes globally.

2. Water Productivity in Agriculture: Limits and Opportunities for Improvements is
the first book in the Comprehensive Assessment series and can be ordered through CABI publishing, ISBN NO 851996698.

3. Recommendations on how to improve water productivity in agriculture are given in a recent issue of the Water Policy Briefing series which present new perspectives and solutions to water problems in developing countries. Each briefing is based on peer reviewed research that challenges policy makers and planners to think differently about the way water is managed for agriculture. To view current issues of the series visit