A blog for World Water Day 2014 and Part 2 of the series “What Farmers Need”
Farmers need water. Some farmers can grow plants without soil, but farmers will go to great – and sometimes unscientific – lengths to find reliable water sources. Why? Because plants cannot grow without adequate water.
The United Nations World Water Day theme for 2014 is “Water and Energy.” And really, it can all boil down to this statement: water for farmers is food for people. We need food. We need farmers. And we need to give them more access to sustainable water sources and give them options to use what they have more efficiently.
Increasing water access is easy for us all to agree on, but it is becoming increasingly difficult to give smallholder farmers sustainable water sources. Less than one percent of the Earth’s water is accessible for human use. Seventy to eighty percent of it is used for producing food. However, because of climate change and many other factors – some in our control, some not – many smallholder farmers around the world have little or no access to sustainable freshwater sources.
Since groundwater resources are depleting, IFDC staff teach farmers to use their water more efficiently. For example, inBangladesh, groundwater use for agriculture has increased 63 percent since 1971, depleting natural stores for that nation. In a society where lowland rice farming comprises nearly all agricultural endeavors, farmers naturally require more water than normal, as they often must flood their paddies.
But farmers who use alternate wetting and drying (AWD) – an irrigation method developed by IRRI and a part of the AAPI project’s development plan – generate more paddy rice, conserve water and experience enhanced nutrient efficiency and less insect infestation. Another technology, drip irrigation, is being used to increase water efficiency and curb dependence on rain for feeding crops.
Margaret Catley-Carlson, an IFDC board member and patron of the Global Water Partnership, said in a recent interview, ”If you pull at any one place of the [water, energy and food security] nexus triangle, the stresses are immediately felt in the other two places.” Truly, water, in tandem with energy and food security, is necessary for all life on earth, and it starts with the smallholder farmer. We must resolve to increase her access to sustainable water sources and teach her and her children – and ours – ways to improve water use efficiency.
Click here to view the entire interview with Margaret Catley-Carlson.