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Water scarcity complicates food security for more than 1 billion people

Lack of water affects agricultural areas around the world where more than 3 billion people live, of which some 1.2 billion reside in areas suffering from severe deficiencies that ultimately complicate their ability to produce and feed themselves, according to a report by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

‘The state of food and agriculture’ prepared each year by FAO focuses on this occasion on the water variable, key in the agency’s opinion to advance in the fulfillment of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). Water resources per person have decreased more than 20 percent globally in the last two decades.

Agriculture is considered as the sector that consumes the most water – around 70 percent – so experts agree that it is necessary to do more with less. Not surprisingly, the report estimates about 1,200 million people living in areas where difficulties in obtaining water complicate agricultural activity, 44 percent of them in rural areas and the rest in small urban centers.

Asia is considered in gross terms as the most affected continent, especially in its southern area. In subharan Africa, about 5 percent of the population, some 50 million people, live in areas where droughts often have catastrophic impacts on plantations and livestock roughly every three years.

Seasonal agriculture, which basically depends on rainwater, represents around 80 percent of the world’s area under cultivation and 60 percent of production. In its report, FAO estimates that 11 percent of these crops, comprising 128 million hectares, suffer frequent droughts, while more than 60 percent of irrigated land (171 million hectares) and 14 percent of the rangelands (656 million hectares) lack all the water they need.

The organization has appealed for investment in all these areas and their conservation, while raising the need to provide them with irrigation systems that allow a slight relief from inclement weather. It has also opted for resistant crops and for improved water management that guarantees sustainable and equitable access for all, taking into account that small plantations can be more efficient than large estates.

The Director General of FAO, Qu Dongyu, has stressed in a statement the need to send a “strong message” to the international community, so that they understand that fighting “immediately” the scarcity of water in agriculture is essential if they want to ” take seriously “the commitments contained in the SDGs. The report notes that zero hunger in 2030 “is still possible.”

FAO emphasizes in its document that water “should also be recognized as an economic good”, which therefore “has a value and a price”, in order to stop assuming that it is a free resource and understand that it is intelligent use is necessary, betting on supervising the correct supply, guaranteeing balanced access for all and promoting its conservation.

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