Monday, September 26, 2011

Major Rivers Have Enough Water to Meet Food Needs, Study Shows

Major Rivers Have Enough Water to Meet Food Needs, Study Shows

By Rudy Ruitenberg - Sep 25, 2011 11:16 PM PT

Major river systems in the developing world have enough water to meet
food-production needs this century, according to a report by
researchers from 30 countries published in the International Water

A study of 10 river basins in Asia, Latin America and Africa released
today from Recife, Brazil, found there�s �clearly enough� water, and
the issue is one of inefficient use and unfair distribution rather
than scarcity, the Challenge Program on Water and Food, or CPWF, said
in a statement.

The river basins studied are home to about 1.5 billion people,
according to the research group. World food output will have to climb
70 percent by 2050 as the world�s population rises to 9.2 billion from
an estimated 6.9 billion in 2010, according to the United Nations�
Food and Agriculture Organization.

�Water scarcity is not affecting our ability to grow enough food,�
Alain Vidal, director of the CPWF who is based in Colombo, Sri Lanka,
said in the statement. �There is scarcity in certain areas, but our
findings show that the problem overall is a failure to make efficient
use of the water available in these river basins.�

The CPWF, based in Battarmulla, Sri Lanka, was set up by the
Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research, a
collaboration of research centers funded by governments and
organizations including the U.S., the European Union, India and the
World Bank.

The researchers studied the Andes and Sao Francisco river basins in
South America, the Limpopo, Niger, Nile and Volta river systems in
Africa and the Indus-Ganges, Karkheh, Mekong and Yellow River basins
in Asia.

�Complete Fragmentation�
The study found �complete fragmentation of how river basins are
managed amongst different actors, and even countries where the
different sectors, agriculture, industry, environment and mining, are
considered separately rather than as interrelated and interdependent,�
Simon Cook, head of the CPWF�s Basins Focal Research Project, said in
the statement.

Governments need to rethink how to use the multiple benefits from
river systems, rather than focus on one sector such as hydropower,
irrigation or industry, the researchers said.

�This is ultimately a political challenge, not a resource concern,�
Vidal said.

Africa has the biggest potential to increase food production, with
only 4 percent of available water captured for food and livestock,
according to the report. �Huge� amounts of rainwater are lost or
unused, especially in sub-Saharan Africa, according to Vidal.

�With a major push to intensify rain-fed agriculture, we could feed
the world without increasing the strain on river- basins systems,�
Cook said.

The researchers found production to be at least 10 percent below
potential in �large� parts of Asia and Latin America, according to the
statement. In the Indus and Ganges, 23 percent of rice farms are
producing about half of what they could sustainably produce, according
to the report.

Areas with relatively good water efficiency are in the Ganges, Nile
and Yellow River basins, where farmers and governments have �vastly�
increased the amount of food produced from available water, the
research showed.

Water �hot spots� are in the Indus, Yellow River, Nile and Limpopo
river basins, where conflict over sharing water resources is
increasing, according to the study.

To contact the reporter on this story: Rudy Ruitenberg in Paris at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Claudia Carpenter at

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