event 17 Jan 2017

Water-Food Nexus // Water for Food. Water for Life. A Comprehensive Assessment of Water Management in Agriculture

Edited by David Molden. The Comprehensive Assessment of Water Management in Agriculture is a critical evaluation of the benefits, costs, and impacts of the past 50 years of water development, the water management challenges communities face today, and the solutions people have developed around the world. It is a multi-institute process aimed at assessing the current state of knowledge and stimulating ideas on how to manage water resources to meet the growing needs for agricultural products, to help reduce poverty and food insecurity, and to contribute to environmental sustainability. The findings will enable better investment and management decisions in water and agriculture in the near future by considering their impact over the next 50 years.

category Policy Papers
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(C) flickr / Global Water Forum
The scope of this assessment is water management in agriculture, including fisheries and livestock, and the full spectrum of crop production from soil tillage through supplemental irrigation and water harvesting to full irrigation in a sustainable environment context. The assessment was originally framed by 10 questions, later expanded as interest grew, and includes the overarching question: how can water in agriculture be de- veloped and managed to help end poverty and hunger, ensure environmentally sustainable practices, and find the right balance between food and environmental security? The Comprehensive Assessment places water management in agriculture in a social, ecological, and political context and assesses the dominant drivers of change. It explicitly addresses multiple use, feedbacks, and dynamic interactions between water for production systems, livelihood support, and the environment. It analyzes past and current water development efforts from the perspective of costs, benefits, and impacts, considering society (economic and rural development, increased food security, agricultural development, health, and poverty) and the environment (conservation and degradation of ecosystems and agriculture). The Comprehensive Assessment covers major ground identified as important but not given thorough coverage in related assessments. The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment identified agriculture as a key driver of ecosystem change and at a global scale addressed the reasons for this and the responses available (MEA 2005). The World Water Assessment Programme considers all aspects of water and touches on water for agriculture in its report, but does not go into detailed analysis (UN–Water 2006). The ongoing International Assessment of Agricultural Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD) lists water as a key issue and draws on the results of the Comprehensive Assessment.


FAO website (PDF)

Table of Content

  • Will there be enough water to grow enough food? Yes, if…
  • Divergent views—divergent understanding
  • Water for food—water for life
  • Water scarcity—water management
  • Future demand for food—and for water
  • Influencing what happens next
  • Policy action 1 Change the way we think about water and agriculture
  • Policy action 2 Fight poverty by improving access to agricultural water and its use
  • Policy action 3 Manage agriculture to enhance ecosystem services
  • Policy action 4 Increase the productivity of water
  • Policy action 5 Upgrade rainfed systems—a little water can go a long way
  • Policy action 6 Adapt yesterday’s irrigation to tomorrow’s needs
  • Policy action 7 Reform the reform process—targeting state institutions
  • Policy action 8 Deal with tradeoffs and make difficult choices

Guiding Questions

  1. What are the options and their consequences for improving water productivity in agriculture?
  2. What have been the benefits, costs, and impacts of irrigated agricultural development, and what conditions those impacts?
  3. What are the consequences of land and water degradation on water productivity and on the multiple users of water in catchments?
  4. What are the extent and significance of use of low-quality water in agriculture (saline and waste- water), and what are the options for its use?
  5. What are the options for better management of rainwater to support rural livelihoods, food pro- duction, and land rehabilitation in water-scarce areas?
  6. What are the options and consequences for using groundwater?
  7. How can water be managed to sustain and enhance capture fisheries and aquaculture systems?
  8. What are the options for integrated water resources management in basins and catchments?
  9. What policy and institutional frameworks are appropriate under various conditions for managing water to meet the goals of food and environmental security?
  10. How much water will be needed for agriculture, given the need to meet food security and envi- ronmental sustainability goals?



Tina Schmiers


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