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Poor communities, especially in Sub-Saharan Africa will be the most at risk, given the high degree of natural resource-based livelihoods, social and climatic vulnerability, food insecurity, future growth in water demand, and decline in food production as a result of droughts or floods. In 2012, Eighteen million people in the Sahel region face food shortages from a combination of climate change, low productivity, political conflict and soaring prices.
Climate change and increased disaster risks being mostly felt through alterations in the hydrological cycle, impacting on water availability, communities access to water and sanitation, and ultimately affecting people ’ s health, nutrition and food security.
These factors, along with an ever-increasing population predicted to reach 9 billion and beyond, will lead to more food and water crises given the increased pressure on already limited resources. Global systems may be approaching ‘ tipping points ’ warns a recent paper in Nature. Avoiding such outcomes is a problem for today, not tomorrow, points out an article in The Economist. Add in the uncertainties of climate change and we are in what UK Chief Scientist, Sir John Beddington, called a ‘ perfect storm ’ of growth in demand, resource scarcity and uncertainty.
The Challenge Program on Water and Food (CPWF) of the CGIAR has analyzed poverty-water relationships on 10 river basins including: the Andes and São Francisco in South America; the Limpopo, Niger, Nile and Volta basins in Africa; and the Ganges, Indus, Karkheh, Mekong, and Yellow in Asia. These basins – distinct and gargantuan geographic areas defined by water flows from high-ground to streams that feed major river systems – cover 13.5 million square kilometers and are home to some 1.5 billion people, and half of the world ’ s poorest .
The conclusions are just amazing: water scarcity is not affecting our ability to grow enough food today and tomorrow . Yet there is scarcity in certain areas, but our findings show that the problem overall is a failure to make efficient and fair use of the water available in these river basins. This is ultimately an institutional and political challenge, not a resource concern .
Comparing the performance of agricultural systems between river basins, based on the production in kg per m 3 of water consumed or water productivity . With few exceptions, water productivity of cereals is very low (between 0.2 and 0.5 kg/m 3 ). Efficient farmers achieve water productivity of 2.0 kg/m 3 , but in most basins it is only a fraction of this level.
Huge potential to continue to increase production in areas where levels are currently low, if proper access to water and markets is given to communities. This, in turn, could create the right incentives for 'sustainable intensification ’ . There is a need to go beyond concepts of 'transfers', such as Payment for Environmental Service schemes, to more nuanced agreements that promote collaboration and 'win-win' situations where benefits are shared between different groups. Benefits (and risks) need to be shared in order for all of the diverse actor groups that make up society to be able to develop. While globally there is enough water to sustain human development and environmental needs, water-related conflicts will continue if we do not manage our resources well. A radical reform of how water is managed and used is necessary. This includes reform of the institutions that govern water resources . For the most part, there is a complete fragmentation of how water is managed amongst different actors, and even countries, where the water needs of different sectors—agriculture, industry, environment, mining—are considered separately, rather than as interrelated and interdependent. Institutions must develop a holistic approach to address the issues of unequal development that lead to unequal sharing of resources and benefits.
Long-standing project in Zimbabwe. In Gwanda district, a diverse and active innovation platform has created a strong local market for goats , helping raise the value of one goat from US$10 to $60. The increased value serves as an incentive for farmers to invest in the survival of their goats, by growing their own stock feed, purchasing commercial stock feed and improving rangeland management. The innovation platform has engendered a virtuous cycle, in which farmers ’ self-esteem and confidence has improved and a more biodiverse and productive farming system has emerged. And the system is more resilient than before; the rainwater that falls on the improved production systems is now adding value to the system and water is also saved by the sharp reduction in goat mortality.
CPWF supports SADC Climate change strategy for the water sector, which has three main intervention areas namely management (Water), Development (infrastructure) and Governance (People). Innovation platforms at basin an regional levels used to diagnose, discuss and design better management and governance systems for Small Water Infrastructures. In Zimbabwe, the Mzingwane Catchment Council acts as another Platform, having a major role in water resources planning and management and could use the best available information from research outcomes to do so. Yet they also serve as a platform for various water users in the catchment, not just agriculture. GWP and FANRPAN specifically engaging provincial, national, basin and regional decision makers in dialogue platforms using findings of the research.