Count on water to disaster-proof global food systems
By Dr. Stefan Uhlenbrook
Access to supplies of water, or an overabundance, can make or break food production and consumption systems. In sub-Saharan Africa for instance, 50 million people live in areas where severe drought has catastrophic effects on farmland. As climate change often manifests itself through increasing floods and droughts, the situation is likely to worsen unless drastic action is taken to mitigate the continent’s – and the world’s – water risks.
Many countries are already gearing up to invest in better ways to manage water and shore up their reserves, including in the US, where $100 billion is earmarked to upgrade water infrastructure to build resilience and create jobs. And in Ethiopia, which is no stranger to water risks, the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) is intended to improve regional energy supply, while at the same time managing the risks of floods and droughts and improving irrigation.
Earlier this year the Food Systems Summit Global Dialogue on Water underlined why water has to be a key issue at the critical UN Food Systems Summit in September. Participants agreed that water plays an essential role in future-proofing food systems against climate shocks and pandemics, making them more inclusive and healthier, ending hunger and malnutrition and safeguarding the health of our planet.
Not preparing for and managing water scarcity in our food systems is a risk the world cannot afford to take. Far better to prepare for the threat of water scarcity and manage the risks, than to be complacent and see our very food systems dry up.