Barbara Frost is chief executive of WaterAid. The opinions expressed are her own.
At this year’s Stockholm World Water Week, much of the talk has been about the need to improve both food security and water management to meet the rapidly growing and increasingly diverse demand for resources.
Current estimates suggest the global population will reach nine billion by 2050. This will lead to a 70 percent increase in demand for food, with shifts towards a more complex diet placing yet more pressures on water supplies.
At WaterAid, we recognise that not only water but also sanitation and hygiene are intrinsically linked to food security. It is vital that we provide these services for basic human needs if we are to address large scale water and food security. This is laid out in the new water security framework we are launching at the global water event.
Clean water, sanitation and improved hygiene have a significant impact on livelihoods, the environment and agriculture. As a result, there is little hope of achieving food security and overall well-being without ensuring water security at a local level.
Dirty water and poor sanitation have serious implications on health, affecting people’s ability to farm and work, with a knock-on effect on both the availability of food and the ability to buy it.
Improved water sources close to the home can be used to water household kitchen gardens, providing additional nutrition in times of food shortages, while the bi-products of ecological sanitation can greatly enhance soil fertility and crop yields.
Water, sanitation and hygiene services generally focus on the use of groundwater, which is naturally more resilient to drought conditions. It is therefore more likely to be available for household food production and cattle watering, as well as for drinking, washing and cooking, when other surface sources dry up.
Furthermore, poorly executed attempts to improve food security can have adverse effects on access to water for poor communities.
Water insecurity is more often the result of weak political will to invest in water, poverty, social and political exclusion, climate variability, population growth and increasing demand for water, rather than being an issue of availability.
Our new framework provides guidance for improving water facilities at a community-level, to transform the lives of the 783 million people currently living without safe water. The wider impacts in turn spread to food security on a global level.
WaterAid is calling for the need to:
- Extend and sustain improved water supply services
- Reduce collection times and the burden of water collection
- Protect and improve water quality through improved hygiene and sanitation, source protection, safe handling, storage and treatment.
- Increase water storage capacity
- Strengthen the monitoring of water availability, demand and quality
- Facilitating community-level risk assessment and risk-based planning, and operating principles
- Strengthen the voice of poor communities to call for assistance from responsible authorities
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- VIDEO - The River Runs Back - Winner of WASH TV Media Award
- Aid transparency: a call to action - Water for People, World Bank
- Basic water and sanitation essential for food security - WaterAid
- Why we need integrated thinking on water and food security - SIWI
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