Importance of Water for Food Security UPSC NOTE

 Importance of water for food security and the need to adapt to climate change

  • The theme for World Food Day (October 16) this year — ‘Water is Life, Water is Food’ — calls for urgent action in managing water wisely.

  • Availability or a lack of water has become even more critical with increasing climate extremes.

  • Countries face severe challenges such as drought, floods, unseasonal rains and prolonged dry spells. 

  • Water availability affects every aspect of human life, especially food and nutrition security. 

  • For instance, about 60% of India’s net sown area is rainfed, contributing to 40% of the total food production. 

  • However, rainfed agriculture depends directly on water availability, and rain and soil moisture variations can severely affect food and nutrition security. 

  • There is an urgent need to adapt to climate change by promoting technologies and practices that make rainfed production more resilient and sustainable. 

  • Sustainable water management is critical to address the impending food and nutrition security threats. 

  • In turn, irrigated agriculture accounts for 72% of global freshwater withdrawals, sometimes with lasting damaging effects on the sustainability of significant ecosystems, such as seasonal rivers and deep aquifers.

Water and crop production

  • Decades of poor water management, misuse and pollution, and the climate crisis have degraded freshwater supplies and ecosystems, adding to the vulnerability of small-scale producers to climate shocks and land degradation in some of the world’s most fragile ecosystems. 

  • About 40% of the planet’s total land area is degraded, leaving farmers with less productive land. 

  • Small-scale farmers, who make up more than 80% of farmers globally, are especially affected as they often lack access to finance, technology and irrigation to maintain a level of production that can sustain their livelihoods.

  • Extreme weather events and variability in water availability are severely affecting agricultural production, changing agro-ecological conditions and shifting growing seasons. 

  • Changes in rainfall and higher temperatures also affect crop productivity, reducing food availability.

  • The Government of India has assessed the impact of climate change in 2050 and 2080 using climate projections and crop simulation models. 

  • Without adaptation measures, rainfed rice yields in India are projected to reduce by 20% in 2050, and by 47% in 2080 scenarios, while irrigated rice yields are projected to decline by 3.5% in 2050 and 5% in 2080 scenarios. 

  • Wheat yields are projected to decrease by 19.3% in 2050 and 40% in 2080, while kharif maize yields could decline by 18% and 23%. 

  • Climate change without adequate adaptation measures reduces crop yields and lowers the nutritional quality of produce.

Various initiatives taken

  • The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), in Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Himachal Pradesh, and Maharashtra, is piloting a crop forecasting framework and model incorporating climate (weather), soil characteristics and market information to aid rainfed farmers in making informed decisions contributing to food security.

  • Irrigation can also be an effective measure to make agriculture more resilient, and in most cases, enable farmers to transform their livelihoods by growing, consuming and selling high-value crops such as nutritious fruits and vegetables. 

  • In this context, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) supports soil and water conservation, the building or fixing of irrigation canals, dams, ponds, and dykes, as well as flood barriers through food assistance in exchange for labour. 

  • In 2021 alone, 8.7 million people across 49 countries benefited directly from such support.

  • Similarly, International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) supports Indian States in leveraging the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act scheme. 

  • Through safeguards during design and planning and encouraging participatory institutional development, IFAD ensures that micro-irrigation infrastructure is environmentally and socially sustainable and financially viable.

  • The FAO also supports the sustainable transformation of agrifood systems and climate-smart agriculture practices to improve water-use efficiency. 

  • It supported the farmer water school programme in Uttar Pradesh, which helped smallholder farmers. 

  • At the same time, the Andhra Pradesh Farmer Managed Groundwater Systems project reached out to 638 habitations in seven drought-prone districts, that included a hydrological monitoring programme.

  • Similarly, IFAD has enshrined climate change adaptation in its core strategies. 

  • It set ambitious targets in terms of leveraging climate financing to mitigate climate change by addressing the adverse impacts of agriculture and helping farmers to adapt to the increasing volatility of weather conditions.

  • By investing in the restoration and preservation of soil health, water resources and merging modern technologies with indigenous knowledge systems to build productive and resilient production systems and value chains.

  • IFAD-supported projects in Maharashtra, Odisha, Uttarakhand, Nagaland and Mizoram incorporate climate-resilient seed varieties and crops, including millets, and train farmers in climate-sensitive agricultural practices and soil management to cope with increased water stress. 

  • The WFP is collaborating with the Government of Odisha to develop solutions for smallholder farmers, focusing on women. 

  • The goal is to enhance resilience through solar technologies, establish community-based climate advisory services to help manage climate impacts and promote a millet-value chain that reduces water usage and improves nutrition.

Steps needed

  • To achieve global food and nutrition security, political commitment is needed as much as concrete investment. 

The needed policies and investments must promote: 

  • Innovative and proven technologies that allow farmers to increase their productivity, adapt to climate change and become more resilient to shocks; 

  • Environmentally and socially sustainable and financially viable irrigation and water management strategies; 

  • Reduce their climate footprint of agricultural production, as well as bio-hazards and environmental pollution; 

  • Bring sanitation and drinking water supplies closer to rural households; 

  • Adopt efficient food and water recycling strategies and strengthen institutional arrangements and capacity for sustainable and equitable water regulations, management, access and ownership.

  • The UN’s food agencies work closely with the Government of India and State governments on innovations such as Solar 4 Resilience, Secure Fishing, and the revival of millets for renewable energy promotion, food security and nutrition.



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Learnerz IAS | Concept oriented UPSC Classes in Malayalam: Importance of Water for Food Security UPSC NOTE
Importance of Water for Food Security UPSC NOTE
Learnerz IAS | Concept oriented UPSC Classes in Malayalam
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