The United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has issued a major report on the relationship between access to water and global food security and nutrition. The report, developed by the high-level panel of experts on food security and nutrition (HLPE), is among the first comprehensive international efforts to pull together analysis and policy recommendations about access to water, food security and nutrition. The report goes far beyond agriculture, although it is also considered.
Access to safe drinking water and sanitation are critical to human development and health. The report, commissioned by the committee on world food security (CFS), not only focuses on the need for access, but also identifies the explicit links between land, water and productivity. It emphasizes that water is integral to human food security and nutrition, as well as the conservation of the physical environment upon which all humans depend.
The report highlights the vast inequalities in access to water around the globe, and considers the socioeconomic, political, gender and power relations that influence inequity. As reported, “securing access can be particularly challenging for smallholders, vulnerable and marginalised populations and women.”
Lyla Mehta writes for The Guardian:
Moreover, women’s entitlements are often recorded as belonging to the male “head of the household”. Removing this gender bias in farming and water and providing equal access to resources for both male and female farmers would have a big impact on food security and nutrition.
Smallholder farmers produce more than 70% of the world’s food but often lack recognition of their land and water rights in formal legal systems. Women and girls frequently spend several hours a day collecting water but lack decision-making power when it comes to water management. Indigenous people are often displaced from their lands and rivers as a result of large infrastructure projects, and the interests of fisherfolk and pastoralists are rarely advanced in national policies.
Mechanisms to allocate water need to give adequate priority to water for food production as well as for the basic needs of poorest populations and those pushed to the edges of society.