Article & Pictures by Stockholm International Water Institute
Published August 27, 2012
Global leaders assembled at the opening session of the 2012 World Water Week in Stockholm, Sweden, have on August 27, 2012 called for substantial increases in public and private sector investment to reduce losses of food in the supply chain, enhance water efficiency in agriculture and curb consumer waste.
More than 2,000 politicians, Chief Executive Officers, scientists and leaders of international organisations from more than 100 nations are gathering in Stockholm, Sweden, August 26-September 1, 2012 for the annual World Water Week which focuses on ‘Water and Food Security’.
Today, more than 900 million people suffer from hunger, and two billion more face serious health risks from undernourishment. At the same time, 1.5 billion people overeat and over one-third of all food is lost or wasted. Demand for food and fibre is projected to increase by 70% by 2050 and, without intervention, untenable pressure on water resources in many regions in the world will threaten food and water security.
“More than one-fourth of all the water we use worldwide is taken to grow over one billion tons of food that nobody eats. That water, together with the billions of dollars spent to grow, ship, package and purchase the food, is sent down the drain,” says Torgny Holmgren, Executive Director of the Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI). “Reducing the waste of food is the smartest and most direct route to relieve pressure on water and land resources. It’s an opportunity we cannot afford to overlook.”
In the over 100 sessions set to take place throughout the week, the convening experts will debate and showcase solutions to ensure that the planet’s limited water resources can meet the needs of growing economies and support a healthy global population. They will also discuss the latest innovations and successful practices to provide clean water and safe sanitation to the more than two billion people who live without sustainable access to these basic services. Half of the cases of malnutrition worldwide result from illness and infection from dirty water or unhygienic sanitation.
Participants at the week will also deliberate on issues countries leasing foreign land for agricultural production, trade, human rights, climate change, and the inter-linkages between food, water and energy production. The International Water Resource Economics Consortium (IWREC) will host a Chief Economist Panel debate on how to use economic policy instruments to manage water more efficiently.
“The numbers show that agriculture is a thirsty activity. But that also means that agriculture holds the key to sustainable water use,” says José Graziano da Silva, Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO). He added that investment in smallholder farmers is critical to achieve food and water security for all people.
“Throughout the world, 2.6 billion small-scale producers till the land, raise animals and fish. They are the main providers of food in the developing world. If we want them to produce more sustainably, preserving natural resources, adapting to and contributing to the mitigation of climate change, we need to help them. We cannot expect them to do it alone.”
Also speaking at the opening session on August 27, 2012, Dr. Colin Chartres, Director-General of the International Water Management Institute (IWMI), the 2012 Stockholm Water Prize Laureate, said: “Feeding over 9 billion people by 2050 is possible, but we have to reflect on the cost to the environment in terms of water withdrawals and land resources. Furthermore it will put phenomenal pressure on ecosystem services on which our society depends. Saving water by reducing food waste, increasing productivity, plant breeding and waste water recycling are critical to all of us.”
During the week, H.M. King Carl XVI Gustav of Sweden will present the Stockholm Water Prize to the International Water Management Institute, IWMI, for their work to improve agriculture water management, enhance food security, protect environmental health and alleviate poverty in developing countries. Other prizes that will be presented during the week are the Stockholm Junior Water Prize, which is given to one national team from 27 competing nations, and the Stockholm Industry Water Award, which will be presented this year to PepsiCo for their efforts to reduce water consumption in their operations and to help solve water challenges on a broad scale.
The World Water Week in Stockholm is the annual meeting place for the planet’s most urgent water-related issues. Organised by the Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI), it brings together thousands of experts, practitioners, decision makers and business innovators from around the globe to exchange ideas, foster new thinking and develop solutions.
The Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI) is a policy institute that generates knowledge and informs decision-making towards water wise policy and sustainable development. SIWI performs research, builds institutional capacity and provides advisory services in five thematic areas: water governance, transboundary water management, water and climate change, the water-energy-food nexus, and water economics.
SIWI organises the World Water Week in Stockholm and hosts the Stockholm Water Prize, the Stockholm Junior Water Prize and the Stockholm Industry Water Award.