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Focus on... Water in agriculture

Currently, more than two-thirds of global freshwater extraction is used for agriculture, much of it wastefully. However, as cities and industries expand, the competition for scarce water resources is intensifying. Conflicts between up and downstream communities are becoming more frequent and ecosystems are under increasing pressure.

With an estimated 2.5 billion extra mouths to feed by 2050, greater investment in the provision and management of water resources is essential, if we are to produce the food, feed and fibre we depend on. Expansion in water storage is needed, along with improved management of irrigation systems and better water productivity in both irrigated and rain-fed farming.

In this Focus on water in agriculture, we highlight some of the approaches and initiatives from Bolivia, China, Nicaragua, Tanzania and Pakistan that are helping to conserve water, improve agricultural productivity and provide greater benefits to farming communities.

More for less in irrigated rice

More for less in irrigated rice

Received wisdom has long been that the more water applied the higher the yield of rice. But recent research and widespread farmer experience has proved that this is not so.

Date published: November 2009

Thirsty crops: drinking Pakistan dry

Thirsty crops: drinking Pakistan dry

Instead of trying to persuade farmers to switch from 'thirsty', but profitable, cotton and sugarcane production, WWF-Pakistan has introduced better management practices, with impressive results.

Date published: November 2009

Reviving an ancient irrigation system in Bolivia

Reviving an ancient irrigation system in Bolivia

Beni district in north east Bolivia is prone to both flooding and drought. Recently, an ancient irrigation system first developed 3,000 years ago has been revived, enabling farmers to capture and control floodwater, and so cope better when rains fail.

Date published: November 2009

Securing rights to water in China

Securing rights to water in China

Water stress is one of the most severe environmental problems facing China today. In response, the government is introducing a system of water rights designed to encourage water conservation and support farmers.

Date published: November 2009

Managing rivers through role play

Managing rivers through role play

Communities in Tanzania's Great Ruaha river basin have used a role playing board game to better understand how their use of water impacts on others. The game has helped to improve collaboration and guided communities and river basin managers in water allocation decisions.

Date published: November 2009

Ancient lesson in agroforestry - slash but don't burn

Ancient lesson in agroforestry - slash but don't burn

The Quesungual Slash and Mulch Agroforestry System, which draws on ancient tree and shrub management methods, is proving its worth in Honduras, Nicaragua and Colombia. As an alternative to slash-and-burn, the system is enabling farmers to restore degraded soils, replenish water resources and increase their crop harvests.

Date published: November 2009

 

 

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