Dwindling water supplies threaten food production UN warns on World Food Day

Global food production is at risk if the world’s water resources are not managed more effectively, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) warned as it observed World Food Day, which marks the founding of the UN agency in 1945. In a study of 93 developing countries, FAO found that they were withdrawing freshwater supplies faster than they can be renewed. Ten countries are already in a critical state. “Careful water management will be crucial to grow the food we all need to lead productive and healthy lives,” FAO Director General Jacques Diouf said at a ceremony at the agency’s headquarters in Rome. “The combined vicious impact of poverty, rising demand for food and insufficient availability of water poses a serious challenge for world food security and universal access to clean water.” In his message to mark the Day, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said “if we are to prevent two-thirds of the world’s population from facing serious water shortages in the decades ahead, we must learn to manage our water resources more effectively.” He emphasized the need for water management in agriculture, calling for more “crop per drop,” since 70 per cent of water is used by agriculture. The Secretary-General also laid out a course for the future, noting that the General Assembly proclaimed next year the International Year of Freshwater, and called on the international community to rededicate itself to using water “wisely and responsibly.” For his part General Assembly President Jan Kavan of the Czech Republic pointed out that with still nearly one billion people suffering from hunger and malnutrition, the fight against poverty was not just a moral and humanitarian one but also “an integral part of the fight against terrorism and extreme intolerance of all kinds.” Worldwide celebrations of the Day, which took place in 150 countries, included an FAO exhibition at UN Headquarters in New York opened by Deputy Secretary-General Louise Fréchette. In her remarks, she pointed out that in some three decades, the world will need 60 per cent more food and that this was only possible through better management of the “world’s precious freshwater resources.” In Rome, the Day was also marked by a ceremony that featured a keynote address by President Hugo Chavez Frias of Venezuela as well as a message from Pope John Paul II. The ceremonies also involved the presentation of the World Food Day 2002 medal and the watering of an olive tree to symbolize the importance of this year’s theme, “Water: source of food security.”