When else can you find yourself in the same room as the French Minister of Agriculture, the Director of the International Seed Foundation, the President of the Food Security Council, the Assistant Director General for Natural Resources Management and Environment at the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations, and a host of other international movers and shakers? It’s only at the High Level Session on Water and Food Security at the sixth World Water Forum.
Food security is defined by FAO as “when all people, at all times, have physical, social and economic access to sufficient safe and nutritious food that meets their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life.” Target 1.C of the United Nation’s Millennium Development Goals (MDG) is to halve, by 2015, the number of people who suffer from hunger. We were, arguably, making some progress toward reaching that goal until the financial crisis of 2008 led to a spike in hunger in 2009, in both developing and developed countries.
The theme for the sixth World Water Forum is “Time for Solutions”, and what better time than now to brainstorm ways to get back on track with the food security MDG. These high level sessions bring together representatives from the agricultural, governmental, and financial sectors, along with heads of international NGOs, to redefine objectives for worldwide mobilization. At the session, Bruno Le Maire, French Minister of Agriculture, presented the following redefined, operationally-focused objectives to reach the food security MDG:
- Use funds from the international community to invest in developing infrastructure in water-poor countries. This would include precision irrigation, reservoirs for storing winter water for summer use, and treatment of urban water for agricultural irrigation.
- Invest heavily in innovation to develop irrigation and agriculture that is more drought-resistant.
- Support small and family farming to combat poverty, increase productivity, and manage water sources more effectively.
- Set up a regional water governance for agriculture and take into account vulnerability of the environment.
Mr. Le Maire then opened the session to the panelists to discuss how they can contribute their expertise to these objectives. Panelist suggestions included:
- Integrating management of natural resources and involvement of the farmers of the world in the discussion and solution;
- Including and using indigenous knowledge to understand ecological and local parameters;
- Dissemination of new research concepts to both companies and farmers;
- Investment in new grain varieties that increase yields and an increase private and public funding in the seed sector to achieve these developed crops;
- Funding work in small agriculture and sanitation/water issues, especially in Africa and African companies;
- Supporting innovation in the global south;
- and harmonizing government initiatives and policy-making, not only at the local, regional, and international levels, but also horizontally within each level.
At current agricultural production levels, food production will need to increase by 70% by 2050 to keep pace with the population increase. Food security is a global challenge which requires global cooperation, innovation, creative thinking, and communication. We must work to improve production efforts which align with sustainability goals, taking into account changing climate conditions. While it was an amazing experience to be a part of such an important international debate, I can’t wait to see what comes from this high level session and the suggestions listed above.
What are your thoughts on food security? What solutions are needed to help us reach the Millennium Development Goals?