FAO’s Water Programme - Coping with Water Scarcity

Jean-Marc Faurès1 and Radisav Pavlovic2
1 Senior Water Resources Management Officer, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Via delle Terme di Caracalla, 00153 Rome, Italy, e-mail: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
2 Former FAO staff member, presently with: Jaroslav Černi Institute for the Development of Water Resources, Jaroslava Černija 80, 11226 Beograd; e-mail: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Abstract

FAO helps developing countries and countries in transition modernize and improve their agriculture, forestry and fisheries practices, and ensure good nutrition for all. As agriculture alone consumes 70 percent of all freshwater appropriated for human use on our planet, conservation of water and its sustainable use in agriculture is among FAOs main concerns. Within its water programme, the Organization promotes the sustainable use of water resources for agriculture and food production. In a context of increasing water scarcity, it promotes an integrated approach which takes into account all possible response options that encompass both supply enhancement options and demand management options. Of particular importance is the improvement of water productivity in agriculture, i.e. increase of production per unit of water used.

FAO works at three levels: knowledge management and dissemination (including water statistics), policy advice and technical support to countries, which are outlined in this paper. FAO focuses on water scarcity, driving forces behind it, and the framework to cope with it. Major on-going activities in the field of water are briefly presented. Finally, FAO’s global Information System on Water and Agriculture (AQUASTAT) is presented in more detail, including its various databases, most of which are available on line.

Key words: Water scarcity, agriculture, irrigation, FAO, agricultural water management, AQUASTAT.

 

 

Introduction

FAO is a specialized agency of the United Nations dealing with agriculture as well as forestry, fisheries and other related fields. As agriculture alone consumes 70 percent of all freshwater appropriated for human use on our planet, conservation of water and its sustainable use in agriculture is among FAOs main concerns.

FAO’s water programme is anchored with the Land and Water Division (NRL), which is a part of the Natural Resources Management and Environment Department (NR). NRL acts as a focal point on all water-related issues, and works in close collaboration with relevant departments and units across the Organisation, including forestry, fisheries and aquaculture, rural development, nutrition, etc.

The Land and Water Division is engaged in a programmatic approach to agricultural water management addressing water use efficiency and productivity, and best practices for water use and conservation, from water sources to final uses. Specific target areas include integrated water resources management, improvement of on-farm water management, assessment of water productivity, improvement of the performance of irrigation services, advice on national policies on water allocation to agriculture, trade and potential of virtual water, integrated watershed management, river basin and transboundary waters management, multiple uses of water, impacts of climate change on water etc. These activities aim at generating a coherent and comprehensive water programme, effectively contributing to the achievement of the related Millennium Development Goals.



FAO’s Water Programme

Within its Water-programme, FAO works at three levels: knowledge management and dissemination (including water statistics), policy advice and technical support to countries.


Knowledge management and dissemination

FAO maintains a large information base on water for use at global, national and local levels. FAO has developed a global information system of water and agriculture, called AQUASTAT, which monitors and reports on water resources and agricultural water use in member countries (more details in a separate section of this paper). FAO also contributes extensively to the periodic issuance of the UN World Water Development Report and other major assessments. At a global level, it contributes to the development of perspective studies on agriculture, food production, food security and environment services, and on the impact of global warming on future water resources and their use. Its information serves as a basis for decision in major international natural resources management initiatives (UN-Water, World Water Forum, etc.). At national and local level, NRL assists countries and local institutions in strengthening their capacities for the assessment and monitoring of natural resources.