Dry areas cover more than 40% of the world’s land surface and are home to 2.5 billion people, including some of the poorest on the globe. While these dry areas have to make do with less than 8% of the world’s renewable water resources, they are further challenged by extreme temperatures, frequent drought, land degradation and desertification.
Far from being in isolation, the issue of water security in drylands has far reaching impacts – the way water is managed is interlocked with food security, employment, livelihoods of the rural people and the environment sustainability in general. In a nutshell, adoption of strategic water policies is of paramount importance to the nation’s economy for countries in the dryland regions.
The International Conference on Policies for Water and Food Securityin the Dry Areas aims to drive the agenda of effective water policies to the forefront. According to the conference organizer, Dr. Aden Aw Hassan, Director of Social, Economic and Policy Research Program at ICARDA, investment in water technologies pays handsome returns in so many ways, reaching smallholders in dryland areas, cutting water losses in usage and irrigation, and minimizing pollution of valuable water. He points out that agriculture is taking 90% of available water in many areas for food production. And the biggest prize from the investment is food security!
Through the discussions at the conference, Dr. Aden hopes to achieve a clear commitment from the participating organizations toward quantifiable improvements to water usage, which can be closely monitored by all those involved in the land and water sector in the coming years.
To take action, a much better understanding of the inter-relationships between water policies, food security, employment and the wider environment is critical. This is where the conference is delivering through dialogue, discussion and debate.