Food and Agriculture

© Diganta Talukdar.
Cultivation in Nagaon District, India by Diganta Talukdar.

Agriculture accounts for 70% of freshwater withdrawals from rivers, lakes and aquifers – up to more than 90% in some developing countries.

Steadily increasing demand for agricultural products to satisfy the needs of a growing population continues to be the main driver behind water use. While the world’s population growth has slowed since the 1970s and is expected to continue its downward trend, steady economic development, particularly in emerging market economies, has translated into demand for a more varied diet which puts additional pressure on water resources. In addition, climate change and the recent acceleration in biofuel production bring new challenges to agriculture and put further strain on natural resources.

Rainfed agriculture covers 80% of the world’s cultivated land, and is responsible for about 60% of crop production. While the contribution of irrigation to total crop production is comparatively modest (about 10-20%), it allows crop growth in many permanently water-scarce or temporarily water-stressed environments.

The agricultural sector faces a complex challenge: producing more food of better quality while using less water per unit of output; providing rural people with resources and opportunities to live a healthy and productive life; applying clean technologies that ensure environmental sustainability; and contributing in a productive way to the local and national economy.

A combination of supply- and demand-side measures is needed to address the acute water challenges in agriculture over the coming 50 years. 

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Facts and figures extracted from WWDR3, Water in a Changing World (2009). Click on the links to know more!

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