Water and food security

A water pump in a rice paddy

Human beings can only survive a few days without water. We need our most vital resource every day in the form of drinking water, and to produce and prepare food.

Worldwide, more than half of all cases of malnutrition are linked to inadequate water supply and poor sanitation. Infections caused by unsafe water and unhygienic sanitation can severely weaken the body, especially in the case of children. Poor water supply therefore triggers a cycle of disease, undernutrition and malnutrition, which is detrimental to children's healthy development and a violation of the human right to health.

Water in the agricultural sector

A child drinking water from the tap

In order to achieve food security for their growing populations, many governments in Germany's partner countries are striving to expand the use of irrigation in agricultural production.

Worldwide, some 70 per cent of water resources are used for agricultural irrigation; a figure that rises to as much as 90 per cent in very poorly developed countries. This can cause problems if fossil water, which cannot be renewed, is used for irrigation purposes.

In order to secure water supplies in the long term, water consumption by the agricultural sector needs to be reduced in catchment areas where water resources are under pressure or where the water balance is either critical or negative. That is why, under German development cooperation, efforts to increase efficiency and productivity in arable farming, livestock farming and forestry always need to be in line with efficient and sustainable water management.

This means, for example, paying greater attention to making better use of rainwater and increasing the efficiency of existing systems than to expanding irrigation farming. Methods such as rainwater harvesting, wastewater treatment, drip irrigation or artificial groundwater recharge are playing an increasingly important role.

In addition, the following applies to all water catchment areas: Germany refrains from engaging in projects which would draw on non-renewable fossil water for agricultural purposes. These resources should be used only on a short-term basis as sources of drinking water to meet acute needs, for instance in the case of a humanitarian crisis.

Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) and the water, energy and food security nexus are important guiding principles for Germany's development cooperation.

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