Fisherman and birds

World Food Day: Recognising the Vital Role of Water in Nourishing the World

By: Angela Gathoni,

Welcome to our blog, the Human Righter. We shed light on contemporary human rights issues and comment on human rights developments. We dig deep into our focus areas within human rights, discuss SDGs and human rights. You will also find book reviews and analyses of new laws. 

This text was written by Angela Gathoni. Angela Gathoni is a Fundraising and Communications intern at RWI Lund. She completed her undergraduate studies in Development Studies at JKUAT Kenya and is currently enrolled in a Master of Science Programme in Development Studies at Lund University.

World Food Day, observed annually on the 16th of October, marks the establishment of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). It’s among the UN’s most significant days and it serves as a global call to action for the transformation of agrifood systems. This year, World Food Day spotlights the theme, ‘Water is Life, Water is Food. Leave No One Behind.’ This theme underscores the vital role of water in sustaining life on Earth and its foundational importance in our food systems. Furthermore, it aims to create global awareness about the necessity of prudent water management, particularly in the face of challenges such as rapid population growth, economic development, urbanisation, and the effects of climate change.

Water is undeniably the life force of our planet, yet a staggering 703 million people lack access to basic clean and safe drinking water. Alarmingly, agriculture accounts for a substantial 72% of global freshwater usage. This reality reveals the preciousness of freshwater and the ongoing struggle to secure an adequate supply.

Water’s intrinsic connection to food systems is profound, and enhancing these systems is paramount to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. According to the UN FAO, a person’s daily food intake requires between 2,000 and 5,000 litres of water. Water is an irreplaceable component of agricultural production. Without it, farmers would be unable to cultivate their crops or sustain their livestock, making water insecurity synonymous with food insecurity.

In addition, more than 600 million individuals derive their livelihoods from aquatic food systems, including small-scale fishermen, fish farmers, fish processors, and their families. These communities form the cornerstone of coastal and inland societies, contributing to local economies and leaving a lasting impact on cultures worldwide.

The rich diversity of aquatic food systems is a crucial source of nutrition and food security, increasingly acknowledged for its potential to combat malnutrition by providing essential nutrients like omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins, and minerals essential for human health. Preserving and safeguarding these aquatic ecosystems and the multitude of species they support is not just a responsibility but an imperative for the well-being of our planet and its inhabitants.

Given that agriculture remains the primary source of livelihood for many around the world, a lack of insurance markets results in continued reliance on supplementary irrigation to mitigate risks associated with climate fluctuations and maintain food security and nutrition.

To address these multifaceted challenges, the world must produce more food and essential agricultural commodities while utilising less water. It is imperative that water distribution is equitable, aquatic food systems are preserved, and no one is left behind in the quest for food security and nutrition.

By increasing efficiency, reducing negative impacts, and re-using wastewater, agrifood systems hold the solutions to the global water crisis, and for water security and food security – both at the same time.

Dr QU Dongyu, FAO Director-General

What Are Food Systems?

The term “food systems” encompasses all aspects of food production and consumption, considering their economic, health, and environmental impacts. These systems have several essential functions at their core: ensuring food security and nutrition for a growing global population, supporting the livelihoods of millions involved in the food supply chain, and doing so in an environmentally sustainable way. On a global scale, food systems face a complex “triple challenge” of simultaneously achieving these objectives while becoming more resilient in the face of uncertainty.

The central concept of a food systems approach is understanding that all these components are interconnected. Changes or challenges in one part of the system can have far-reaching effects. This approach is increasingly crucial in addressing intricate global issues like food security, nutrition, sustainability, and resilience to environmental and economic shocks. It underscores the need for coordinated multidisciplinary efforts and policies to establish a more sustainable and equitable food system.

Ideally, policies should align across the dimensions of the triple challenge, reinforcing one another rather than working against each other. Achieving this entails considering all relevant synergies and trade-offs between policy objectives and available instruments, which can be challenging and costly in practice. However, several design principles can simplify the task of creating coherent policies for food systems.

Governments play a vital role in this process by formulating policies that utilise data, innovation, and cross-sectoral collaboration to improve water planning and management. Supporting these policies with increased investments, legislation, technologies, and capacity development is crucial. Moreover, incentivising farmers and the private sector to embrace integrated solutions for the efficient use and conservation of water is imperative.

Furthermore, it is essential to adopt a human rights-based approach when addressing water and food security. This approach ensures that people not only have the right to access to water and food but also the right to participate in decision-making processes related to water and food systems. It calls for transparency, accountability, and the involvement of affected communities in planning and policy formulation.

What Can You do?

As individuals, we need to stop assuming there’s an endless supply of water. Instead, we should be more mindful of how we use this precious resource every day. It’s important to understand that the food we eat has a big impact on water use. To help, we should try not to waste food and find safe ways to reuse water.

Photo by Cassiano Psomas on Unsplash

Share with your friends
Scroll to top