Deputy Director-General María Helena Semedo delivered a speech at the 18th World Water Congress in Beijing on September 14, 2023. In her remarks, she emphasized the importance of agriculture in protecting the world’s scarce water resources and ensuring food and water security. She stated that by increasing efficiency, reducing negative impacts, and reusing wastewater, agriculture not only holds the solution to the global water crisis, but also plays a key role in achieving the goals of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
Water is a high priority for the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) because agriculture accounts for over 70% of the world’s freshwater use. However, agricultural water availability is threatened by declining resources, climate change, and competition from other sectors. To address these challenges, FAO has outlined a series of water-related initiatives as part of the Water Journey.
FAO is committed to ensuring that there is sufficient water for everyone, in terms of both quantity and quality, to sustain biodiversity as agreed at the 2023 UN Water Conference. They are also dedicated to the Global Water Action Agenda, a landmark agreement adopted in December that sets an ambitious vision for a world living in harmony with nature. This framework recognizes the importance of food and agriculture in relation to biodiversity, water, climate, and food security challenges. Semedo highlighted the crucial role of ecosystem-based solutions and sustainable management of natural resources in achieving these goals.
To improve water quality, maintain biodiversity, and deliver other benefits to agricultural systems and rural areas, FAO emphasizes the prioritization of green and blue infrastructure for agriculture, fisheries, and aquaculture. However, the success of these initiatives relies on the holistic and coherent integration of sustainable water management in agricultural systems. Semedo stressed the need for a comprehensive and sustainable framework of cooperation between governments, international organizations, academia, research institutions, communities, and the private sector to ensure unified planning, financing, governance, and implementation.
With the 2030 timeline for development goals approaching, Semedo urged the need to create water flows for both people and the planet in a sustainable and comprehensive manner. FAO is dedicated to playing its part in this global effort to secure water resources and achieve food and water security.