At the just concluded Stockholm World Water Week, the Global Water Initiative team had a fantastic run. The week’s theme was on the water-energy nexus and provided for some really interesting and informed discussions. One such session featured Donath Fungu, GWI EA Programme Coordinator, CARE Tanzania, whose contributions on smallholder farmers during a panel discussion provided fodder for a full page editorial in the next day’s papers.
The 2014 World Water Week just ended in Stockholm and this year’s theme was ‘Water and Energy: a vital link for a sustainable future‘.
All discussions centred on the water, energy and food nexus. It’s argued that water and energy are inextricably linked and interdependent and among the world’s pre eminent challenges. We need water for energy, cooling, storage, biofuels, hydro power among others, and we need energy to pump, treat and desalinate water. Water and energy are a prerequisite for the satisfaction of basic human needs, production of food for a rapidly growing population and achievement of economic growth. The challenge, though, is how can energy be sustainably supplied without exhausting the limited available water resources? It takes large amounts of energy to pump and treat water and similarly large amounts of water to produce energy. Addressing this challenge requires cross sector collaboration.
During his welcome address, Torgny Holmgren, Executive Director of Stockholm International Water Institute observed that, as the global demand for both energy and water increases, there is an urgent need for policy makers to rethink the ways in which populations produce and use both resources, to ensure shared prosperity for all citizens, protect the environment, achieve socio economic development and secure peace and stability. However, how we achieve this sectoral collaboration remains another challenge. Among the questions arising; How do we translate global policy to local reality? How do we change mindsets to be able to do this given the different government institutional set ups? How much partnership is required? What do we need to integrate?
Dr Joachim Harlin of UNDP, in a dialogue during the UN stakeholder sector seminar on water energy food nexus and the post 2015 development agenda, hinted that this can happen through; creating policy coherence by overcoming fragmentation within sectors; making a business case for water energy nexus; fostering enabling conditions and building on success stories especially of private-public partnerships at hand.
This year’s conference brought together energy and water professionals from science and research communities, NGOs, governments, researchers, and the private sector from around the world. It occurs between two major milestones in the process leading to a post 2015 development framework; the release of the UN open working group recommendations and the UN general assembly in September.
It’s interesting to know that the Open working group, through various consultations with different stakeholders; governments, organizations, has come up with 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and 169 targets, for consideration and appropriate action by the General Assembly at its 68th session. The draft SDGs are quite ambitious and the UN general assembly has an uphill task to reduce them to a number that is manageable.
For GWI EA this has been the perfect opportunity to bring the voice of smallholder farmers into the debate, highlighting the difficulties they face and the importance of smallholder farms to energy and water management. Worth noting is that today’s agriculture accounts for about 70 percent of the world’s fresh water withdrawals and food demand is expected to double by 2050 due to population increase, change in diets and climate change. Therefore, water saving agricultural practices and effective and equitable water management methods are needed throughout both rain fed and irrigated food production systems.
It was both inspiring and humbling to have sat and listened to the give and take of conversation and discussions that echoed through the halls at Stockholmsmässan, the venue for World Water Week. New ideas were considered, new partnerships forged and commitments reaffirmed for making water stewardship and the basic human right of access to clean water and energy a reality.
GWI EA, Uganda
This blog was shared on the Water, Energy & Food Security Nexus Resource Platform. Read more here
GWI EA, a five-year program of action research, advocacy and policy influencing that focuses on investments in water for smallholder agriculture attended World Water Week in Sweden 1-6th September, the focus of which was on water cooperation and “ building partnerships”.
Our Program Director and Uganda and Tanzania Policy and Advocacy Managers used the occasion to contribute to sessions, strengthen networks and increase awareness on the GWI EA achievements to date. We also wanted to get a stronger sense of how cooperation and partnership building could address the “wicked” problem(s) of investing in water
management for smallholder farmers in East Africa, and how different levels of partnership building could contribute significantly to this task. Team members attended a variety of sessions and presented at the event.
Some of the key take-homes and reflections include:
Competing demands on water in many parts of the world mean that there is no taking for granted agricultural use “ hencethere is need for a far more robust business case for investing in water for small-holder agriculture. This should include demonstrating increases in income, improved food security and time savings, including a far stronger understanding of private sector engagement to help mitigate risk and optimize supply/investment. We will work on the latter process of engagement, in particular, given the huge significance of private sector operators in determining market behaviour in our three focus countries Ethiopia, Tanzania and Uganda.
At least 10% of agricultural budgets should be spent on water for smallholder agriculture over the next 5-year period. This aligns with the Maputo Declarationimplemented by CAADP and is also (apparently) what is being discussed within the UN under the development of sustainable development goals. This provides an entry point for those keen to influence (as GWI EA is) inter-sectoral budget allocations. One investment challenge, is how to establish funds that can support water investments in smallholder agriculture “ at all levels“ and in particular focusing on technologies and practices that put more emphasis on harvesting “green” water.
Promoting the use of natural capital “water infrastructure” is high on the current global policy agenda – unsurprisingly given that 70% of current water withdrawals are being used in agriculture, and this figure is likely to rise in coming years. Water use efficiency was one area of emphasis, particularly in the wider context of water management within “landscapes” (land and ecosystems). This strong message throughout the week built on an understanding of “natural capital” as a key asset to harness, including improving “green water” availability and use through enhancing soil moisture and establishing more robust and resilient soil systems. Conservation agriculture is one “smart” way of achieving this, using water for agriculture as part of wider farmer management of natural regeneration (FMNR).
Returns on investment in conservation agriculturecan be high because labour needs are reduced by 30%, as well as other inputs. There is a need to build a case for productivity per unit area under Conservation Agriculture (CA), and to nurture more private sector-led engagement in this area. This is an area GWI EA could lead on, providing examples of what can be done, how much it costs, and the kinds of mechanisms required to scale up.
The week also allowed showcasing of new initiatives. USAID and SIDA launched the Grand Food Security Challenge, a venture capital fund to support implementation of promising innovations. This is an important initiative, and, we hope, will include support to innovations in learning. Innovation in funding is required globally as well as locally to respond to the need for investments in water for agriculture that are appropriate at different scales, affordable and sustainable.
Strengthening Stockholm?: The World Water Week is an important global gathering. The technical “meat” of the event is strong, but linkage to political engagement and commitment remains weak, apart from the “Stockholm Statement” that comes out on Friday (seehere). From a GWI EA perspective, this makes participation less effective than it could be, so in future we will seek more targeted and political engagement in the process. This will include specific efforts to leverage greater global focus on levels of investment in water for smallholder agriculture, including building partnerships around the messaging of our Regional Charter on Investing in Water for Smallholder Agriculture. Our planning for Stockholm 2014 has already begun!