EXPERTISE – Water helps to improve the availability of, access to and use of food – the three factors essential to food security*.
By Julie Mayans, Food Security and Livelihoods Advisor at SOLIDARITÉS INTERNATIONAL
Food security is ensured when food (horticultural and animal products) is available, accessible (physical access to the market, economic access to food items) and correctly used (adequate sustenance and conditions favourable to its assimilation). These three pillars are inseparable from water, which is essential to human beings’ food security, their survival, and the development of economic activity.
Availability: of water to produce foodstuffs
Water is at the heart of all agricultural activity. Some 70% of the earth’s fresh water supplies are used in agriculture. Without water, farmers and breeders cannot produce, feed themselves or earn an income. This has dramatic consequences, as they represent a third of the world’s population – and given that three quarters of them suffer from hunger.
The world’s population is estimated to grow by 2 or even 3 billion over the next 40 years. Combined with the evolution of diets, this will cause the demand for food to increase by 70% by 2050 (in comparison with 2009 levels), requiring more water for agricultural purposes. At the same time, it is water, used for agricultural purposes, that ensures the availability of food both in the home and on local markets.
Access: to water helps foster employment
Water is just as necessary for the industrial sector. The use of this vital resource as a means of production facilitates the development of economic activity, which in turn generates employment and hence income for a large section of the population, thereby contributing to their food security.
Continuing with this line of thought, the link between drinking water and access to income can be directly established. Countless working days are lost when ill-health leaves workers unable to work. Economic losses resulting from a lack of access to water and sanitation are estimated at 260 billion dollars a year. Yet according to the WHO, for every dollar invested in improving access to water in 2012, 2 dollars were generated. For every dollar invested in improving access to sanitation, 5.5 dollars were generated.
Usage: water for the assimilation of food
Clean drinking water for domestic use is essential for good health. A healthy individual digests food efficiently, while a person suffering from diarrhoeal diseases will only partially absorb nourishment. This only makes it more difficult for him or her to recover.
The health of human beings, 805 million of whom faced chronic undernourishment in 2012-2014, relies on a healthy diet, which requires that food be washed with clean water and clean water alone. Indeed, 60% of deaths due to diarrhoea are linked to the consumption of water or foodstuffs contaminated by the pathogens present in an unsanitary environment, or to inadequate hygiene practices. Finally, food security is also ensured through the regular use of clean water for healthcare and sanitation.
With all this in mind, SOLIDARITÉS INTERNATIONAL seeks to link these two inseparable issues – water and food security – in its projects, from conception to implementation.
*Food security exists when all human beings enjoy, all the time, the physical, social and economic possibility of getting enough to eat that is healthy and nutritious and allows them to satisfy their needs and food preferences and to lead a healthy and active life.