UN warns of devastating effects of water shortages as Zim hosts first FAO workshop on National Water Roadmaps

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By Reason Razao | Senior Reporter

Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) Director-General QU Dongyu, has urged African leaders and experts to find solutions on how water can be used in a sustainable and equitable way that conserves the precious liquid.

African leaders are meeting in Zimbabwe for the first FAO regional workshop on National Water Roadmaps.

The three-day meeting will look at regional and national perspectives regarding water challenges ahead of the UN 2023 Water Conference.

Part of the aims of the FAO regional workshop is to inform African countries about the overall role of water in sustainable development and to provide a platform for governments, international organizations, civil society, the private sector and academia to discuss and develop country-specific water plans.

Marking the commencement of the workshop in the country, QU said there was a need for collected efforts to deal with the issues of water conservation.

“We clearly need to rethink how we use the water we have in a sustainable and equitable way with innovations in agriculture being at the forefront,” QU said.

According to the FAO Director-General, the National Water Roadmaps strategies that will help to strengthen water resources management are an important tool to address the growing challenges around water.

“Because water is food, and food is water, food is life. Over 95% of the food we eat is produced on land, from soil and water.

“Yet we are facing severe water challenges: droughts and water scarcity, floods and pollution”, he added.

The effects of climate change have increased the frequency and intensity of droughts and floods, which has in turn impacted food production.

In Africa, 289 million people, 21% of the population, still suffer from hunger or food insecurity, and more than 300 million in the continent live in areas affected by low and irregular rainfall, resulting in droughts and water scarcity.

These extremes of too much or too little water impact farmers, crop production, livestock, food security, economies and livelihoods.

The Director-General, underlining that Agriculture is responsible for 70% of global freshwater withdrawals, told the workshop that it is crucial to increase water productivity with innovations in the sector being at the forefront.

The Director-General underlined that agriculture is responsible for 70% of global freshwater withdrawals hence the need to increase water productivity with innovations in the sector.

Further, QU said it is also necessary to cut greenhouse emissions from agriculture through the sustainable management of soils, to prevent further disruption to the water and climate cycle.

The FAO Director-General challenged African countries to look at the big picture of integrated water resources management to deal with increasing competition and trade-offs between sectors, and increasingly work in partnerships.

“Integrated water-related strategies and policies, with concrete actions and strong political will, are crucial to managing water across sectors in a holistic and efficient way”, added QU.

Zimbabwe’s Minister for Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Development, Anxious Masuka, who was representing President Mnangagwa said the meeting will provide Africa with a platform for the development of a shared vision and voice at the UN 2023 Water Conference.

“It is my hope that this collective position shall demonstrate a great deal of collegiality, a great deal of unity in our diversity and most importantly, will consider the needs and aspirations of the citizenry of Africa”, Masuka said.

The UN will convene the UN 2023 Water Conference between March, 22-24, 2023 at the UN Headquarters in New York to review the progress made in the UN Water Action Decade.