- Smallholder agriculture is the predominant form of farming in much of the developing world, yet agricultural production falls short of its potential due to lack of access and right to water for irrigation.
- Technological innovation and public and private engagement are key to expanding farmer-led irrigation in support of global food security and poverty reduction.
- These issues emerged as major themes during a conference hosted by the World Bank that brought together farmers, governments, private food and technology companies, financial institutions, and researchers and practitioners from around the world.
To address these challenges, the international community needs to boldly advance sustainable investments in smallholder irrigated agriculture.
The opening session of the Water for Food International Forum – Farmer-led Irrigated Agriculture: Seeds of Opportunity explored these themes. The event is taking place at the World Bank on January 29-30, 2018. Convened by the Robert B. Daugherty Water for Food Global Institute at the University of Nebraska and the World Bank, in partnership with U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Agency for International Development, the event provided a platform for diverse stakeholders to share mutual challenges and innovative solutions to sustainable water and food security. The meeting explored key trends in the economic, demographic, geographic, and policy facets of farmer-led irrigation.
In her opening remarks, Kristina Georgieva, Chief Executive Officer, World Bank, emphasized the need to focus on supporting farmer-led irrigation to reduce global inequality and poverty. She discussed the rapid speed of change in the world, and how “it is particularly tragic if those already behind are cut off from opportunities of technology and development.” To this end, the international community needs to come together to share experiences and knowledge on improving the sustainability of water management practices – for all. To meet the twin goals of food security and poverty reduction, it is important to scale up farmer-led irrigation through a blend of leadership, innovation, experience, and financial resources. “It is paramount that we care deeply about rural populations where two-thirds of people are still living in poverty,” Georgieva added.
Elizabeth Nsimadala, President, Eastern African Farmers Federation echoed this sentiment, highlighting the strategic importance of farmer-led irrigation in developing countries, as well as “targeting youth and women.” Africa cannot sustainably feed its people without irrigation – and sustainable agricultural intensification is critical to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. She recognized the importance of innovative financial models, and that farmers need to see the long-term benefits of their investments.
The Water for Food International Forum provides the opportunity for diverse actors to work together and in her remarks, Christine Daugherty, Vice President, Global Agronomy Solutions, PepsiCo, spoke about the global market drivers related to farmer-led irrigation. She spoke of how the private sector can help develop inclusive food supply chains, to not only feed a growing population but also to provide adequate nourishment: “We must not simply produce more food, but produce the food that will nourish and support this growing population.”
Tomorrow, the Forum will continue to delve into the challenges of feeding a growing population, improving nutrition, adapting to the impacts of climate change, and reducing global poverty. It will also look at how to support technological innovations and public and private sector collaboration to maximize finance for development. Overall, the first day highlighted the need for multiple stakeholders to work collaboratively towards the shared goal of expanding inclusive finance to empower farmers and redefine public and private sector partnerships.