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Improved farm water control key to increase food production: FAO

Written by: Staff
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New Delhi, Mar 23 (UNI) With 852 million chronically hungry people in the world today, and a global population expected to increase by an additional 2 billion by 2030, the agriculture sector faces the complex challenge of increasing better quality food production while using less water and ensuring environmental sustainability.

Improved agricultural water control is the key to meeting the world's growing food needs, United Nations agency Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) said, on the World Water Day today.

Feeding this growing population and reducing hunger will only be possible if agricultural yields can be significantly increased, FAO said adding increased food production will depend largely on investment in the control of water.

Agriculture is the largest consumer of earth's freshwater, responsible for around 70 per cent of all freshwater withdrawals. As water resources shrink and competition for water from other sectors grows, the agriculture sector faces the challenge of producing a larger quantity of better quality food with less usage of water.

The availability of water varies and in some regions it is exceedingly scarce. Even in areas with limited water supply, irrigation can vastly increase agricultural productivity and is crucial to improve food security.

By far, most of the water used to grow crops is derived from rainfed soil moisture. Irrigation provides only about 10 per cent of the agricultural water.

The productivity of irrigated land is about three times higher than that of rainfed land and covers just around 20 per cent of the world's cropland. However, irrigated land contributes 40 per cent of the total food production.

Small-scale water harnessing, irrigation and drainage works, carried out at the rural community level using local labour, offer an effective and low-cost option for improved water control.

Water harvesting -- collecting water in structures ranging from furrows to small dams -- allows farmers to conserve rainwater and direct it to the crops. Similarly, directing water only where it is needed, as in drip irrigation, is more efficient than flooding the entire fields or using sprinklers.

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