Universal water access is vital for food security and nutrition. When people do not have access to safe water resources, their health, success and well-being are at stake. They are more susceptible to water-borne diseases and chronic intestinal infections; they tend to be less educated, and practice poorer farming practices.
A new report published by Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) highlights this fundamental issue, linking water and food security and nutrition. The report demonstrates that while water is a widely accepted as a basic human right around the world, the correct efforts are not being made to ensure access to water in developing areas.
The report, a first of its kind, had a High Level Panel of Experts on Food Security and Nutrition (HLPE) anaylize the link between between water, food security, and the overall well-being of marginalized communities.
According to the report, the first step in understanding the right to water is understanding waters various uses. Many efforts to increase access to water focus on safe drinking water and sanitation; however, there are also important productivity and conservation uses for water. Along with agricultural productivity uses, water also plays a key role in the conservation of forests, wetlands and lakes, on which many lives are sustained.
Access to water for the purpose of drinking, cooking, sanitation, productivity and conservation is often impeded for marginalized groups. Disparities in water access can be seen based on socio-economic status, gender and power relations. Lyla Mehta, High Level Panel of Experts on Food Security and Nutrition leader, explains these disparities in access and allocation of water resources:
- Smallholder farmers produce more than 70% of the world’s food but often lack recognition of their land and water rights in formal legal systems.
- Women and girls frequently spend several hours a day collecting water but lack decision-making power when it comes to water management.
- Indigenous people are often displaced from their lands and rivers as a result of large infrastructure projects, and the interests of fisherfolk and pastoralists are rarely advanced in national policies.
In order to improve access to water we must:
- Remove the gender bias in farming, providing equal access to farming resources for both men and women
- Prioritize water production for food as well as basic needs such as safe drinking water and sanitation
- Focus on creating access to water resources for poor and marginalized populations
HLPE recommends that these issues and solutions be prioritized by local and global policymakers. They promote a shift in the global perspective on water access in order to focus on water as basic human right. These changes will help improve the food security, nutrition, and wellbeing of populations around the world.
The Hunger Project has been helping bring water to marginalized populations since 1977. We do so by building capacity in rural areas, developing new sustainable water sources, and implementing conservation techniques. The Hunger Project also works to empower women and promote gender equality so that women can improve their farms, become more successful business owners, and be agents of their own change.
Read Lyla Mehta’s article on Water for Food Security and Nutrition
Read the HLPE report on Water for Food Security and Nutrition
Learn more about how The Hunger Project is improving Water and Sanitation conditions