The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) held its first regional workshop on National Water Roadmaps in Harare, Zimbabwe, to address the pressing need for sustainable water resources management in Africa.
The event, which took place virtually and in-person, brought together African leaders, experts, international organisations, civil society, the private sector, and academia to discuss and develop country-specific plans.
FAO director-general QU Dongyu stressed the importance of taking care of water resources, as it is one of the world’s most precious resources and is central to achieving all the Sustainable Development Goals.
Qu emphasised the significant challenges faced globally, including droughts, scarcity, floods, and pollution. These extremes impact farmers, crop production, livestock, food security, economies, and livelihoods. Africa, in particular, has more than 300 million people living in areas affected by low and irregular rainfall, resulting in droughts and scarcity.
Agriculture, responsible for 70% of global freshwater withdrawals, needs innovations in the sector to increase water productivity, Qu stated, adding that it is necessary to cut greenhouse emissions from agriculture through sustainable soil management to prevent further disruption to the water and climate cycle.
The FAO director-general also invited African countries to look at the big picture of integrated resources management to deal with increasing competition and trade-offs between sectors and to 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, Qu emphasised.
The FAO regional workshop on National Water Roadmaps aimed to inform African countries about the overall role of water in sustainable development and to provide a platform for developing country-specific water plans.
African countries are expected to develop a shared vision and voice at the UN 2023 Water Conference, which will take place from 22 to 24 March 2023, at the UN headquarters in New York. The FAO workshop will provide a platform for Africa to foster collective action at the national level for the development of such roadmaps.
Anxious Jongwe Masuka, minister for lands, agriculture, fisheries, water, and rural development of Zimbabwe, representing President Emmerson Mnangagwa, emphasised the importance of the meeting, as it provides Africa with a platform for the development of a shared vision and voice at the UN 2023 Water Conference. He hoped that this collective position would demonstrate a great deal of collegiality, unity in diversity, and consider the needs and aspirations of the citizenry of Africa.
The FAO has many projects related to water management in Africa and actively collaborates with countries to develop their National Water Roadmaps. For instance, the FAO Water Productivity Open-access portal (WaPOR) provides data based on satellite remote sensing in Africa and the Near East. This information helps policymakers make informed decisions, better prepare for droughts, and increase agricultural production with less water use.
The FAO also provides the Secretariat for the Global Framework on Water Scarcity in Agriculture (WASAG), a partnership established in 2017 and hosted by FAO. It consists of 70 government agencies, international organisations, research institutions, and advocacy groups, engaged in implementing projects and formulating new ideas to address increasing water scarcity in agriculture.
Furthermore, it supports field projects in Africa aimed at improving the efficient use of water, such as the modernisation of old irrigation systems and the introduction of solar-powered irrigation in Uganda and Burkina Faso, and the multiple uses of rice paddy for rice and fish production in Zambia. Through the Pro-Sahel project, FAO supports Sahel countries (Burkina Faso and Niger) to upscale small-scale irrigation technologies for high-value crops.