` SUB-THEME 3 – The 2nd World Irrigation Forum (WIF2)
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2nd World Irrigation Forum

Sub-Theme 3


Sub-theme 3. Key and smart actions to alleviate hunger and poverty through irrigation and drainage

Present world’s population of about 7.3 billion is projected to reach 9.1 billion by 2050 and most of the growth will take place in the developing countries. Growing population will lead to significant increase in demand for food and fibre and projections show that overall food production would require to be raised by some 70 percent globally and by 100 per cent in developing countries by 2050. About 1.4 billion people live in extreme poverty (defined by the World Bank as living on less than US$1.25 a day). Most are living in LDCs (Least Developed Country) in Asia and Africa and to a lesser extent in Latin America and the Caribbean. It is estimated that for about 70 percent of the world’s poor who live in rural areas especially in developing countries, agriculture and related activities is the main source of income and livelihoods. There seems to be a general consensus that improving agriculture and enhancing agricultural productivity will remain a key strategy for rural poverty and hunger alleviation in most of the low income counties, where the majority of the rural poor depend directly or indirectly on agriculture. On the positive note, agriculture is now returning to the world agenda and the international community is beginning to re-engage in agricultural investment. There is now a growing recognition that integrating resource management, production, marketing, and consumption is essential for sustainable and profitable agricultural growth. Improved access to food by the poor through their own increased production or enhanced purchasing power and economic ability to buy food would be the most effective way to move poor people out of poverty, particularly in low productivity areas. But depletion and degradation of land and water including uncertainty due to climate change and variability pose serious challenges to producing enough food and other agricultural products to sustain livelihoods and simultaneously meeting goals on eradicating poverty, hunger and improved nutrition without resource degradation.

It is well evident that there are strong linkages between irrigation and drainage and poverty and hunger alleviation as it benefits the poor though higher production, higher yields, lower risk of crop failure, and higher and year-round farm and nonfarm employment. Irrigation enables smallholders to adopt more diversified cropping patterns, and to switch from low-value subsistence production to high-value market-oriented production. Increased production makes food available and affordable for the poor. Irrigation also provide a defence against droughts, which are predicted to occur more frequently. Irrigation investments act as production and supply shifters, and have a strong positive effect on growth, benefiting the poor and landless in the long run in both absolute and relative terms. The antipoverty impacts of irrigation can be intensified by functional inclusion of the poor through equitable access to land; integrated water resource management; access to and adequacy of good quality surface and groundwater; modern production technology, shift to high-value market-oriented production; and opportunities for the sale of farm outputs at low transaction costs. The benefits of irrigation to the poor can be intensified by initiating broader level and targeted interventions simultaneously. Indirectly irrigation can stimulate input and output markets, stabilize output and economic activities thus providing substantial benefits across economic sectors.

The use of smart actions and innovative technology is essential and often provides the catalyst for the broader aspects of agricultural development especially in LDCs to alleviate poverty and hunger. But the key is to adopt ‘right’ actions and technology which enable users to innovate and adapt these to their circumstances. Generally, these can be grouped into two main categories: those which make better use of available water, i.e water saving options that help to increase water productivity, and those which make more water available including water storage to cope with seasonality, increasingly variable and unpredictable rainfall, flooding, and drought. This is often referred to as the ‘twin-track’ approach, the emphasis depending on local circumstances. These smart actions and innovative technologies may include creation of additional surface and sub-surface storages; piped distribution network; improved service delivery; modernisation of irrigation and drainage infrastructure; adoption of water saving modern irrigation techniques such as micro irrigation system, drip and sprinkler; rainwater harvesting; use of energy efficient pumps for water lifting including solar pumps; adoption of climate smart agriculture measures;  use of ICT in water management including GIS and remote sensing for mapping of water resources and weather forecasting, setting up early warning systems, asset management for the water distribution network; use of poor quality and waste water for agriculture; improved rainfed agriculture; adapting existing technologies to new situations; enabling policy environment including institutional strengthening; capacity development of farmers, local professionals, and government-based research and extension service personnel in agriculture water management; dissemination strategy; support for Public Private Partnerships (PPPs); mainstream youth in natural resources related development etc.

One of the sub-theme of WIF2 ‘Key and smart actions to alleviate hunger and poverty through irrigation and drainage’ focuses on these aspects covering topics such as water and climate smart approaches for sustainable smallholder agriculture, financing mechanisms for development and management of irrigation and drainage projects, adaptation measures for rural water management for water and food security etc.


1.1   Water and climate smart approaches for sustainable smallholder agriculture
1.2   Financing mechanisms for development and management of irrigation and drainage projects
1.3   Adaptation measures for rural water management for water and food security