Friday, March 2, 2012

Why the World Water Day 2012 prompts East Africa to moderate its water resources to guarantee future food supplies

By Kimbowa Richard

Each year, World Water Day highlights a specific aspect of freshwater. The theme chosen for 2012, “Water and food security”, seeks to further explore these two closely-related concepts, and the lack of which is causing severe crisis in increasingly more areas across the world. This international day to celebrate freshwater was recommended at the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) in Rio. The United Nations General Assembly responded by designating 22 March 1993 as the first World Water Day.

According to the UN, food security exists when anyone can satisfy their dietetic needs in order to have an active and healthy life; and water is one of the fundamental factors for food production.

This problem can be better understood when one realizes that between 2,500 and 5,000 liters of water are required to produce the food that one person needs each day and, at present, this quantity is not guaranteed (We are Water Foundation, 2012).

The focus on food security this year is an important issue of concern in the Lake Victoria basin. This is because while there is growing demand for water from the burgeoning urban centers, agriculture and agro-related enterprises, the same sources of water in this ecosystem continues to be heavily polluted. This puts the poor people as the most disadvantaged and further marginalizes them. This has been aggravated by the increasingly harsh climatic conditions.

East Africa is prone to food security as it depends heavily on rain-fed agriculture to feed its fast growing population in the face of the unpredictable climatic conditions. Hence, in run up to the Rio + 20 Summit in Brazil (end of June) that has already pointed out water and food as two critical issues, it is important to heed to the key messages of UN – Water (an inter-agency mechanism that provides an efficient, coherent and proactive mechanism for coordinating the work of UN System agencies and programmes in relation to water resources, water supply and sanitation related issues).

Among these, UN Water points out that an effective management of water variability, ecosystem changes and the resulting impacts on livelihoods in a changing climate scenario is central to a climate-resilient and robust green economy.

UN-Water also urges the international community in line with the UN General Assembly Resolution 64/292 on the human right to water and sanitation - the highest priority must be given to the ‘bottom billion’ people while addressing inequities in access to water, which are closely linked to energy security as well as food security.

In relation to the post- 2015 period (Millennium Development Goals), UN-Water calls for universal coverage of water supply and sanitation services to be a central development goal.

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