Water is life, and in the drylands, life and livelihoods truly depend on it.


Photo credit: UNCCD


Why water management in drylands matters more than you think?

Submitted by Dr. Richard Thomas

On the occasion of World Water Day 2016, the CGIAR Research Program on Dryland Systems calls on all partners and stakeholders to rise to the collective challenge of managing water resources in a sustainable way in order to improve livelihoods and job opportunities, particularly in rural dryland communities of the developing world.

The theme of 2016 World Water Day – Better Water, Better Jobs – recognizes that the availability and sustainable management of water resources can create quality jobs, while contributing to green and sustainable development.

Water is life, and in the drylands, life and livelihoods truly depend on it. By definition, drylands are regions of water scarcity. Though they occupy 41 percent of the earth’s surface and are home to one third of the world’s population, drylands possess only an estimated 8 percent of the global renewable water supply. At just 1300 cubic meters per year, per capita availability of water in drylands is substantially below the global average and lower than the minimum amount (2000 cubic meters) required to meeting human needs.

The implications of effective management of water are obvious for drylands agriculture and rural livelihoods, as well as critical to achieving of the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030. With food demand predicted to increase 50% by 2030 demand for water will certainly increase. With increased demand, water use in arid regions must become more efficient and even attempt to create a climate with more moisture through processes such as re-forestation and water harvesting.

That is why identifying solutions to water-related issues in drylands is a significant aspect of the research work carried out by theCGIAR Research Program on Dryland Systems. A clear contribution to such efforts in this regard is a recent publication on theMultifaceted Impacts of Sustainable Land Management in Drylands: A Review, which examines – among other issues – water management and the rehabilitation of ecosystem services from a wide systems perspective, taking into account both biophysical and socio-economic factors.

To boost agricultural productivity and reduce risk through the efficient and sustainable use of limited water resources in drylands,research scientists, development professionals and policy makers must work together with rural people to examine options that are suited to various contexts and at different scales – from farm to landscape level – to develop and apply improved management practices and technologies. Our research underscores the importance of socio-economic factors affecting the successful adoption and long-term maintenance of sustainable water and land management practices.

Water scarcity is a constant problem for dryland countries and a growing one globally in the face of increasing population and food demand, climate change, rising temperatures and frequent droughts, land degradation and desertification. The Middle East and North Africa is the most water scarce region in the world, and the problem is set to deteriorate. Increasing water shortages, poor water quality, droughts, or floods accentuated by climate change and demographic changes can significantly threaten peace and stability. Famines and other disasters are affecting drylands with increasing intensity, and with climate change, such events may become even more frequent.

Read the full story: CGIAR

Author: Willem Van Cotthem

Honorary Professor of Botany, University of Ghent (Belgium). Scientific Consultant for Desertification and Sustainable Development.

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