The International Water Management Institute (IWMI) published a report for the Stockholm Water Week held in August entitled “Revitalizing Asia’s Irrigation to sustainably meet tomorrow’s food needs”1.
The report underlines that international trade will not be a solution to the increase in world food demand in Asia. Stating that the Asian population will increase by 1.5 billion people in the next 40 years, the IWMI study offers three options to meet the challenge: increasing imports of basic foodstuffs, especially cereals; expanding cultivable agricultural lands; and improving land irrigation.
But, as IWMI Director General Colin Chartres underlined in presenting the study, “In the wake of a major global food crisis in 2007 and 2008, cereal prices are expected to be higher and more volatile in the coming years… Asia’s food and feed demand is expected to double by 2050. Relying on trade to meet a large part of this demand will impose a huge and politically untenable burden on the economies of many developing countries.”
The food security of local populations will not be rendered subordinate to the international markets, as was the case a few months ago during the 2007-2008 food crisis. Only efficient local production can guarantee that individuals have the right to food. This is precisely what the IWMI study concluded, which, with the help of a computer model known as WATERSIM,2 has illustrated that the best bet for the Asian continent is to revitalize its vast irrigation systems, which are among the most developed in the world (they represent 70% of irrigated lands in the world), and thus promote local production.
1 “Revitalizing Asia’s Irrigation to sustainably meet tomorrow’s food needs", 18/08/2009. The work was supported by the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), and was carried out with financing from the Asian Development Bank (ADB) The study is available at the following address: http://www.iwmi.cgiar.org/sww2009/
2 WATERSIM is a computer model that helps to examine the difficult compromises between food security and environmental protection, particularly in terms of water resources. For more information, please visit: http://www.iwmi.cgiar.org/Tools_And_Resources/Models_and_Software/WATSIM/index.aspx