Africa should mobilize water resources as part of anti-hunger efforts, UN says

Managing water resources for agriculture

4 November 2004 – As the world struggles to feed a burgeoning population, Africa's use of water resources for agriculture is a small fraction of its potential and must be expanded to address poverty on the continent, the United Nations food production agency said today.

Africa uses just 5 per cent of its total renewable water resources for agriculture, compared with 20 per cent of the total in Asia. Just 7 per cent of Africa's total arable land is irrigated, against 42 per cent in South Asia and 36 per cent in East and Southeast Asia, the UN Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) said.

"Recent research shows that growth in agriculture is the most beneficial for the poor, of all economic sectors," FAO's Louise Fresco told a major continental conference on water for food and ecosystems in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

"We therefore still have a great potential and opportunity to address the needs of Africa in food, poverty reduction and ecosystems," the FAO Assistant Director-General said, adding that Africa must "continue to invest in unlocking the potential of its diversified agricultural systems - in rain-fed agriculture, irrigation and mixed systems."

She noted that advances in food production have been offset by pollution and called for African countries "harmonize the needs for food and ecosystems through sustainable water management."

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