important is the role of water for food security in South Africa? The South African Water, Energy and Food forum (www.sawef.co.za), taking place on the 18th and 19th of April at the Sandton Convention Centre, is engaging related role players to understand and address issues that will frame the new policies around the water-energy-food nexus.
Intrinsic into all living systems, water flows through our bodies, through rivers and oceans, underground and in our weather systems. Used extensively in agricultural and industrial processes, this resource is essential to our lives on many levels. So much so, that we are often oblivious to its scarcity. Not always easy to harvest and implement, irrigation forms a substantial component of all major production in a country which is currently at its limits in terms of water resource.
Can we frame a means of Water Trade that is effective? Addressing the needs of a growing population’s food needs with the limited resource of water as well as household needs, industrial needs and +environmental functions means that food trade from wetter regions becomes a possible solution to significant water savings. Today nearly one quarter of food trade occurs from water abundant to water scarce areas, mostly in the form of cereals traded. However, there are many limitations on the feasibility of including the inherent water into food trade policies and practice.
Will a water-constrained economy like South Africa best be served by giving up the desire to remain food secure at national level, choosing instead to buy food from the better watered countries of the region? Is there a global trend in this direction whereby national self-sufficiency is being surrendered to a regional water security paradigm instead?
A new approach to water, food and energy based on a better understanding and more systematic recognition of their inter-linkages in decision-making and planning has the potential to improve the production and sustainable management of these scarce resources. Water is a core component of a green economy in a context of sustainable development and poverty eradication. It is impossible to feed the world and generate wealth without concern for the conservation of water resources, their quality and availability for various uses.
So, can we benefit from including water as a factor in food trade? And if so, frame and implement effective policy that will mitigate water scarcity? As the national policies and framework is being discussed, perhaps we can look at our own systems – our personal use and need for water as well as our household consumption. Where do we use the most water? How can we conserve water and contribute to our own water and food security in terms of subsidizing our reliance on the national gird, industrial and agricultural systems? There is growing appreciation for household rainwater and greywater harvesting as well as growing home vegetable gardens to save both water and money…
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