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World Food Day Highlights Role of Water in Food Security - 2002-10-16

More than 100 countries around the world are celebrating World Food Day. The day marks the founding, on October 16, 1945, of the U.N.'s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), which is based in Rome. The group this year is stressing how the lack of water contributes to the lack of food.

FAO Officials have a simple message for this year's World Food Day. If the world's supply of food is going to be increased, the world's supply of water will have to be managed more efficiently.

At a ceremony in Rome, the director general of the Food and Agriculture Organization, Jacques Diouf, stressed the link between water and food.

"Our planet is thirsty," he said, "thirsty because it is hungry. It takes 1,000 times more water to feed the human population than it does to satisfy its thirst."

Dr. Diouf added that shortage of water threatens extensive agricultural regions in developing countries and increases the prospect of food shortages. At present, he said, 20 countries do not have sufficient water to produce the food their populations need.

The challenge the world is facing, Dr. Diouf said, is to ensure water availability and food security while at the same time safeguarding the environment. "It is urgent to avoid poor irrigation practices that have often led to diminishing water supplies, land degradation and spread of disease," he stressed.

The Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that by the year 2030, the world's growing population will need 60 percent more food than is now produced. To meet this demand, it says farmers will have to find ways to intensify their agricultural production. But the organization says they will only be able to grow more food if they have enough water.