News / Africa

River Basins Could Help Ensure Food Security

A Cambodian fisherman holds a bag loaded with fish he caught in the Mekong River near Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Tuesday, April 19, 2011.
A Cambodian fisherman holds a bag loaded with fish he caught in the Mekong River near Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Tuesday, April 19, 2011.
Joe DeCapua

The world’s major river basins may hold the key to doubling food production in the coming years. The idea was discussed at the 14th World Water Congress in Brazil.

A new report says while water shortages do exist around the world, water scarcity is not the major obstacle to producing more food. Rather, the report says, it’s the “inefficient and inequitable distribution of the massive amounts of water that flow through the breadbaskets of key river basins.”

Story to tell

These include the Nile, Ganges, Andes, Yellow, Niger and Volta. Dr. Simon Cook and his colleagues studied 10 major river basins in all. He said river basins have a story to tell.

“The first thing that they tell us is that there is quite massive unused capacity to produce more food without necessarily compromising the water resources,” he said.

Cook was the coordinator for the Basin Focal Research Project for the Challenge Program on Water and Food.

“They tell us the major potential lies in rain-fed agriculture, not in irrigation. Although in Africa there is substantial scope for irrigation. They tell us that many of the problems are not problems of capacity. They’re problems of the way that resource has been appropriated in, what you might call, an unbalanced way,” he said.

Potent potential

River basins provide water, food, energy and biodiversity -- all things necessary for life. But Cook said these are often used inefficiently, especially water.

“If you look at the total amount of water going into river basins and the total amount of food coming out of river basins, the conversion ratio is pretty small, pretty low. And certainly in the African basins it was often 10 percent or even less of capacity. So, there immediately you can see that there’s a huge potential to actually satisfy future food demands without necessarily compromising even more scarce water supplies,” he said.

The river basin is much more than just the channel of water and adjacent land. Cook said the whole landscape should be included.

“Often when people think of river basins they only think what happens once the water actually gets into the channel. But certainly in African basins often the proportion of water that gets into the channel, that is what’s called blue water, is a fraction of the total water going through the river basin system,” he said.

A river basin has two types of water.

“Blue water is water, such as irrigation water, that goes into the river channel and is taken out or put in ponds or lakes or what have you. It’s water that you can see. But the vast majority of water is what’s called green water, which is rainfall actually. It falls on landscapes. It’s used to produce food. It never actually gets into the river channel, but it’s really important. And it’s the major part of the total water balance in river basins,” he said.

The Basin Focal Research Project report says if farmers are to take advantage of that green water, they need inputs, such as seeds, fertilizer and possibly mechanization. It says fertilizer is often very underused.

Making the most of river basins

Besides agriculture, river basins are also home to fisheries and livestock.

“Think of the livestock system as three parts. First of all, you’re trying to find stuff for the animals to feed off. And then you’re trying to keep the animal healthy and keep it fed throughout its life because you don’t get anything out of it until it’s mature and it’s producing. And then you’re trying to sell the products. Now, there are three components there that need to be put together for farmers to really benefit,” said Cook.

The report says Africa has the biggest potential to increase food production. But there are large areas in Asia and Latin America where food production is currently 10 percent below their potential.

The 10 river basins studied include the Limpopo, Niger, Nile and Volta basins in Africa; the Andes and Sao Francisco in South America; and the Indus-Ganges, Karkheh, Mekong and Yellow river basins in Asia.

The 14th World Water Congress was held in Recife, Brazil from September 25 to the 29.

You May Like

UN Fears Rights Violations in China-backed Projects

UNHCHR investigates link between financing development and ignoring safeguards for human rights More

Boko Haram Violence Tests Nigerians’ Faith in Buhari

New president has promised to stem insurgency; he’s scheduled to meet with President Obama at White House July 20 More

Social Media Network Wants Privacy in User’s Hands

Encryption's popularity in messaging is exploding; now it's the foundation of a new social network More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Making Music, Fleeing Bombs: New Film on Sudan’s Internal Refugeesi
X
Carolyn Weaver
July 06, 2015 6:47 PM
In 2012, Sudanese filmmaker Hajooj Kuka went to make a documentary among civil war refugees in Sudan’s Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains region. What he found surprised him: music was helping to save people from bombing raids by their own government. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video Making Music, Fleeing Bombs: New Film on Sudan’s Internal Refugees

In 2012, Sudanese filmmaker Hajooj Kuka went to make a documentary among civil war refugees in Sudan’s Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains region. What he found surprised him: music was helping to save people from bombing raids by their own government. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video Rice Farmers Frustrated As Drought Grips Thailand

A severe drought in Thailand is limiting the growing season of the country’s important rice crop. Farmers are blaming the government for not doing more to protect a key export. Steve Sandford reports from Chiang Mai, Thailand.
Video

Video 'From This Day Forward' Reveals Difficult Journey of Transgender Parent

In her documentary, "From This Day Forward", filmmaker Sharon Shattuck reveals the personal journey of her transgender father, as he told his family that he always felt he was a woman inside and decided to live as one. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Floodwaters Threaten Iconic American Home

The Farnsworth House in the Midwest State of Illinois is one of the most iconic homes in America. Thousands of tourists visit the site every year. Its location near a river inspired the design of the house, but, as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, that very location is now threatening the existence of this National Historic Landmark.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.

VOA Blogs