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

Changing Under Pressure, IS ‘Potent’ as Ever

US intel officials describe Ramadi's fall as concerning, but say it isn't emblematic of larger effort to degrade IS capabilities More

Nigeria Fuel Shortage Shows Fragility of Africa’s Oil Giant

Although it is the largest oil producer in Africa, country has nearly ran out of fuel it needs to power its generators, cars and airplanes over the past week More

Arrested Football Officials Come Mainly From the Americas

US Justice Department alleges defendants participated in 24-year scheme to enrich themselves through corruption of international soccer 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.
3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Cari
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X
George Putic
May 27, 2015 9:31 PM
Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video 3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Car

Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video US Voters Seek Answers From Presidential Candidates on IS Gains

The growth of the Islamic State militant group in Iraq and Syria comes as the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign kicks off in the Midwest state of Iowa.   As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, voters want to know how the candidates would handle recent militant gains in the Middle East.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Film Festival Looks at Indigenous Peoples, Culture Conflict

A recent Los Angeles film festival highlighted the plight of people caught between two cultures. Mike O'Sullivan has more on the the Garifuna International Film Festival, a Los Angeles forum created by a woman from Central America who wants the world to know more about her culture.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video US-led Coalition Gives Some Weapons to Iraqi Troops

In a video released Tuesday from the Iraqi Ministry of Defense, Iraqi forces and U.S.-led coalition troops survey a cache of weapons supplied to help Iraq liberate Mosul from Islamic State group. According to a statement provided with the video, the ministry and the U.S.-led coaltion troops have started ''supplying the 16th army division with medium and light weapons in preparation to liberate Mosul and nearby areas from Da'esh (Arabic acronym for Islamic State group).''
Video

Video Amnesty International: 'Overwhelming Evidence' of War Crimes in Ukraine

Human rights group Amnesty International says there is overwhelming evidence of ongoing war crimes in Ukraine, despite a tentative cease-fire with pro-Russian rebels. Researchers interviewed more than 30 prisoners from both sides of the conflict and all but one said they were tortured. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Washington Parade Honors Those Killed Serving in US Military

Every year, on the last Monday in the month of May, millions of Americans honor the memories of those killed while serving in the armed forces. Memorial Day is a tradition that dates back to the 19th Century. While many people celebrate the federal holiday with a barbecue and a day off from work, for those who’ve served in the military, it’s a special day to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice. Arash Arabasadi reports for VOA from Washington.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.
Video

Video Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam War

For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Female American Soldiers: Healing Through Filmmaking

According to the United States Defense Department, there are more than 200-thousand women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Like their male counterparts, females have experiences that can be very traumatic.  VOA's Bernard Shusman tells us about a program that is helping some American women in the military heal through filmmaking.

VOA Blogs