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

    Russian-Backed Offensive in Syria Pushes War to Tipping Point

    As threat to Aleppo and rebel forces grows, US plan to negotiate becomes less and less appealing for Syrian government, says one military analyst

    IS Runs Timber Smuggling Business in Afghanistan, Officials Say

    Government turning blind eye to smuggling, according to tribal leaders; Afghanistan's forest cover dropped by 50 percent in three decades, experts say

    Video White House Seeks $1.8 Billion to Combat Zika

    Obama administration says funding would 'support essential strategies to combat the virus' such as rapidly expanding mosquito control programs, accelerating vaccine research

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

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenyai
    X
    February 08, 2016 4:30 PM
    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video 'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenya

    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video New Hampshire Voters Are Independent, Mindful of History

    Once every four years, the northeastern state of New Hampshire becomes the center of the U.S. political universe with its first-in-the-nation presidential primary. What's unusual about New Hampshire is how seriously the voters take their role and the responsibility of being among the first to weigh in on the candidates.
    Video

    Video Chocolate Lovers Get a Sweet History Lesson

    Observed in many countries around the world, Valentine’s Day is sometimes celebrated with chocolate festivals. But at a festival near Washington, the visitors experience a bit more than a sugar rush. They go on a sweet journey through history. VOA’s June Soh takes us to the festival.
    Video

    Video 'Smart' Bandages Could Heal Wounds More Quickly

    Simple bandages are usually seen as the first line of attack in healing small to moderate wounds and burns. But scientists say new synthetic materials with embedded microsensors could turn bandages into a much more valuable tool for emergency physicians. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Bhutanese Refugees in New Hampshire Closely Watching Primary Election

    They fled their country and lived in refugee camps in neighboring Nepal for decades before being resettled in the northeastern U.S. state of New Hampshire -- now the focus of the U.S. presidential contest. VOA correspondent Aru Pande spoke with members of the Bhutanese community, including new American citizens, about the campaign and the strong anti-immigrant rhetoric of some of the candidates.
    Video

    Video Researchers Use 3-D Printer to Produce Transplantable Body Parts

    Human organ transplants have become fairly common around the world in the past few decades. Researchers at various universities are coordinating their efforts to find solutions -- including teams at the University of Pennsylvania and Rice University in Houston that are experimenting with a 3-D printer -- to make blood vessels and other structures for implant. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, they are also using these artificial body parts to seek ways of defeating cancerous tumors.
    Video

    Video Helping the Blind 'See' Great Art

    There are 285 million blind and visually impaired people in the world who are unable to enjoy visual art at a museum. One New York photographer is trying to fix this situation by making tangible copies of the world’s masterpieces. VOA correspondent Victoria Kupchinetsky was there as visually impaired people got a feel for great art. Joy Wagner narrates her report.
    Video

    Video Sanders, Clinton Battle for Young Democratic Vote

    Despite a narrow loss to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in last week's Iowa Democratic caucuses, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders secured more than 80 percent of the vote among those between the ages of 18 and 29. VOA correspondent Aru Pande talks to Democrats in New Hampshire about who they are leaning towards and why in this week's primary.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.
    Video

    Video Microcephaly's Connection to Zika: Guilty Until Proven Innocent

    The Zika virus rarely causes problems for the people who get it, but it seems to be having a devastating impact on babies whose mothers are infected with Zika. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
    Video

    Video Stunning Artworks Attract Record Crowds, Thanks to Social Media

    A new exhibit at the oldest art museum in America is shattering attendance records. Thousands of visitors are lining up to see nine giant works of art that have gotten a much-deserved shot of viral marketing. The 150-year-old Smithsonian American Art Museum has never had a response quite like this. VOA's Julie Taboh reports.