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

Tired of Waiting, South Africans Demand Change ‘Now’

With chronic poverty and lack of basic services largely fueling recent xenophobic attacks, many in Rainbow Nation say it’s time for government to act More

Challenges Ahead for China's Development Plans in Pakistan

Planned $46 billion in energy and infrastructure investments in Pakistan are aimed at transforming the country into a regional hub for trade and investment More

Audio 'Forbidden City' Revisits Little Known Era of Asian-American Entertainment

Little-known chapter of entertainment history captured in 80s documentary is revisited in new digitally remastered format and book 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.
Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populationsi
X
April 24, 2015 10:13 PM
A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populations

A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Data Servers Could Heat Private Homes

As every computer owner knows, when their machines run a complex program they get pretty hot. In fact, cooling the processors can be expensive, especially when you're dealing with huge banks of computer servers. But what if that energy could heat private homes? VOA’s George Putic reports that a Dutch energy firm aims to do just that.
Video

Video Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festival

Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video UN Confronts Threat of Young Radicals

The radicalization and recruitment of young people into Islamist extremist groups has become a growing challenge for governments worldwide. On Thursday, the U.N. Security Council heard from experts on the issue, which has become a potent threat to international peace and security. VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports.
Video

Video Growing Numbers of Turks Discover Armenian Ancestry

In a climate of improved tolerance, growing numbers of people in Turkey are discovering their grandmothers were Armenian. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians escaped the mass deportations and slaughter of the early 1900's by forced conversion to Islam. Or, Armenian children were taken in by Turkish families and assimilated. Now their stories are increasingly being heard. Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul that the revelations are viewed as an important step.
Video

Video Migrants Trek Through Western Balkans to Reach EU

Migrants from Africa and other places are finding different routes into the European Union in search of a better life. The Associated Press followed one clandestine group to document their trek through the western Balkans to Hungary. Zlatica Hoke reports that the migrants started using that route about four years ago. Since then, it has become the second-most popular path into Western Europe, after the option of sailing from North Africa to Italy.
Video

Video TIME Magazine Honors Activists, Pioneers Seen as Influential

TIME Magazine has released its list of celebrities, leaders and activists, whom it deems the world’s “most influential” in 2015. VOA's Ramon Taylor reports from New York.
Video

Video US Businesses See Cuba as New Frontier

The Obama administration's opening toward Cuba is giving U.S. companies hope they'll be able to do business in Cuba despite the continuation of the U.S. economic embargo against the communist nation. Some American companies have been able to export some products to Cuba, but the recent lifting of Cuba's terrorism designation could relax other restrictions. As VOA's Daniela Schrier reports, corporate heavy hitters are lining up to head across the Florida Straits - though experts urge caution.
Video

Video Kenya Launches Police Recruitment Drive After Terror Attacks

Kenya launched a major police recruitment drive this week as part of a large-scale effort to boost security following a recent spate of terror attacks. VOA’s Gabe Joselow reports that allegations of corruption in the process are raising old concerns about the integrity of Kenya’s security forces.
Video

Video Japan, China in Race for Asia High-Speed Rail Projects

A lucrative competition is underway in Asia for billions of dollars in high-speed rail projects. Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia Thailand and Vietnam are among the countries planning to move onto the fast track. They are negotiating with Japan and the upstart Chinese who are locked in a duel to revolutionize transportation across Asia. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok has details.
Video

Video Scientists: Mosquitoes Attracted By Our Genes

Some people always seem to get bitten by mosquitoes more than others. Now, scientists have proved that is really the case - and they say it’s all because of genes. It’s hoped the research might lead to new preventative treatments for diseases like malaria, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Bible Museum Coming to Washington DC

Washington is the center of American political power and also home to some of the nation’s most visited museums. A new one that will showcase the Bible has skeptics questioning the motives of its conservative Christian funders. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Armenia and Politics of Word 'Genocide'

A century ago this April, hundreds of thousands of Armenians of the Turkish Ottoman empire were deported and massacred, and their culture erased from their traditional lands. While broadly accepted by the U.N. and at least 20 countries as “genocide”, the United States and Turkey have resisted using that word to describe the atrocities that stretched from 1915 to 1923. But Armenians have never forgotten.
Video

Video Afghan First Lady Pledges No Roll Back on Women's Rights

Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani, named one of Time's 100 Most Influential, says women should take part in talks with Taliban. VOA's Rokhsar Azamee has more from Kabul.
Video

Video New Brain Mapping Techniques Could Ease Chronic Pain

From Boulder, Colorado, Shelley Schlender reports that new methods for mapping pain in the brain are providing validation for chronic pain and might someday guide better treatment.

VOA Blogs