Food and Water Security: 3 Things You Should Know

Food and Water Security: 3 Things You Should Know
Photo by Tony Pham on Unsplash

Food and Water Security: 3 Things You Should Know — Food security, as defined by the World Food Summit of 1996, will exist when all people in the world have consistent physical, economic, and social access to food. True food security, furthermore, necessitates that this food be nutritious, safe, and sufficient for meeting individuals’ dietary needs. Similarly, the United Nations defines water security as a population’s ability to ensure sustainable access to clean water in adequate quantities. 

There’s no doubt that nutritious food and clean water are absolute necessities for sustaining human well-being, supporting livelihoods, and driving socioeconomic development. The world today, however, faces significant challenges in its drive to achieve food and water security for all people. These problems include sociopolitical conflict, environmental degradation, economic upheavals, and, most recently, the ravages of the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly in developing countries.

The following are just a few need-to-know issues on global food and water security:

1.) Food and Water Security Are Intertwined

Because water is such an essential part of food production, food and water security go hand in hand. All crops and livestock need a constant supply of good-quality water to grow healthily. In fact, the global agricultural industry has long been established as the sector that uses up the most water, utilizing up to 70% of all appropriated freshwater for irrigation alone. Water is also a key component of other essential production practices in the agricultural sector, such as fertilizer and pesticide application.

Residents of developing countries, particularly those that reside in rural areas, depend heavily on natural water resources for food production. Agriculture in these countries is today still mostly rain-fed and thus vulnerable to weather fluctuations, especially with the advent of climate change. In light of the climate crisis, global authorities have repeatedly urged national and local governments to invest in infrastructure, policies, and initiatives to improve water management. 

Public and private investment in infrastructure for the sanitary processing, distribution, and channeling of fresh water can help improve water security in developing communities. Improvements to water infrastructure Philippines-based communities have made in the last few years, for example, include replacing old or defunct pipelines, establishing wastewater treatment plants, and finding more sustainable sources of water other than groundwater resources

2.) Large Amounts of Food Are Lost or Wasted Annually

A recent study by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) reports that around one-third of all food produced for human consumption globally is lost or wasted each year. This amounts to about 1.3 billion tons of food annually. By extension, this means that the huge amounts of resources funneled into food production are also wasted. The greenhouse gas emissions and other environmental impacts arising from the production of wasted foods have likewise served no purpose.

Food can be wasted or lost at every stage in the supply chain, from the initial production stages on farms to final consumption by individual consumers. Food wastage at the consumption stage is common in medium- and high-income countries, such as when households, stores, and restaurants discard food that is still fit to be eaten. Low-income countries are much less likely to waste food at the consumer level and will instead experience food loss more often during the production and processing stages.

Food losses and waste in developing countries can be traced back to technical, managerial, and financial limitations, especially on small farms. These problems can and do compromise food harvesting, storage, transportation, and marketing. Authorities can strengthen food supply chains in developing countries by encouraging smallholder farmers to organize, as well as by empowering them to upgrade their production and marketing practices. Significant public and private investment in the infrastructure, transportation, food production, and packaging sectors are likewise necessary to reduce food waste.

The primary causes of food waste and loss in developed countries, meanwhile, include poor coordination between producers and buyers, excessively stringent quality standards, and careless consumer behavior. These can be reduced by raising awareness among food producers, retailers, and consumers on the realities and negative impacts of global food wastage. It is likewise urgent to find a safe and productive use for consumable food that might otherwise just be disposed of.

3.) Wastewater Management Needs to Be a Major Priority

Many cities in developing countries do not have functional systems for managing and treating wastewater. The illegal or unregulated discharge of contaminated water into local waterways, for instance, is a common problem in such places. These contaminants mingle with industrial and human waste, compromising food and water security, local biodiversity, and ecosystem resilience.

Revolutionizing wastewater management in developing countries is critical to improving public health and addressing growing demand for clean water sustainably. At the baseline, governments can prioritize legislation on water quality and explore public-private partnerships to improve water infrastructure. Wastewater management initiatives should aim to reduce the extent and volume of water pollution. They might also explore innovative methods for treating and recycling contaminated water and develop ways to cut back on wastewater production across multiple sectors.

Achieving Global Food and Water Security

Significant investments and commitments from the international community are necessary if we aim to achieve food and water security for all people around the world within our lifetime. These commitments include developing technologies for more environmentally friendly, sustainable food production and pursuing agricultural development in underprivileged countries. Water and food recycling strategies can also be addressed to reduce waste throughout the value chain, from production to final consumption.

Photo by Tony Pham on Unsplash