Today's Editorial

Today's Editorial - 16 October 2023

The world needs to stop taking water for granted

Water is life, and food is nourishment. Let’s remember that access to clean water is a basic human right that ensures no one is left behind in the fight against hunger.

- UN




Relevance: GS I, II, III (Social Issues, Social Justice, Science and Technology)

  • Prelims: World Food Day, UN Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), Solar 4 Resilience, FOOD SAFETY INDEX 2023, GLOBAL HUNGER INDEX 2023, FASAL;
  • Mains: Climate change Adaptation, Issues with Water and Crop production, National Fisheries Policy 2020; Agriculture and technology;


Why in News?

The World Food Day (WFD) is observed on October 16, this time laying an emphasis on food safety with water issues as well.

  • Established by the UN Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) in 1981 to raise awareness and promote action to tackle global hunger and food-related issues.
  • The theme for 2023:Water is Life, Water is Food’- calls for urgent action in managing water wisely.

Why water issue this time?

  • Tropical countries face severe challenges such as droughts, floods, unseasonal rains and prolonged dry spells.
  • Water availability affects every aspect of human life, especially food and nutrition security. For instance, about 60% of India’s net sown area is rainfed, contributing to 40% of the total food production.
  • However, rainfed agriculture depends directly on water availability, and rain and soil moisture variations can severely affect food and nutrition security.

Issues with Water and Crop production:

  • Lack of infrastructure: Small-scale farmers, who make up more than 80% of farmers globally, are affected due to the lack of access to finance, technology and irrigation to maintain a level of production that can sustain their livelihoods.
  • Extreme weather Conditions: Due to extreme weather conditions, water availability is severely affecting agricultural production, changing agroecological conditions and shifting growing seasons. Changes in rainfall and higher temperatures also affect crop productivity, reducing food availability.
  • According to GOI, without adaptive measures,
    • Rainfed rice yields in India are projected to decline by 3.5% in 2050 and 5% in 2080 scenarios.
    • Wheat yields to decrease by 19.3% in 2050 and 47% by 2080.
    • Kharif maize yields to decrease by 18% in 2050 and 23% by 2080.

The Food and Agricultural Organization in Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Himachal Pradesh and Maharashtra is piloting a Crop Forecasting Framework (CFF) and Model Incorporating Climate (MIC), soil characteristics and market information to aid rainfed farmers in making informed decisions contributing to food security.


What are the current issues in agriculture affecting Food security?

The present system of crop forecasts being based mostly on subjective appraisal at various levels does not reflect the ground situation correctly. There is a need for more objective forecasting based on timely and detailed information on crop conditions, meteorological parameters, water availability, crop damage, etc. The National Crop Forecasting Centre is still not in a position to develop a scientific procedure of forecasting using multi-dimensional models and assimilating the information received from various sources.


Programmes and Policies by the government:





1) Need for socially sustainable and financially viable irrigation management system:

  • Rainfed agriculture must expand and/or see increased productivity to feed the growing population. Irrigation provides a water supply buffer during dry periods, reducing the risks to purely rainfed agriculture. Improvements in rainwater capture, selection of drought-resistant crops, and alternate tillage practices will be critical to feeding growing populations. Using rainwater harvesting for supplemental irrigation to mitigate the impact of dry spells, combined with soil fertility management, can more than double rainfed crop yields.

2) Climate change Adaptation:

  • Climate-resilient agriculture: The sustainable transformation of agri-food systems and climate-resilient agriculture practice is needed to improve water efficiency. For example, the Farmer Water School Programme in Uttar Pradesh helped smallholder farmers.
  • Leveraging climate financing: The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) has enshrined and recommended climate change adaptation in its core strategy. It has set ambitious targets to mitigate climate change by investing in the restoration and preservation of soil health and water resources and merging modern technologies with traditional knowledge.


3) Technical Interventions needed by the Government:

  • Having a resilient policy and Framework: The system of forecasting crop production in the country by the Ministry of Agriculture needs to be replaced as soon as possible by an objective method using appropriate statistical techniques. The recent establishment of the National Crop Forecasting Centre (NCFC), which has been assigned the responsibility of streamlining and improving the quality of forecasting, should go a long way in accomplishing this objective.
  • The Space Application Centre (SAC) needs to advance the stage of experimenting with the approach of Remote Sensing to estimate the area under principal crops through the scheme known as “Forecasting Agricultural output using Space, Agro-meteorology and Land based observations” (FASAL).  Incidentally, this will form an important input in the forecasting methodology to be developed by NCFC. The land-based observations should be used to measure quantitative changes in crop growth besides discriminating one crop from another.

Successful Case study of RECLIMA project  in El Salvador:

·         El Salvador is one of the six countries that make up the Central American Dry Corridor.

·         Representing more than 80% of all food producers in the country, these farmers depend primarily on traditional, rainfed agriculture. They grow crops mainly on hillsides prone to soil moisture loss and erosion.

·         As part of the RECLIMA project, rural communities have begun setting up tree nurseries to restore degraded ecosystems through reforestation and other techniques.

·         Communities involved in the project receive young, tree species native to Central America to plant on their lands. These native trees include the conacaste tree, known for its ear-shaped fruits; the madre cacao, a forage tree that stabilizes the land and prevents soil erosion; and the leucaena tree, celebrated for improving soil fertility. In 2022, over 13,000 hectares of critical ecosystems were restored using native tree species.



  • Governments, the private sector, farmers, academia, civil society and individuals need to work together to address global water challenges. We need to produce more food and other essential agricultural commodities with less water, while ensuring water is distributed equally, our aquatic food systems are preserved, and nobody is left behind.   
  • The theme ‘Water is life, water is food’ reminds us that the future of food security is intertwined with the responsible use of water. Let’s protect both. Together, we can be the change!