Director-General highlights valuing water as a “game changer” in Near East – World

At the first international water conference in Baghdad, the FAO explained the importance of a sustainable allocation policy

March 13, 2021, Baghdad / Rome – Governance, innovation and capacity building are the main avenues to address water scarcity in Iraq and neighboring countries where agricultural civilizations have lived for 5000 years, FAO Director General QU Dongyu said today.

“Effective water policy requires transparency, meaningful multi-stakeholder involvement and solid accountability mechanisms,” he said.

The Director General spoke at the first international water conference in Baghdad, which was held to promote knowledge sharing and political debate on addressing the challenges of water scarcity, particularly in the region. Renewable freshwater per capita in the Middle East and North Africa (NENA) is less than 10 percent of the global average, and one in five people live in agricultural areas with very high water scarcity and water scarcity, according to the FAO State for Food and Agriculture 2020 .

The Director-General noted that transforming agricultural and food systems is at the heart of the FAO’s mandate to provide safer, more affordable and healthier nutrition to the rapidly growing world population. “Water is the essence of life and the core of.” The Agricultural and Food Systems “added that he hoped to visit Iraq as soon as conditions permit.

The opening session of the high-profile two-day event was also attended by: Prime Minister Mustafa al-Khadimi from Iraq, represented by the Minister of Planning, Prince El Hassan Bin Talal from the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, the Iraqi Minister of Water Resources, Irena Vojackova-Sollorano, Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General of the United Nations, as well as the special representatives of Turkey and the Netherlands, the US ambassador to Iraq, the regional head of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation and the heads of the Iraqi parliamentary committee on agriculture, water and marshland.

Other personal and virtual participants included water ministers from across the Arab League, diplomats, regional and international water-related organizations and the private sector.

In addition to emphasizing the importance of robust and sustainable water accounting methods by the FAO, the research results and discussions presented at the conference included areas such as the scope for regional and international cooperation to reduce water scarcity, including cooperation in the management of the Euphrates and Tigris catchment areas Water infrastructure from terrorist groups and natural disasters, the adverse effects of climate change, the prospects for modern technology, the use of geographic information systems in the management and control of dams, the reuse of drainage, as well as new forms of groundwater storage for irrigation as developed in the city of Karbala.

Realize the value of water

The FAO technical and regional officers chaired a two-hour technical session at the conference, which covered the elements needed to strategically plan the allocation of water resources to promote viable economies, fair societies and resilient ecosystems.

The FAO noted that agriculture consumes more water per unit area from and with the worst economic returns compared to other activities or sectors, and stressed that sound and reliable water accounting systems are an important prerequisite for formulating evidence-based and quantitatively sound policy for the Countries are about the allocation of water, the organization of its distribution and ensuring its accessibility.

Many countries in the NENA region have maintained or even increased the allocation of water for agriculture, mainly due to food self-sufficiency policies backed by the food price crisis of 2008 and 2009 and concerns about geopolitical trends and climate change this may not guarantee open global food trade and accessible prices. However, when water is viewed as essentially free, and therefore undervalued, farmers and decision-makers may not be making the best contribution to food security and self-sufficiency.

The treatment of water as a commodity with a real market value could act as a “game changer” according to the FAO Director General.

A comprehensive water balance shows that water use in agriculture offers other social, political and economic returns with net benefits such as improved food security, rural development, employment opportunities, protection of biodiversity, social stability and preservation of cultural heritage. Successful FAO-supported water projects in the region include the United Arab Emirates’ advanced desert aquaculture production center.

In a broader sense, the FAO has launched a water scarcity initiative for the Middle East and North Africa to promote regional cooperation. The director general also referred to global public goods such as the FAO’s WaPOR portal, which uses remote sensors to monitor water productivity, and its hand-in-hand geospatial platform and other services.

With digital and other technologies offering new solutions, it is important that countries in the region ensure that citizens know how to use them. Qu emphasized that a comprehensive and well-coordinated capacity-building project is crucial to prepare future generations for the digital world. He added that bridging knowledge gaps is of great importance, especially in Iraq, as conflicts have hampered education and capacity for many years.

FAO in Iraq

Iraq faces particular challenges due to a rapidly growing population and significantly reduced water flows from the Tigris and Euphrates rivers due to upstream dams and irrigation projects in other upstream countries.

In the wake of the conflict, the FAO led the reconstruction of agriculture and the water system as part of the United Nations Restoration and Resilience Program in Iraq and also carried out an in-depth study of the agricultural sector in northern Iraq in the Kurdistan region where the organization introduced Office and supports veterinary services in monitoring cross-border and zoonotic diseases.

New FAO initiatives in the country include helping vulnerable urban populations in Basra – the center of a water crisis in 2018 – supporting resilient agri-food systems in southern Iraq – an area where traditional farming has been practiced for thousands of years Drying out. The FAO is also rehabilitating wells and providing solar-powered pumping units to restore the irrigation network in northern Al-Jazeera in liberated areas of northern Iraq.

The FAO technical meeting called for increased cooperation on water use at all levels. Allocation of water in terms of present and future yields in terms of social, economic and environmental sustainability; and management approaches that promote the recognition of environmental costs and benefits.

Inter-ministerial coordination is particularly important for governments to improve understanding of the potential impact between sectors and the country’s overall development policy.


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