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Farmers need to take leadership roles as the world searches for new solutions to the global water security situation, because they understand the importance of water to the entire complex economic system that is fuelled by primary agriculture. This is according to Adrian Sym, CEO of the Alliance for Water Stewardship. The alliance is a global collaboration between businesses, non-governmental organisations, and the public sector.
Sym addressed journalists during a virtual press conference held on the first day of the Transformative Futures of Water Security Conference on 15 February. In total 185 delegates from 55 countries will attend the conference in Cape Town over the next three days. The conference is a precursor to the United Nations’ 2023 Water Conference, which takes place in New York in the United States in March.
“Farmers should take leadership roles because their knowledge on water usage will enable us to move out of the spiral of negativity that can so easily overwhelm the debate,” Sym says. He also added that science-based plans needed to be put into action, which could only be accomplished by a positive attitude.
However, it is also important that governments need to incentivise farmers and businesses that use water responsibly and sustainably. “Those who make use of the best practices (of water conservation) on a large scale should be rewarded for their efforts.”
According to Dr Jennifer Molwantwa, CEO of the Water Research Council (WRC), agriculture remained the largest water consumer on the planet. “The WRC has done a lot of research on different South African crops and the water usage of specific crops. It’s important that each hectare planted should utilise water as efficiently as possible.”
Molwantwa says better water management will also be beneficial to export producers, because it will enable them to report better sustainable practices to their buyers.
“Water security is everybody’s business, not just a single sector or government’s responsibility,” Molwantwa said. “By simply reporting a leak you are already making a difference. Unfortunately, we tend to turn a blind eye on the way in which others use water. But water is everybody’s business,” Molwantwa says, adding that water security is under threat.
“Think about load shedding and the impact it already has on people. Now imagine the massive impact it will have on humans if we don’t have water. This is why people need to continue to engage with government at all levels, because we all need to fight this looming threat together.” – Susan Marais, AgriOrbit