On the 16th of October, At Cairo Water Week, a special event was held on the scaling up of water action for water and food security through an interregional platform of international organisations, national and local government and non-governmental and scientific organisations. This follows from the launch in June 2022 of the Interregional Platform on Water Scarcity. The Water Scarcity Platform is designed as a ‘centre of excellence’ which brings together experts and stakeholders from different regions, drawing on their collective knowledge, in an action oriented and result based partnership to accelerate the achievement of water and food security and sustainable development in the various regions. The observation is that currently in the Middle East and North Africa, the interconnected systems of land, soil and water are currently being stretched to the limit. Currently, land and water resources have been stretched to the point at which the productivity of key agricutural systems is compromised, and livelihoods are being threatened. Land degradation, soil erosion, salinisation and groundwater pollution are not being perceived as urgent risks, but they run deep and are persistent. The complexity of the task of responding to this, experts argue, should not be underestimated. For all regions, the past records and future projections of renewable water availability per capita demonstrate systematic decline since the 1960’s. According to the 2021 review of the state of the world’s land and water resources conducted by the FAO, currently about 1,2 billion people live in areas where severe water shortages and scarcity challenge and where there is high drought frequency in rainfed cropland and pastureland areas or high water stress in irrigated areas challenge agriculture.
The UN food systems summit last year called for a review of existing systems and more environmentally smart food systems. This seems at first glance to include managing trade- offs and competition between different sectors, but there are solutions which do not emphasise differences but accentuate synergies. Currently, the panel members at the event argued, the meaningful engagement with key stakeholders, i.e. local farmers, is absolutely key to effectuating a transformation. In the region, furthermore, the availability of cropland is 0.16 ha per capita as compared to the global average of 0,20 ha: the transformation must take place with less cropland than the global average. FAO launched its new regional platform to cope with water scarcity: the understanding is that it is necessary to flag the main water food and climate issues that need attention and explore ways to work together on key areas for intervention while doing this inclusively and mobilising the requisite finances.