FAO director general’s message on World Food Day: Protect water

By Bethan Grylls

- Last updated on GMT

This year's theme centres on water. Credit: Getty/Liudmila Chernetska
This year's theme centres on water. Credit: Getty/Liudmila Chernetska

Related tags Food security Climate change

Today (16 October) marks World Food Day, an event founded by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations in 1945.

For 2023 the theme of World Food Day is water - ‘water is life, water is food. Leave no one behind’, with the aim of spreading awareness of water scarcity and the link between food and water.

In the opening address of the FAO’s Global World Food Day Ceremony which also kicked off today, the hosts emphasised the role water plays: “It covers most of our Earth’s surface, it makes up 50% of our bodies, produces our food and supports livelihoods. But this precious resource is not infinite, and we need to stop taking it for granted.”

FAO director general, Dr Xu Dongju added further to this in his opening address: “There is no food security without water security.

“Population, growth, urbanisation, industrialisation, economic development and the climate crisis have all taken a toll on our water resources all over the world. And increasing floods and droughts are further impacting our agri food systems.”

"The good news is that we can produce more and better with less,"​ he told the audience, as he cited examples such as wise water use, management and recycling – but the “clock is ticking”.​  

For Dr Dongju, there are several areas we must address: collaboration, investment, the private sector, farmers and society. 

“We need to strengthen partnership between government, private sector academia and civil society, and all partners needed to collaborate towards a water secure future," ​he said on his first point. 

He stressed the need for governments to prioritise water in policy and planning across sectors and for innovative solutions to be co-developed with partners, including the private sector which needs to be more engaged with the conversation.

Meanwhile, we need to significantly increase investment into integrated water resources, management and infrastructure.

“Countries need to produce more food with less water, while the restoring land and water system, and at the same time ensuring the equitable access to water and increase the resilience to consumer weather events.”

On the topic of people, he said farmers must be at the centre of decisions, with access to information and the latest scientific innovation. While we all need to value water more, transforming to a water-saving society.

“We need everyone to take their part on action,”​ he said. “No organisation, government, or institution can eradicate hunger and poverty alone. It requires a collective effort. We need to acknowledge success stories to motivate further action.”

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