Feeding the Planet: Water and Food Security

The WPP is approaching food security from several angles. In support of the Bank’s Agriculture Action Plan, the WPP promotes improved agricultural water management to drive economic growth. It supports partnerships for learning between the private and public spheres, between countries, and among experts. Technical assistance is provided to farmers to manage dwindling resources and to countries to use groundwater to improve crop yields. Key analytical studies are demonstrating how to improve productivity in rainfed agriculture and reuse wastewater in irrigation.

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The Challenge
By 2050 the world will need to feed 9 billion people—2 billion more than today’s population. This will result in a 50 percent increase in agricultural production and a 15 percent increase in already-strained water withdrawals.

Already, the agricultural sector is by far the largest global user of water. Irrigated agriculture accounts for about 70 percent of total freshwater withdrawals worldwide. Yet, water is becoming increasingly scarce as a result of continued population growth, declining groundwater supplies and water quality issues. Climate change will worsen the situation by increasing water stress. Poorer countries contributing least to the problem will be most affected.

The WPP Response
The WPP is helping countries as diverse as Uganda, Mali, Nigeria, and Brazil to promote growth by investing in water for agriculture. Analytical work is supporting more productive uses of water at the farm level to generate food from rainfed agriculture and through irrigation systems that reuse recycled wastewater. The Water Partnership Program is also supporting irrigation schemes that will help restore the Aral Sea in Central Asia, and is piloting a water rights system in China based on remote sensing technology and evapotranspiration (ET) that is the first of its kind.

WPP Activity Highlights:

  • The WPP supports the Agricultural Water for Africa (AgWA) partnership through south-south learning, improved investments, and development of an institutional framework. Based in sub-Saharan Africa, AgWA integrates efforts across countries and donors to coordinate investments, knowledge sharing, and advocacy in water for agriculture.  
  • A new methodology was applied in Egypt’s wastewater sector to identify opportunities for safe water reuse in agriculture under revised WHO guidelines.
  • To sustain its water resources, China is piloting the world’s first water rights system to account for water consumption by evapo-transpiration. Water savings by farmers are expected to reach 6.5 million cubic meters.