The multi-stakeholder forward-thinking group within the French Water Partnership has accompanied the international debate and documented 40 examples of solutions focused on water as a "resource" for production, and on seven key priorities for action.
- Increase the efficiency of irrigation systems. The solutions are to be found in agronomics (eg more fine-tuned irrigation scheduling, new rice varieties for Africa, new Intensive System for Rice cropping -SRI-with recurrent hoeing and drying out periods for small-scale agriculture in Madagascar and Asia), in organizational and institutional processes (e.g. Prey Nup in Cambodia, Senegal River Valley) and in policies. The switch to a policy for "managing water demand" (GDE, water demand management) was decisive in Tunisia. Water savings in irrigation have made it possible to have water volumes for tourism, providing currency, and to cities, facilitating social peace.
- Increase storage and mobilize new resources also dealing with social and environmental aspects. "Wells of the Desert" in northern Niger, supplemental irrigation in the valley of the Sourou in Burkina Faso, the Juanon reservoir in the Drome, Limagne Noire (reuse of treated wastewater in Auvergne) are examples showing the decisive importance of developing storage and alternative resources under a multifunctional approach. In light of the need to adapt to climate change, it is even more necessary to consider mobilizing storage possibilities, at the surface, in the subsoil and aquifers, as a valuable tool for ’risk management’.
- Enhance the productivity of rainfed agriculture and promote agro-ecology. The development of conservation agriculture (or improvement agriculture : elimination or reduction of tillage, permanent cover, crop rotation) helps conserve water and soils, reduce erosion, pollution and operating costs, and increase yields, incomes and resilience. It is significant in Brazil. French cooperatives engage in it.
- Support the "small farmers’ agriculture" and promote sustainable rural development. The world agricultural population is not declining (2.4 billion). Often very efficient, small-scale agriculture provides for 70% of global food production. However, it remains on the fringes in many countries and territories and can even see its incomes or rights of access to resources called into question following the implementation of privatization of water services, land grabbing, trade agreements, etc., which results in increased food insecurity. Many examples show the importance of providing small agriculture with appropriate supports. For example in the Chambo valley in Ecuador, mutually beneficial agreements between the city and Indian irrigators have been negotiated. "Terroir" approaches (e.g. the PRODESUD project in Tunisia), negotiated with local communities, are useful for clarifying rights and rules and to move towards techniques of sustainable agriculture and pastoralism. Vietnam, by empowering 10 million farm households, has doubled its rice production in 20 years.
- Manage hotspots (overexploited and/or polluted aquifers). The Beauce aquifer (France) shows the possible merits of a water volume management process involving farmers. In Morocco, a framework agreement resulted in involving the agricultural sector in controlling the dramatic decline of the the Souss Massa aquifer. Several examples in France show implementations of innovative agricultural solutions to reduce pollution.
- Act on ressources upstream and downstream of production. To conserve and save "water for food" is also to preserve farmland from urban sprawl and reduce wastages of water and food "from field to fork". Here also much remains to be done.
- Develop visions and strategies for a sustainable agriculture at sub national and macro-regional levels (e.g. West Africa, Europe...). The agricultural strategy of the Souss Massa Draa in Morocco deserves be mentioned as an example. France is intoducing PRADs (regional plans for sustainable agriculture). The CAP, the EU’s tool for food security, has chosen a green route.
In conclusion, three key principles or priorities are put forward to achieve a switch in paradigm towards a "sustainable world" :
- more productive resources and ecosystems through sustainable intensification
- support for smallholder agriculture, a condition for inclusive development,
- renewed governance for the territories at relevant and nested levels (local, sub-national, national, regional, global), taking into account the complexity of issues and the principle of subsidiarity.
Progress requires reinvesting in agriculture with "smart investment" targets. The strengthening of human and social capital (local and professional organizations), and the establishment of institutional frameworks, new agricultural and cooperation policies to promote innovation (in agronomy, organizations, etc.), are necessary paths to food security.
It is also necessary that the society, predominantly urban nowadays, would gain a greater awareness of its vulnerability and of the strategic importance of agriculture, and thus support farmers - men and women, and rural communities in their enterprise to live decently on what they produce. Agriculture, for its part, must take a more account of sustainability issues. A new contract between agriculture and the society needs therefore to be defined.