Water Is...Crucial for Agriculture!

Today marks the 22nd annual World Water Day – a day to celebrate one of life’s most basic elements: water. It’s a day to take action for the 748 million people who lack access to clean water. And a day to prepare for how we manage water in the future.

This year’s theme is ‘Water and Sustainable Development’, and focuses on how water resources, and the range of services they provide, are the foundation for poverty reduction, economic growth and environmental sustainability.

Agriculture depends on water to be sustainable, and without reliable access to water, farmers are at the mercy of unpredictable elements and cannot depend on their crops for income or sustenance.

One method of agricultural water management used increasingly in the Global South is called drip irrigation: a water-saving technique where networks of pipes are placed directly next to the roots and then allowed to drip slowly onto the plants. Drip irrigation allows water to soak into the ground without washing away the valuable topsoil or fertilizer. It also helps reduce the loss of water from evaporation.

Partners’ Farmer-to-Farmer (F2F) Program has successfully implemented drip irrigation techniques in agricultural communities across the Central America and the Caribbean.

In early 2014, F2F volunteer Dr. Paul McLeod of the University of Arkansas traveled to southern Belize to demonstrate the installation and use of drip irrigation at high schools and also to several small farmers. There had been some concern over diseased crops caused by a pathogen that was carried onto the plants when they were being watered, so Dr. McLeod recommended drip irrigation to help reduce the spread of the disease.

In Nicaragua in 2013, Professor of Community Development Arlen Albrecht worked with residents experiencing a drought. Many local water wells were dry, leaving community members unable to maintain their kitchen gardens. Arlen responded by helping install a gravity-fed drip irrigation system that saved both gas and river water. With more than a decade of volunteer experience in the region, Mr. Arlen explained, "I feel that although change is happening very slowly, the plight of the rural poor in Nicaragua is improving, and that F2F volunteers are contributing to that along with the hosts."

In 2010, Farmer-to-Farmer volunteers helped the Hauraruni Friendly Farmers Society in Guyana overcome the challenge of growing crops in sandy soil and experimenting with greenhouses, allowing farmers to export a large portion of their crop for the first time. Over many months F2F worked together with Hauraruni to increase knowledge and make improvements in hydroponics and drip irrigation. Instead of spending a large amount of money on water and mulch to make the ground hospitable, Hauraruni members were able to use their new knowledge to control the amount of water they were using, cutting costs and saving a valuable natural resource.

“Water is at the core of sustainable development. From food and energy security to human and environmental health, water contributes to improvements in social well-being and inclusive growth, affecting the livelihoods of billions" (UN Water). Partners Farmer-to-Farmer Program is proud of the work our volunteers have done for water sustainability in the past three decades, and we’re excited for all the new opportunities that 2015 will bring!

Be sure to join the conversation using #WaterIs!

As aligned with Feed the Future, the U.S. Government's global hunger and food security initiative, F2F works to support inclusive agriculture sector growth, facilitate private sector engagement in the agriculture sector, enhance development of local capacity and promote climate-smart development. Volunteer assignments address host-led priorities to expand economic growth that increases incomes and improves access to nutritious food.  Read more articles on this topic at Partners' Farmer-to-Farmer blog.