Managing water in rainfed agriculture - the need for a paradigm shift
Centre researchers call for a paradigm shift in water management.
- The world is facing a water crisis, but improved water management in rainfed agriculture can build resilience to cope with future water related risks and uncertainties, say centre researchers Johan Rockström, Louise Karlberg and Jennie Barron.
In a special issue in the journal Agricultural Water Management, the researchers, together with partnering institutions in India, Kenya, Syria and China, present a joint call for a paradigm shift in Integrated Water Resource Management (IWRM).
Better management, please
Growth in the agricultural sector is essential for achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), but succeeding in doing so requires nothing less than a new green revolution.
If the world is to succeed in curbing malnourishment and hunger, a doubling of food production over the coming 20-30 years is required, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa and parts of South and East Asia. This in turn requires major water investments in agriculture, an economic sector which, including livestock production, is already the most thirsty in its class.
However, it is also a sector that is riddled with drough and dry spells, most notably in tropical agriculture. This is commonly a result of mis-management rather than an absolute lack of water. Better farm-level water management can change that, and it´s not necessarily complicated.
- Upgrading rainfed agriculture in the world´s water hotspots over the next 50 years will require the same level of concerted water governance and management priorities given to irrigated agriculture during the last 50 years, the researchers say.
Need to shift focus
They argue that in order for IWRM to be efficient, green and blue water resources should be managed together.
- The focus of IWRM remains on planning, allocating and managing blue water resources for irrigation, industry and water supply, while recognizing the need to safeguard environmental water flows for aquatic ecosystem functions in rivers, lakes, wetlands and estuaries. Yet key ecosystems services, such as agricultural production, depend on green water in terrestrial ecosystems. As a consequence of this, the water resource management need to shift its focus from river basins to catchments.
Windows of opportunities
In rainfed agriculture, emphasis must be on securing water to bridge dry spells and to increase agricultural and water productivity through new technological water management options.
- Water management to bridge dry spells can greatly reduce risks. Low yields and low water productivity due to large, non-productive water flows offer windows of opportunity which can be realized by implementing new approaches that encompasses both green and blue water resources from the catchment to basin scale, the researchers conclude.
General news | 2023-11-28
Putting resilience at the heart of COP28
Stockholm Resilience Centre will host and join a range of activities at COP28. The participation is done in close collaboration with the Global Resilience Partnership and our development programme SwedBio
General news | 2023-11-27
First Swedish national citizen assembly on climate could show the way to transformation
Can a citizen assembly come up with ideas on how Sweden could live up to the Paris Agreement? This will be tested in a new collaboration of Swedish universities, which Stockholm Resilience Centre is a part of
General news | 2023-11-15
Researchers from the Centre listed among the world’s most cited
Four researchers associated with Stockholm Resilience Centre made it onto the 2023 Clarivate Analytics overview, a ranking of the most cited scientists in the world
Research news | 2023-11-14
Norms must change in order for academia to walk the talk on sustainability, new paper argues
Sustainability research is rarely sustainable, neither for the planet nor for academics, argues a new paper. In it, researchers call for a rethink of current norms and practices
Research news | 2023-11-13
New research maps 14 potential evolutionary dead ends for humanity and ways to avoid them
Humankind risks getting stuck in 14 evolutionary dead ends, ranging from global climate tipping points to misaligned artificial intelligence, chemical pollution, and accelerating infectious diseases
Research news | 2023-11-10
The bumpy road towards a global plastics treaty
Plastic pollution needs to end. While most countries agree on this, negotiations for a legally binding UN plastics treaty are going slowly. Centre researcher Patricia Villarrubia-Gómez explains why.