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World Food Day is celebrated on October 16 every year. The celebration highlights current issues of food security and recognizes and supports advances in reducing hunger and malnutrition. This year’s theme is extremely relevant to us in Guyana and the Caribbean – ‘Water is life, water is food. Leave no one behind’. We know that water is a crucial resource that is essential to life. On a daily basis, we note the importance of water to so many food-related tasks, including food production, food transportation, and food processing. We know the invaluable role that water plays in food safety. Safeguarding our freshwater systems supports agriculture and food production. Without water, there can be no food.
Agriculture alone accounts for 72% of global freshwater withdrawal. Irrigation farming relies heavily on freshwater systems and has significantly increased food production and improved food security. Livestock farming requires a clean and consistent supply of freshwater to ensure animals and production are healthy. Aquatic food systems also rely on water. All stages of food processing – boiling, steaming, washing, and cooling – are supported by water. Water is a driving force for people, economies, and nature and the foundation of our food systems.
As critical as water is to our survival, it is also a fragile resource. Only about 2.5% of the water covering the Earth’s surface, is fresh and suitable for drinking, agriculture, and most industrial uses. Hydrometeorological events can negatively impact our food systems. 74 % of all natural disasters since 2001 are characterized as water related. Guyana is currently experiencing the impact of the El Niño, a natural weather phenomenon that Dr. Garvin Cummings, Chief Hydrometeorological Officer has indicated is responsible for higher than average temperatures and a reduction of expected rainfall.
Further exacerbating the fragility of water resources, Climate Change is increasingly impacting the intensity and the irregularity of flood and drought events, which not only affect people’s lives but also have devastating effects on food production.
As an essential food producing country in the Caribbean, Guyana relies on its water systems to produce a diverse range of food products. In addition to farming systems that produce rice, sugar, domestic and other export crops, Guyana’s water resources also produce significant quantities of fish, shrimps, and other aquatic species. Riverine systems are the basis for the livelihoods of most rural communities in Guyana.
What we produce, what we consume, and how we conduct our daily lives relies heavily on water. The network of organizations, agencies, communities, and individuals that play a role in managing our water systems, are all major contributors to Guyana’s food security.
As we look to a food secure future, we are reminded that there is no sustainable development without access to healthy, affordable diets, and unless all food producers can have vibrant livelihoods in a productive food system. World Food Day this year challenges us to be more efficient in our water use, even as we produce the food we need. It reminds us to reduce water and food waste and to apply innovation and technology to maximize food productivity. It highlights the important nexus between planet, people, and the environment, and ensures that we leave no one behind.