We all need water to survive, we need it to drink and we need it to produce food to eat. On 22 March 2012 the world is celebrating the World Water Day, organised by the United Nations. The focus of this year's event is water and its impact on food security, because people who have better access to water are better nourished.
To ensure healthy food and clean water for all we need to apply ecological farming methods because food produced using industrial agriculture measures pollute our water. This is how it works.
Producing the food we eat requires large quantities of water. For example it requires 15000 litres of water to produce 1 kg of beef and 1500 litres to produce 1 kg of wheat that is used to bake bread. A lot of water is needed to produce crops for food and crops for animal feed, such as maize and soy.
It is the nutrients - a chemical element all living organisms need to live and grow - which has become the problem.
Worldwide, intensive livestock production is the most significant contributor to water pollution because of the concentration of animals and manure located far away from where it could be used as a nutrient source, and because of the masses of feed crops that is grown to sustain our increasing desire for meat and dairy.
Excessive amounts of nutrients pollute waterways, from the soil into the ground water and smaller water streams, into rivers and oceans. . Foul water is already a familiar and widespread problem faced by millions of people dependent on water passing through agricultural and livestock-producing regions.
By producing food in cooperation with nature without large amounts of chemicals we ensure healthy water for the next harvest and for the next generation. The current model of industrial agriculture is destructive, and pollutes nature. This is not the way nature does it.
The future is ecological farming.
Ecological farming can provide food security for all, while reducing the negative environmental impacts of destructive industrial agriculture. Ecological farming does not contaminate the environment with chemicals such as fertilizers and pesticides, but conserves water and nutrients in the soil. By eating food that has been produced with fewer chemicals the amount of polluting nutrients in the waterways is decreased.
Groundwater contamination and fishery losses are two of the problems arising from industrial agriculture's addiction to chemicals. Significant improvements can be achieved by eliminating the addiction, which is a win-win situation: The first win is for farmers who save money by using only the nutrients needed by the plant that is grown to feed us. We support the use of organic fertilisers, which are generally cheap and locally available, and make ecological farming more secure and less vulnerable to polluting chemicals' accessibility and price fluctuation. The second win is a decrease of nitrate contamination in groundwater wells and less algal blooms in lakes and rivers and less dead zones in the oceans.
We campaign for agro-ecological fertilisation without chemicals. Instead green manure can be used. Green manure comes from crops grown for ploughing into the soil and so increasing fertility through the incorporation of nutrients and organic matter. This and many other ecological practices like crop rotation and the recycling of animal manures and compost into farm soils can provide fertility without chemicals. At the same time it cuts farmers' expenses on artificial chemicals and provides a healthier soil, rich in organic matter, better able to hold clean water.
We believe that ecological farming can ensure enough food for all people, while reducing the detrimental environmental impacts of destructive agriculture. Food security and hunger is about crop management and access to food. Around the world 2.6 bn small-scale farmers produce the majority of our food (1) and these farmers are especially dependent on natural resources, such as water, so it's imperative our water is not polluted by destructive industrial agriculture practices.
1. IAASTD 2009. International Assessment of Agricultural Science and
Technology for Development. Island Press. www.agassessment.org.