Editor's Note: Agri-Pulse and The Chicago Council on Global Affairs are teaming up to host a monthly column to explore how the U.S. agriculture and food sector can maintain its competitive edge and advance food security in an increasingly integrated and dynamic world.
By 2050 we’ll need to produce and provide food and water for nearly 10 billion people, many of whom will live in some of the world’s poorest, most water short, albeit fastest growing, regions. In sub-Saharan Africa, where the population is set to double in this timeframe, many countries have set goals to increase agricultural production to meet national food demands. Delivering on these goals will require increased water use, either from better utilizing rainfall or some form of irrigation. Achieving these goals is especially challenging in sub-Saharan Africa, where efforts to date have often been disappointing, with yields and water productivity stubbornly low. That said, there has been encouraging water and agricultural progress in recent years in Rwanda, Ethiopia, Morocco and elsewhere.
In the United States, agricultural water management continues to evolve, with solutions addressing specific local conditions. In the case of Nebraska, which is relatively rich in natural resources, including the Ogallala Aquifer and the Platte River, and usually sufficient rainfall in the eastern portion of the state, it has carefully managed its water resources through localized governance agencies (Natural Resources Districts) and taken advantage of center-pivot irrigation systems to become one of the most highly productive agricultural states in the US. Tapping into the expertise of the University of Nebraska’s faculty, the state is cultivating the next generation of researchers, water managers, agricultural producers and industry leaders. The state also benefits from investments in infrastructure, including ready access to roads, energy, equipment, financing, storage and markets.