March 22, 2019

Global Food for Thought: Special Report Edition

If you would like to have the Global Food for Thought news brief delivered to your inbox, please sign up here.


From Scarcity to Security: Managing Water for a Nutritious Food Future STORY

Special Edition: From Scarcity to Security

It's finally here! The Chicago Council on Global Affairs has released a new report, From Scarcity to Security: Managing Water for a Nutritious Food Future, authored by Mark W. Rosegrant and cochaired by Ertharin Cousin and A.G. Kawamura, that examines how the world can best grow the food that we need to feed a rapidly rowing, urbanizing world in the face of increasing water insecurity.

This week, the news brief will be highlighting data and findings from the report. Next week, we will be sharing exciting content from the 2019 Global Food Security Symposium. OF THE WEEK

A farmer carries buckets of water in Playitas town, Nicaragua. World Water Day is marked on March 22. (REUTERS/Oswaldo Riva) ACTORS

Supporting Food and Water Needs: By 2050 the global population is expected to increase to 9.8 billion, with 86 percent living in less developed countries and 70 percent living in rapidly growing urban areas.

Farmers will need to improve their food production capacity to meet the needs of the growing populace, while expanding urban areas will also demand more water from a steadily decreasing supply. Global demand for water is generally projected to increase by 30 to 50 percent by 2050. INSIGHTS

The Importance of Water: Ertharin Cousin and A.G. Kawamura, cochairs of From Scarcity to Security: Managing Water for a Nutritious Food Future, express the importance of water as “the starting point for food and for life.” They stress that strengthening our capacity to identify water scarcity and its impacts should be addressed immediately and write that, "aligning clean water development with agricultural development can yield multiple benefits and is crucial to producing enough nutrient-rich food for a growing global population." AND AGRICULTURAL ISSUES

Agriculture and Water: Major challenges for future food and nutrition security include water scarcity, increasing degradation of ecosystems and poor water quality. Agriculture and livestock accounts for 71 percent of all water usage and depends on a reliable source of water. With expected changes in demand, agriculture will be severely tested. Historically water-secure populations will be at threat of water-insecurity if water is not treated as a strategic, valuable, and limited resource. DIVE

Water Rights: If water rights, the moral and legal claims that people have to gather the water they need, are well-defined, water users will be more likely to invest in water-saving or income-enhancing technology. For water rights to be an effective tool, all users in a system must be able to participate. Gender equity is essential for water rights, irrigation raises land value but if not equally accessible to women, benefits will only favor the men. CRUNCH

Precision Agriculture: Improved water, land, and crop productivity will rely heavily on the continued improvement of technology. Precision agriculture, agriculture guided by advanced technologies, is developing rapidly with smallholder farmers in mind. Remote sensing technologies and satellite imagery will not only improve farming systems and irrigation management but also will create a dependable, ongoing source of data globally.

Adopting Sustainable Dietary Patterns: A shift in diets and nutritional content of convenience foods could help reduce GHG emissions and land use by as much as 70 to 80 percent. Changes to sustainable dietary patterns, for example reducing meat consumption and switching away from water intensive plants, would not only provide health benefits but has the potential to reduce water usage by 50 percent. School feeding programs have the potential to encourage current and future generations to consume sustainable and healthy foods. IDEAS

Measuring Household Water Use: The Household Water Insecurity Experiences (HWISE) scale recently developed, provides a 12-item scale for measuring household water insecurity in any low- or middle-income setting. With HWISE, it is now possible to evaluate the prevalence and causes of household water insecurity and effectively intervene in a timely and appropriate manner. The scale will also provide beneficial feedback on the interventions for future eradication of water insecurity. REPORT

Continued US leadership is needed to ensure future prosperity

At home, the United States has been at the forefront of addressing agricultural water management by empowering entrepreneurial farmers through technological advancements, research, and innovative implementation models. From Scarcity to Security lays out four key actions that can be taken by the US government to advance successful, sustainable water management in agriculture to achieve a nourishing food system for all. & COMMODITIES

Virtual Water: The increased international trade in virtual water, the volume of water used to produce a good or service, has the ability to improve water, food, and nutrition security. Evidence shows that trade liberalization has the potential to reduce water use in water scarce regions. An analysis in Africa of virtual water trade found that undernourishment often declines when virtual water trade becomes more open. EVENTS

Land and Poverty Conference 2019: Catalyzing Innovation
Date: March 25-29
Location: Washington, DC

FFA 2019
Date: April 9
Location: Brussels, Belgium
Innovation in Agrifood Supply Chains: Finance, Profitability, and Sustainability
Date: April 10-11
Location: Berkeley, California
FAO/WHO/WTO International Forum on Food Safety and Trade
Date: April 23-24
Location: Geneva, Switzerland
EAT Stockholm Food Forum 2019
Date: June 12-13
Location: Stockholm, Sweden


Please share any tips or thoughts on what we can do better here.


The Global Food and Agriculture Program aims to inform the development of US policy on global agricultural development and food security by raising awareness and providing resources, information, and policy analysis to the US Administration, Congress, and interested experts and organizations.

The Global Food and Agriculture Program is housed within the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, an independent, nonpartisan organization that provides insight – and influences the public discourse – on critical global issues. The Council on Global Affairs convenes leading global voices and conducts independent research to bring clarity and offer solutions to challenges and opportunities across the globe. The Council is committed to engaging the public and raising global awareness of issues that transcend borders and transform how people, business, and governments engage the world.

Support for the Global Food and Agriculture Program is generously provided by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.


1,000 Days Blog, 1,000 Days

Africa Can End Poverty, World Bank

Agrilinks Blog

Bread Blog, Bread for the World

Can We Feed the World Blog, Agriculture for Impact

Concern Blogs, Concern Worldwide

Institute Insights, Bread for the World Institute

End Poverty in South Asia, World Bank

Global Development Blog, Center for Global Development

The Global Food Banking Network

Harvest 2050, Global Harvest Initiative

The Hunger and Undernutrition Blog, Humanitas Global Development

International Food Policy Research Institute News, IFPRI

International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center Blog, CIMMYT

ONE Blog, ONE Campaign

One Acre Fund Blog, One Acre Fund

Overseas Development Institute Blog, Overseas Development Institute

Oxfam America Blog, Oxfam America

Preventing Postharvest Loss, ADM Institute

Sense & Sustainability Blog, Sense & Sustainability

WFP USA Blog, World Food Program USA


| By Pietro Turilli

Field Notes - How to Strike the Most Effective Partnerships for Food Security

In today’s hyperconnected world, challenges felt in one region or country almost always have wider if not global repercussions. The International Potato Center, part of the CGIAR system, develops partnerships with the private sector to tackle these challenges more effectively. 

| By Julie Borlaug

Featured Commentary - Hope Through Agriculture: Now More than Ever

In our latest collaboration with Agri-Pulse, Julie Borlaug writes that now is the time for everyone in agriculture to demonstrate how their passion and dedication have found solutions to the major threats we face as a collective human species: food and nutrition security, environmental stability and sustainability.

| By Lisa Moon

Guest Commentary - Reduce Food Loss & Waste, Feed Millions

Studies show that one-third of all food produced for human consumption is lost or wasted, enough to feed 1.9 billion people-almost the same amount as are experiencing food insecurity. Food banks are uniquely positioned to address the paradox of global hunger and food loss and waste. 

| By Colin Christensen, Eva Koehler

Guest Commentary - The Plague You’ve Never Heard About Could be as Destructive as COVID-19: How the Threat from Desert Locusts Shows the Need for Innovations in how Organizations Scale

The international community needs to mobilize to combat the plague of locusts devouring East Africa. At the same time however, we should also consider the long-term investments we must make to build lasting resilience to climate change among smallholder populations.

| By Sarah Bingaman Schwartz, Maria Jones

Guest Commentary - Reducing Food Loss and Waste by Improving Smallholder Storage

Reducing postharvest losses by half would result in enough food to feed a billion people, increase smallholder income levels and minimize pressure on natural resources. The ADM Institute for the Prevention of Postharvest Loss works with smallholders in Bihar to improve storage and reduce loss.