Today is International World Water Day. Initiated by the United Nations in 1993, it was established as a means of focusing the world’s attention- if for only one day- on the global importance of fresh water. It’s been held every year since, every 22nd March. This year, the theme is Water and Sustainable Development – two issues that we at Monsanto are very passionate about.
A few facts about water:
– According to the UN, today, 748 million people lack access to safe drinking water and 2.5 billion do not have access to adequate sanitation.
– Between the years 2000 and 2050, the UN estimates that global demand for water for industrial production will have grown by 400%.
– To produce a calorie of food requires a litre of water
At Monsanto, we know that over-exploitation of water for agricultural production threatens groundwater, reduces the flow of rivers, degrades natural habitats, and can lead to soil salinisation. And, in a world where population is growing at an exponential rate, our global use of water is only set to skyrocket, unless we find- and deliver- ways to produce more with less.
And that’s exactly what we’re doing at Monsanto. We are committed to the responsible and sustainable use of water across our entire business, and we are proud to not only support the 4 Dublin Principles that were set out in 1992, but to take active and concrete actions ourselves that help to deliver on these principles every day:
Principle No. 1 – Fresh water is a finite and vulnerable resource, essential to sustain life, development and the environment
Research and development are at the core of our business; take for example Monsanto’s AquaTEK™ project in Italy. We developed Aquatek ™ to encourage more efficient use of water by farmers whilst at the same time preserving the environment and strengthening the competitiveness of domestic agricultural enterprises. In 2013, after studying water irrigation systems for three years, we were ready to launch. On a group of selected farms, the AquaTEK℠ project compares three types of water management—no irrigation, drip irrigation and sprinkler (drum) irrigation—. The Monsanto Italian team then assesses their effects on the best DEKALB® seed genetics for Italian farmers. By monitoring several variables during the season, it makes it possible to compare the three systems in terms of what is best for productivity and also for responsible resource use. We have short videos about the project here.
Principle No. 2 – Water development and management should be based on a participatory approach, involving users, planners and policy-makers at all levels
At our Gothenburg Water Utilization Learning Centre in the USA, Monsanto focuses on the role of water and the site’s mission is very clear: to study water and its place in growing food. The site has two primary functions: it acts as a learning centre for farmers, academics, media and the general public to learn about water’s role in agriculture and, secondly, as a research facility with a focus on building a systems-based approach in helping farmers manage drought.
Principle No. 3 – Women play a central part in the provision, management and safeguarding of water
We really value our relationships with NGO’s and farmers organisations and we are proud to be involved with the Water Efficient Maize for Africa project (WEMA). Three-quarters of the world’s most severe droughts over the past 10 years have occurred in Africa, which makes life for small-holder farmers, most of whom are women, extremely difficult. Farming for small holders is not just about earning a living; it is about survival, having the ability to feed their families. Maize is the most widely grown staple crop in Africa – more than 300 million Africans depend on it as their main food source. Maize production is severely impeded by drought, which can lead to unpredictable and low yields, and at times, total crop failure. The WEMA project is in its 7th year and the royalty free deployment of our water efficient maize, along with sharing our technical farming expertise, has the ability to help millions of people in Africa. In fact, it is estimated that 2 million additional tonnes of food good be produced, enough to feed 17 to 22 million people.
Principle No. 4 – Water has an economic value in all its competing uses and should be recognized as an economic good
The Dublin Principles recognise that access to clean water and sanitation is a basic human right. In the past, many have not grasped the importance of water conservation and this has led to water being wasted. In January, Monsanto in Antwerp became the first company in Flanders (the Flemish-speaking part of Belgium) to obtain a gold level EuropeanWater Stewardship certificate. This certificate rewarded our 800 strong workforce in Antwerp for their ongoing efforts to guarantee efficient and sustainable water management. In the coming years, we will continue to invest in sustainable water use, and our ultimate objective to innovate wastewater treatment for acceptable reuse on-site.
No one acting alone can claim to make much of a difference in protecting the world’s water resources. But together, we can make a difference by promoting sustainable and efficient water use. After all, you don’t know what you have got until it is gone. Please join us today in celebrating World Water Day.