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FAO’s Report SOFA 2020 with theme ‘Overcoming Water Challenges in Agriculture’ states 1 out of 6 People in the World Faces Severe Water Scarcity

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Every 6th person under water stressThe Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has published a flagship report titled “The State of Food and Agriculture(SOFA) 2020′ with theme “Overcoming Water Challenges in Agriculture”. The report states that around 1.2 billion people across the globe are under high levels of water stress, which means that one out of every 6 people in the world are facing a severe water stress or scarcity in agriculture with more than 15% of the rural population at risk.

About the Report:

i.The report presents new estimates on the extensiveness of water shortage in irrigated agriculture and agriculture based on rain water.

ii.The report also stated that the annual amount of the available freshwater resources per person has declined by more than 20% in the past 20 years.

iii.SOFA presents three major entry points for action that depend on each other: (i) technical and management options; (ii) the institutions and legal frameworks needed; and (iii) the overall policy environment to promote sustainable water use.

Water Constraints on People:

i.Around 520 million people of the 1.2 billion people lived in rural areas and around 660 million people lived in small urban centres amid agricultural areas.

ii.Around 50% of the 1.2 billion people lived in South Asia and 460 million people lived in east and southeast Asia.

iii.More than 20% of the population of Central Asia, west Asia and North Africa lived in agricultural areas with very high water shortage or scarcity.

iv.Only 1 to 4% of the population of Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean, North America and Oceania lived in extreme water constrained areas.

v.Only 5% of the population of sub-Saharan Africa lived in the affected region.

Water Constraint on Agriculture land:

i.More than 128 million hectares of agricultural land based on rain water and 650 million hectares of pastureland experienced frequent drought and more than 171 million hectares of irrigated lands were under high or very high water stress.

i.e.11 per cent of rain-fed cropland and 14 per cent of pastureland experienced severe recurring droughts, while more than 60 per cent of irrigated cropland was highly water-stressed.

More than 62 million hectares of cropland and pastureland experienced both, severe water stress and drought frequency, affecting about 300 million people.

Key Points:

i.The report stated that the first estimates for Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) Indicator 6.4.2 on water stress along with the persistent water shortages in rain-fed agriculture, suggests that ensuring the sustainable management of water for all remains a challenge.

ii.The close association of water with other mandates of SDGs poses a challenge to achieving zero hunger and managing scarce water resources.


Agriculture accounts for more than 70% withdrawal of the world’s fresh water.


The report states that around 3.2 billion people live in agriculture areas with high or very high levels of water shortages or scarcity and 1.2 billion of these people (around 16% of the world’s population) live in highly water constrained regions.


i.Water accounting and auditing would be the base for the effective strategy to address water shortage and scarcity in agriculture.

ii.Investment in rehabilitation and modernisation of sustainable irrigation systems in irrigated agricultural lands and investment in water harvesting and conservation in rain fed lands along with best agronomic practices will be the key to address water scarcity.

Click here for the complete report: The State of Food and Agriculture 2020

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About Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO):
Director General– Qu Dongyu
Headquarters– Rome, Italy