Jean-Pierre Halkin's viewpoint
Jean-Pierre Halkin, head of Unit for Rural Development, Food and Nutrition Security at the European Commission Directorate-General for International Cooperation and Development (EuropeAid) explains why water for agriculture is an EU development priority.
How is water for agriculture a focal point for development policies?
2015 was an exceptional year in terms of commitment worldwide to move towards sustainable development, with two crucial conferences: the Sustainable Development Summit in New York where the sustainable development goals (SDGs) were adopted, and COP21 in Paris. Water for agriculture is at the core of the second SDG, which focuses on hunger and food security; 70% of human water consumption is used for irrigation and 2.5 million people live in countries affected by water stress and have limited access to water. The EU pays specific attention to agriculture and food security in its development policies, which is the primary sector for EU intervention, with nearly 20% of EU official development assistance.
What is the EU doing with regard to water for agriculture in ACP countries?
Water has a central role in achieving our strategic food and nutrition security objectives. All of our priorities revolve around water for agriculture. We talk about water for agriculture in a broad sense – irrigation is of course an issue, but not the only one. Drainage, combating soil erosion and leaching to preserve soil fertility for crops, livestock and aquaculture activities are a few of the many issues upon which the EU focuses. We are constantly asking ourselves the crucial question of how to effectively promote climate change adaptation and mitigation, while also ensuring food and nutrition security for all and creating conditions conducive to agricultural development. EU interventions cover a broad spectrum, from setting up irrigation schemes, in collaboration with civil society, to supporting sectoral policies of different governments via our budget support instrument. We support national policies in the framework of national indicative programmes, but also regional policies, including the Global Alliance for Resilience and Supporting the Horn of Africa’s Resilience initiatives.
What key results have been achieved by the EU concerning water for agriculture?
In Chad, an EU-supported pastoral water project is under way involving the development of livestock water points. This maintains peace between livestock and crop farmers, while also contributing to the development of one of the most dynamic economic sectors in dryland areas. In Niger, the EU is supporting the 3N (Nigeriens Nourish Nigeriens) Initiative, with one of the key elements being pastoral and rural water management. This support is provided at local (rural communities, farmers’ organisations, NGOs) to national (Niger government) levels. In Mampu in the Democratic Republic of Congo, an agroforestry project is all about sustainable water resource management. The success of this project, launched some 20 years ago, is illustrated by the fact that it was supported by local rural communities at the end of EU funding.
How has the Ambilobe project been successful?
Water is now available where previously it was not, giving new impetus to agricultural production and smallholders. We have noticed a reduction in social tensions between smallholders/water users and the sugar industry and all stakeholders are aware of the importance of an irrigation system governance and funding structure. Finally, the different services, operators and associations have collaborated in very positive ways. The project will be continued under the 11th European Development Fund which, which is another sign of success.