Water Smart Agriculture: A requirement for resilient farms and supply chains

The CEO Water Mandate couldn’t have stated it more clearly: “Water poses one of the most vital sustainable development challenges of our time.”

Increasing pressures on water reserves and the effects of climate change underline the need for the food and beverage industry, along with public sector donors and governments, to prioritize practical solutions to water management. Increasing water scarcity and declining water quality leads to agriculture and supply risks as well as reputational risks and regulatory risks for agriculture buyers. Investing in supply chains that manage and conserve water can increase agriculture resiliency.

The Specialty Coffee Association of America lists six practical recommendations for what the coffee industry can do to contribute to increased water security in their paper A Blueprint for Water Security in the Coffeelands. Their advice is spot on for coffee buyers, but also applicable to a wide range of industries.

  1. SCAA Water Security Paper coverKnow the source: Learn about water resources in the specific landscape you where you are sourcing.
  2. Promote water-smart farming practices: Water-smart agricultural practices are those that use water efficiently and minimize impacts to downstream water quality.
  3. Promote water-smart processing practices: Reduce water use and treat wastewater before it returns to streams and rivers.
  4. Create incentives for water-smart practices: Introduce clear incentives for supply chain partners to adopt water-smart farming and milling practices.
  5. Engage consumers about water through their purchase (coffee or other goods): Companies can do more and say more through communications in the marketplace and with strategic partnerships.
  6. Strategic collaboration at the industry level: Pre-competitive collaboration at origin can allow industry leaders to map shared water-related risks and identify common interests.

These recommendations have emerged from the practice of leading organizations and companies including Catholic Relief Services, CISA, and Root Capital. These organizations, with many others, will gather next week to discuss the mechanisms to build resilient coffee system at the Building Resilience in Coffee Dependent Communities Forum, co-hosted by Sustainable Food Lab and Lutheran World Relief September 20-21, 2016 in Managua, Nicaragua.  This forum is part of the USAID Learning Community for Private Investment in Climate Smart Agriculture.

For more information, contact Stephanie Daniels, [email protected].

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