FAO Study Reviews Nature-based Solutions for Agricultural Water Management
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The study identifies various approaches to agricultural water management that could justifiably be termed as nature-based solutions, and reviews 21 case studies in the academic literature of such approaches.

It concludes that the process of undertaking nature-based solutions will be lengthy, based on the time needed to organize participatory and trans-disciplinary platforms, access financing, execute interventions and evaluate outcomes.

December 2018: The Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO) has conducted a review of water management processes around the world that incorporate nature-based solutions (NBS). The study titled, ‘Nature-Based Solutions for Agricultural Water Management and Food Security,’ finds that what successful NBS have in common are trans-disciplinary approaches, stakeholder involvement, and well-designed funding schemes.

The study identifies various approaches to agricultural water management that could justifiably be termed as NBS, and reviews 21 case studies in the academic literature of such approaches.

FAO notes that food and agricultural systems are under increasing pressure to feed growing populations around the world. The UN agency anticipates that water demand for agricultural use will continue to represent the largest share of total water demand for many countries, even with anticipated gains from greater efficiency of water use and management.

Water demand for agricultural use will continue to represent the largest share of total water demand for many countries.

The study highlights concepts in water and land management that align with NBS, and provides brief descriptions of each, namely: the ecosystem approach; the wise use of wetlands, as defined in the Ramsar Convention; ecosystem-based management; green infrastructure; agroecology; Globally Important Agricultural Heritage Systems; and ecosystem-based adaptation (EBA). The study also identifies several challenges to implementation of NBS, including: insufficient attention to valuation of ecosystem services; inadequate factual and scientific knowledge; impacts of armed conflict; and top-down, non-participatory approaches.

The 57-page report analyzes diverse experiences from around the world, including modeling of potential hydrological returns from investing in green infrastructure in South Africa, use of compost pits in Nepal, and replenishing of groundwater through reforestation in Mexico.

The report concludes that NBS are not only a theoretical construct but can be understood as a practical set of solutions. However, it notes that the process of undertaking NBS will be lengthy, based on the time needed to organize participatory and trans-disciplinary platforms, access financing, execute interventions and evaluate outcomes. [Publication: Nature-Based Solutions for Agricultural Water Management and Food Security] [Key Messages] [UN-Water News Story]

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