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CIMMYT celebrates World Water Day 2012

Many of us often underestimate the importance of water on our daily lives – that is until the taps run out of water or the well runs dry. For farmers, their lives are intimately connected to the abundance or lack of water. Many farmers in the developing world produce crops which are dependent on unpredictable patterns of rainfall. For these farmers, water is not only a resource, but truly the source of life.

When there is a lack of rain, it’s not only the crops that suffer, but farmers’ livestock, incomes, and livelihoods are put in jeopardy. In periods of drought, children are often the most vulnerable segment of the population. Children often suffer from malnutrition, stunting, and starvation as the result of drought, causing long-term effects on their health and well-being.

Episodes of drought have occurred with increasing intensity and frequency in recent months. The drought in the Horn of Africa – which began in July 2011 – has been called the worst drought in the region in over 60 years. The lack of food and grain has resulted in the tripling of prices in some areas. Millions of people continue to suffer from extreme hunger, starvation, and in some areas, famine. The current drought in Mexico has been called the worst drought in 70 years. As a result, farmers have lost over a billion dollars worth of crops since the drought began in October 2011. The effect of these severe droughts will be seen for years to come.

As we reflect on World Water Day, let us not only recognize how important water is to our everyday lives, but also acknowledge those who are developing more efficient solutions for water usage. Today, over 70 percent of the water used globally goes towards agriculture. How we use water for farming is one of the most important issues to address in the management of global water consumption.

In response to this challenge, our scientists are working to develop crops that can produce higher yields with less water. Our agronomists are working to develop systems which conserve water through the management of soils. Our researchers are developing systems which better utilize and apply agricultural inputs – such as pesticides and fertilizer – so that fewer chemicals enter our water sources.

We are all interconnected. Lack of water in one area also impacts other regions through the elevation of food prices, availability of staple foods, and competition for resources. As the world’s population expands to 9 billion – each of us have to take responsibility to address and reflect on how we utilize water. Today, let’s remember just how vitally important water is to our lives, to our planet, and to our future.