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Rethinking the Approach to Groundwater and Food Security

Authors: Marcus Moench; Jacob Burke; Yarrow Moench

This study attempts to re-frame the current thinking on groundwater development and the implications for food security. Groundwater is an important source for irrigated agriculture as it generally furnishes reliable and flexible inputs of water. To this extent, groundwater is instrumental in managing risk and optimizing food production. However, this reliance upon shallow aquifer systems for irrigation has turned to dependency. Competition for groundwater is intense both between neighboring users and among economic sectors. This study highlights the role of adaptive strategies in dealing with aquifer management and indicates directions of research and management. Groundwater issues have important implications for food security, but effective responses require a change in perspective, viewed through a lens that is often different from existing management practices. Responses to emerging groundwater problems need to be identified on a more strategic basis than in the past, as adaptation is occurring and presents major opportunities for effective response. Adaptation needs to be part of the strategic approach regarding groundwater for the future. Rather than attempting to identify global problems or apply a single broadly integrated management philosophy to all situations, there needs to be more focus on adapting groundwater response strategies to the array of factors that determine opportunities and constraints in specific situations.  


Citation: Moench, M., Burke, J., & Moench, Y. (2003). Rethinking the approach to groundwater and food security. Rome: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.

Funded By: Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)