Water is essential for life, and central to nearly every business activity. It is therefore one of the world's most precious natural resources. The global freshwater reserve is however under pressure due to the rapidly growing demand. The main interlinked drivers are the growing population worldwide, pollution, prosperity and climate change. The competition resulting from the significant increase in agricultural and industrial consumption raises new concerns about local control over water and its management.
The Food Sector relies on the long-term supply of raw materials for its business. The depletion of natural resources and problems faced by rural communities affect agricultural productivity and present a risk of disruption in supply. Water in particular, as a key resource in agriculture (70% of freshwater withdrawn worldwide), is sometimes misused at the farm level.
For the SAI Platform, achieving success in water conservation requires various levels of collaboration: within the Initiative's member companies; throughout the entire Food Sector and its stakeholders. Throughout this collaboration, it appears that a lot of solutions exist to improve the water use at the farm level, including better practices.
In order to ensure the positive use and protection of water in agriculture however, a number of challenges lie ahead, which SAI Platform's Working Group on Water & Agriculture aims at helping facing. These include: maintaining the food safety and quality of agricultural products; improving the farms' economic viability and social progress through water savings; and increasing environmental ecosystems' protection through polluted runoffs collection.
SAI Platform's Working Group on Water and Agriculture (WGWA) was launched in December 2007. Since then, the group developed Principles and Practices for the Sustainable Management of Water at Farm Level - and a wide range of Technical Briefs to better understand some of the related challenges and tools available to tackle them.
In 2010-2011, the WGWA launched a pilot project in North-West India together with ICRISAT, which aims at:
- Developing a simple Water Impact Calculator (WIC) for farmers to estimate the impact of their current practices on water conservation, and ways to minimise these; and
- Testing and rolling-out the WIC on a wide scale.
AB Inbev, Barilla, Heineken, McCain, Mondelez, Nestlé, Pepsi Co, The Coca-Cola Company and Unilever are SAI Platform's active members of the Working-Group on Water & Agriculture. Carlo Galli, Nestle, is the Working-Group's Chairman.