Secure access by rural poor people to both land and water is central to the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals, in particular the target of reducing by half the proportion of people living in extreme poverty and hunger by 2015. Most of these people depend on agriculture for their livelihoods. However, international debate continues to address land and water issues separately, and to view the significant use of water in agriculture as problematic.
In most developing countries, agriculture uses more than 80 per cent of mobilized water resources. But more than half the water diverted for agriculture does not contribute directly to food production as intended. With an increasing number of countries facing severe water shortages, efficient use of water by agriculture to reduce poverty and hunger is a significant issue.
Most international development agencies and water managers, such as UN-Water, Global Water Partnership and World Water Council, now agree that better governance of water resources, rather than availability, is the key to resolving the growing water crisis in developing countries. This involves putting in place the political, social, economic and administrative systems needed to develop and manage water resources, and to ensure equitable delivery of water-related services.