World Water Day: International Forum Focuses on Water Use in Agriculture

"Making every drop count" . The slogan carried by the last report of the UN is at the heart of International Water Forum from March 18 to 23, 2018. In Brasilia, it brings together nearly 40,000 people Heads of State, mayors of cities around the world, as well as scientists and environmental activists. The purpose of the second day of the event is as ambitious as it is necessary: ​​to rationalize the use of water in agricultural practices.

The report of the UN estimates that by 2050, about 5.7 billion people could run out of water. We know that agriculture is particularly greedy for this resource. "At a time when we are under constant pressure on the quantity of water available, it is important to do everything possible to use these resources in the most efficient way" stressed Claudia Sadoff, Director of the International Institute for Water Management, with headquarters in Sri Lanka . She participated in a round table on how we consume the available water.

Visitors to the Citizen Village, on the sidelines of the Forum in Brasilia, where we discover the need to clean the oceans. © AFP – Sergio LIMA

Brazil is home to 18% of the world's drinking water

It is divided into two categories: "blue" water, which is found in lakes and rivers, and "green" water, contained in soils and woods. The Brazil devotes for example 50% of the water of its rivers and lakes for agriculture. He is one of the world's leading suppliers of foods. Between 1990 and 2015, the total volume of agricultural production more than doubled, and that of animal production tripled, according to the report "OECD-FAO Agricultural Outlook 2015-2024" of ONU. This therefore represents an increase in water consumption. "We want to reduce this quantity, develop more efficient plants, improve production systems and create more efficient equipment" explained to AFP Mauricio Lopes, President of Embrapa, the National Institute of Agricultural Research. According to him, "there is a boom in water management practices to save this resource, and also in plant genetics" "this revolution is already here"

Visitors discover a reenactment of life on the Brazilian base in Antarctica, on the sidelines of the Forum in Brasilia. © AFP – Sergio LIMA

Brazil's agro-industrial sector remains highly criticized by conservationists. The country practices a massive deforestation : nearly 8000 km² disappeared in 2016 according to the National Research Institute in the Amazon. Mr. Lopes wished to emphasize that 66% of its territory remains "still" covered with native plants. The stakes are high: the South American giant has the richest biodiversity in the world and is home to 18% of the world's drinking water. Biodiversity and water are deeply linked to each other. "Brazil is an extremely diverse country, there are six biomasses, we have very sensitive areas and to maintain this biological wealth, we need water". "We must lead an intelligent management of the water resource in order not to lose (this) equilibrium" however, he acknowledged.

Technology to improve uses

The drone is increasingly used by farmers. © AFP – François Nascimbeni

In the face of criticism, Brazil's Confederation of Agriculture and Fisheries (CNA) President Joao Marins also defended himself on the occasion of the International Water Forum . "We want to take advantage of this moment to demystify these subjects and prove that the rural producer takes care of the water and the earth more than anyone, because in the end, if it destroys the sources of water, he will destroy his own heritage "he pleaded, unveiling a new irrigation program.

In order to preserve water, technology can also be useful. Isabel Garcia Tejerina, the Spanish Minister of Agriculture, spoke of her use as a means of revitalizing the rural world, essential for food production. The tools it offers are varied: intelligent irrigation systems, drones satellites or agricultural machinery connected to databases. However, they remain little deployed on a global scale.

Wednesday, March 21: it's the International Day of Forests

What if we took a little height on the occasion of the International Day of Forests, which takes place every year on March 21st? Planet, a company specializing in satellite imagery, compiled a video sequence of the 7134 images of forests it took in a single day. Thanks to a fleet of no less than 200 mini-satellites, the company has been photographing oceans, forests and various infrastructures from the atmosphere. These tools are very practical, for example, for evaluating forest area and attesting to deforestation phenomena

Compilation of 7134 images of forests covering 4 continents, captured in a single day. © Planet Labs 2018

For example, minisatellites captured these images near the Bolivian Andes. The disappearance of nearly 2,000 hectares of forest in just six months, in favor of sugar cane fields. The authors indicate that according to Mongabay, a website specializing in environmental science, it was an operation to prepare the extension of the San Buenaventura sugar refinery.

The images are striking, even for a phenomenon that has existed for decades. In its report entitled " Global Assessment of Forest Resources ", the United Nations measured between 2000 and 2010 an average annual deforestation of 13 million hectares. This represents the area of ​​Nicaragua! This frantic pace had already softened: in the 1990s, deforestation averaged 16 million hectares razed per year. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) assessed global forest resources in 2015 at 3,999 million hectares. That is 30.6% of the planet's territory

FAO has conducted forest resource assessments since 1948. One might be tempted to compare the figures for each. This is not possible. First of all because the methodology has changed in 70 years, and thankfully. Institutional, financial and technical resources have evolved to better quantify the areas and types of forest. Then the very term "forest" has changed in seven decades. What is a forest, according to the FAO?

The forest, definitions

1948. " Earth with vegetative associations dominated by trees of any size, able to produce wood or other products, to influence the climate or the water regime."

1958 Same definition to a detail added: "lands providing shelter for livestock and wildlife."

1980. "All types of vegetation where trees cover more than 10% of the soil."

1990. Developed countries: "Ecological systems with a minimum crown cover of 10%, generally associated with wild flora, fauna and natural soil conditions, and not subject to agronomic practices. 100 hectares are considered. "
Developing countries: "Crown-planted land of more than about 20% of the area; […] with trees more than 7 meters high and capable of producing wood […]." [19659005] 2005 "Land covering more than 0.5 hectares with trees greater than 5 meters and a cover of more than 10% of the canopy […]and does not include land that is predominantly agricultural or urban."

In 70 years, our relationship with the forest has changed, semantics with. From a purely productivist definition, the forest becomes an ecosystem. It is gradually understood that it contains a fragile biodiversity to defend. The next FAO assessment will take place in 2020. While it is good to take a step back to evaluate a phenomenon, it will need to be looked after very closely.

Opening of the international water forum in Brasilia

Brazilian President Michel Temer opened Monday the International Water Forum in Brasilia, explaining that "there is no time to lose" to avoid a catastrophe, while the UN also pulled the bell

The UN reported that nearly half of the world's population – 3.6 billion people – live in areas where water can be scarce for at least a month a year. That number could reach 5.7 billion in 2050, according to this report.

As demand grows, especially in developing countries, underground reserves are depleted, pumped mainly for irrigation, and water quality is being degraded, polluted by industrial and municipal wastewater and wastewater. agricultural chemicals, warns the UN, which advocates "green solutions."

"There is simply no time to lose," said President Temer in his opening address for the 8th edition of the Forum planned until March 23 in the Brazilian capital.

"There is a consensus," added the head of state, "life on Earth is threatened if we do not respect the limits of nature "

 Cape Town Water Crisis (AFP - Kun TIAN)

Cape Town Water Crisis (AFP – Kun TIAN)

Nearly 40,000 people attend the Forum, including about 15 chiefs of states, 300 mayors of cities around the world, and dozens of scientists and environmental activists.

The forum meets at a time when large cities like Cape Town are facing a dramatic lack of water. The South African metropolis has been threatened with running water in the coming months due to the drought.

The 2018 international agricultural fair marked by environmental issues

DATE. On March 6, 2010, Nicolas Sarkozy closed his visit of Salon de l'agriculture with a thunderous: "the environment, it starts to do well" . Given the tone of this 2018 version, the topics of conferences that will be held throughout the week and the positions that are expected, the projection of the former President of the Republic appears very dated. Eight years later, the agricultural sector is moving towards a more sustainable and environmentally friendly development

Of course, farmers are in the syringe. The spring 2017 controversy surrounding the carcinogenic effects of glyphosate, the industry's most widely used chemical herbicide, has once again shone the spotlight on the environmental consequences of high-dose pesticide and chemical fertilizer applications. The objectives of reduction of the plan Ecophyto, set up in 2008 following the Grenelle de l'environnement, were never achieved. On the contrary, the doses of phytosanitary have increased. The cost of depollution of these chemicals in water costs French taxpayers annually between 1 and 1.5 billion euros according to the Technical Institute of Organic Agriculture (Itab). The "Etats Généraux de l'Alimentation" which took place in the fall of 2017 helped to put the subject back on the map

A solution contract for a progress approach

BIOCONTROL. The National Federation of Farmers' Unions (FNSEA) made an important change of position in November. After refusing any debate on the subject, the majority union has published a "solution contract" promoting a "progress path for the protection of plants" which requires a halving of the use of pesticides by 2025. The FNSEA no longer bets on an uncompromising position, but is now arguing that future phytosanitary bans will only come into play when alternatives are available. And the union to commit that these substitutes like biocontrol are better known, distributed and advised to farmers. In mid-January, the Ministry of Agriculture launched its consultation on the use of pesticides . The conclusions should be released on May 9.

It's hardly saying that we should talk about it at this show. The " practical workshops" that take place in the "village of professionals" cover all topics related to sustainable agriculture, organic, bioeconomy and even global warming. Arvalis the technical institute for field crops, will present two innovations that reduce the use of pesticides and chemical fertilizers. INRA Tuesday, February 27, will devote a half-day to the diversity of agriculture, burying the same model of industrial agriculture. Irstea will present its latest innovations in favor of a reduction in the use of chemicals. Secretary of State for Ecological Transition Sébastien Lecornu will present measures to accelerate the production of biogas from agricultural waste

A dominant agricultural model stuck between consumers and industrialists

REVOLUTION. The agro-industrial model resulting from the "green revolution" of the post-war period is certainly still dominant. But he finds himself stuck between the general public, who is still as numerous at the agricultural show but to consume more and more organic products, and the professional sectors of product processing attentive to this demand. Thus, the main wheat merchant of France, Soufflet group, has just signed a new partnership agreement with INRA to achieve a " sustainable transformation of agricultural sectors, from the plate up to 'in the field, for the wheat, barley and pulses sectors ". Among the objectives: the reduction of the use of pesticides. Alongside traditional organic processors, international brands such as Danone and Évian are announcing the expansion of their organic range. The Organic Agency registered in 2012 12,238 companies processing organic products, up 15% compared to 2016.

According to the Agence bio, 73% of French people say they consume at less an organic product per month. They should therefore be numerous in the aisles of the Agricultural Show to buy these popular products that are offered by only 8.5% of farmers. A paradox that can not last very long.

Terrorists Attack International Aid Groups in Eastern Afghanistan

International aid agency office Save the Children in Jalalabad, east Afghanistan was attacked on Wednesday (24/1). One was reportedly killed and 14 others wounded in the attack.

Attullah Khogyani, a spokesman for the Nangarhar province government, said a group of armed men stormed the office after a suicide bomber detonated a car bomb at his entrance gate.

No one has yet claimed to master the attack. The Afghan Taliban have denied any involvement.

Nangarhar province, which lies on the border with Pakistan, has been the stronghold of ISIS and other terrorist groups in recent years.

The attack on Wednesday (24/1) in Jalalabad lasted only a few days after a group of armed men stormed a luxury hotel in the capital, Kabul, killing at least 20 people, and many of them were foreigners. [ab/uh]