From: Anthony Mitchell, Associated Press
Published November 5, 2004 12:00 AM

Africa Must Boost Use of Water Resources to Combat Food Shortages and Poverty, Says U.N.

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia — Africa needs to step up the use of its abundant water resources to boost farm productivity and combat persistent poverty and food shortages, a United Nations official said Thursday.


The world's poorest continent uses only 5 percent of the water in its rivers and lakes, compared with 20 percent in Asia. Africa also irrigates 7 percent of its arable land, compared to 42 percent in South Asia and 36 percent in East Asia and Southeast Asia, the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization said.


"We therefore still have a great potential and opportunity to address the needs of Africa in food, poverty reduction, and ecosystems," said Louise Fresco, deputy head of the organizations.


"Recent research shows that growth in agriculture is the most beneficial for the poor, of all economic sectors," Fresco told a pan-African conference on water for food and ecosystems.


This means Africa needs "to continue to invest in unlocking the potential of its diversified agricultural systems — in rain-fed agriculture, irrigation, and mixed systems," Fresco told a conference discussing African issues and concerns that may shape the International Conference on Water for Food and Ecosystems.


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The international conference is set to run from Jan. 31 to Feb. 5, 2005, in The Hague. It will contribute to the U.N. Commission on Sustainable Development.


Source: Associated Press


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