Let it Reign : the New Water Paradigm for Global Food Security

Policy Brief Published: October 2005 Publisher:

Let it Reign highlights key facts, conditions and trends regarding water aspects of food production, consumption and ecological sustainability. It presents policy recommendations within governance, capacity building/awareness raising and financing in order to improve water productivity and increase the possibility to produce the food needed, improve diets, and raise consumer awareness – all in an equitable and ecologically sustainable manner.


  • Establish national strategies for food and nutritional security, for all countries
  • Strengthen capacities on all levels, particularly for rain fed agriculture and its contribution to improved livelihoods
  • Start awareness-raising campaigns designed to increase knowledge of the consumptive water use of different food products
  • We need improved opportunities for food trade and research
  • Investments in infrastructure and support services need to be prioritised
  • Prevention plans for all sources of pollution are required
  • Better allocation, pollution prevention and sharing of benefits of water are needed


Enhance Food Production for a Growing Humanity

In both rain fed and irrigated food production systems, the potential to improve water productivity, i.e. to produce more food per unit of water, is substantial. Measures required include:

  • Improved management of water in irrigated and rain fed agriculture, based on secure water use rights and land tenure
  • Improvement of biological, chemical and physical properties of the soil through i.a. appropriate tillage practices
  • Dryspell mitigation though rainwater harvesting and supplementary irrigation
  • Effective arrangements and support services for marketing, affordable credit, technological improvements and extension services, with particular focus on rain fed agriculture
  • Investment in new irrigation and storage infrastructure and improved management of existing irrigation


Food Consumption Trends: Water and Health Implications

Globally, food consumption patterns are changing rapidly. These changing patterns are increasingly becoming drivers for food production. The composition and size of the consumer’s new food basket implies a substantial increase in the pressure on water and natural ecosystems.

In some developing regions of the world, undernourishment is increasing. In others, it is slowly being overcome. Paradoxically coexisting with undernourishment is malnutrition, including obesity, which is increasing in both developed and developing countries. These public health threats impede the ability of people to fight obesity, overcome poverty, resist disease and achieve other MDG-related livelihood improvements.

It is of paramount importance to increase access to food and water so that people can lead healthy and productive lives. Furthermore, we need to change the consumption patterns. Measures required include:

  • Raised awareness of, and incentives provided for consumers to chose food products with high nutritional value per drop of water
  • Collaboration with the food processing and retail industries to develop and market food products with high nutritional value per drop of water
  • Social safety nets to ensure that the poor get access to proper nutritional security


How to cite:
SIWI, IFPRI, IUCN, IWMI. 2005. “Let it Reign: The New Water Paradigm for Global Food Security.” Final Report to CSD-13. Stockholm International Water Institute, Stockholm.

For the 13th meeting of the Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD-13), the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida) commissioned the Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI) to produce “Let it Reign: The New Water Paradigm for Global Food Security”. The report presents recommendations for policy and decision makers with regard  to sustainable food production, sustainable food consumption and ecological sustainability. Collaborating partners for the report have been the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), IUCN – The World Conservation Union and the International Water Management Institute (IWMI).