German comments on HLPE water and food security

German comments on HLPE water and food security
1. The scope of the topic of water and food security is very broad. Do you think that the V0
draft has adequately charted the diversity of the linkages between water and food security
and nutrition? Is there important evidence or aspects that the present draft has failed to
The Zero Draft captures the relevant issues around the linkage between water and food and
nutrition security. Highly appreciated is the consideration of the rights-based approach.
To be consistent with the text, we recommend to include “nutrition” as essential part of food
security in the title.
We take note that the draft focuses on water as a natural resource for agriculture and food
security. We are much aware that this is only a partial analysis since water serves for many
other means and sectors as well. We would like to point out that cross-sectoral linkages
could be better balanced, in particular with regard to safe drinking water and sanitation.
The recommendations (p. 75-82) do not consider strong regional differences in the
availability of water. For many regions in the world the statement “water is a resource under
stress” (see p.75) does not apply (see figure 8, figure 2). The conclusion “growing demand […]
will increase tension over water accessibility” does not apply in general but depends on the
region in which the growing demand for water exists. Although in recommendation 7 this
subject is covered other sections do not distinguish sufficiently between regions with
different water availability. If regional differences are not prioritized in global water
governance policy recommendations may not be efficient. I.e. in regions without water
shortages policies to reduce water consumption can be ineffective or even
counterproductive due to higher health risks and higher energy consumption for water
A close relationship between nutritional problems and access to water in general needs to
be questioned (see recommendation 1, p.76). Many regions of Africa have high precipitation
- even if considering the high evapotranspiration because of high temperatures.
And still in countries like Tanzania and Kenia crop yields are low. This is mainly caused by
inappropriate crop cultivation, the use of old varieties and insufficient fertilization. An
increase in irrigation would not improve the situation.
The draft does not mention the consequences of firewood use to boil water. Especially in
developing countries firewood is used to boil and sterilize water. According to the FAO World
Food Report 2014 this is common practice for about 764 million people or 11% of the
population. Hence water quality and removal of woods from forests are directly connected.
Especially because “sustainable forestry for food security and nutrition” is planned as topic
for CFS 2017 possible conflicts between quality of drinking water for poor households and
sustainable forest use could also be discussed in this report.
We kindly ask to check if the statement that “water is increasingly transferred from
agriculture (see p.75, line 10) to other sectors” is valid on a global basis or more on a local or
national basis. Accounting for 70-90% of water resources, the agricultural sector still has high
efficiency potentials. The household use of 10% and industry use of 20% of water resources
reflects competing user interests. This calls for fair solutions.
The report should also focus on the potential of agriculture to preserve water resources by
enhancing efficiency of water usage or by reusing treated waste water (p. 78).
With regard to recommendation 4 (p.77, line 33) we would welcome a statement to be
included that groundwater usage should not exceed its recovery rate.
With regard to recommendation 5 concerning “Changing diets” (p.77) the potential of
reducing food waste should be included.
We believe that improved agricultural water management productivity (recommendation 6,
p.78) should lead to increased water efficiency in agriculture. We noted that the reuse of
untreated wastewater is not mentioned although nutrients could be
Regarding water governance the advantage of cross-sectoral coordination could be
When dealing with collective rights such as the right to food (or water) of the community it
could be examined if it was more appropriate to speak of collectively practiced rights of
After having read the study it is not clear where the problem is: Is it a not completely
implemented right to water or is it the lack of precision of the current wording of the right to
The difference between the “capabilities”-approach of Amartya Sen and the human rights
approach sometime does not become clear. It could be a possibility to leave out Sen´s
“capabilities”-approach and instead emphasize the possibilities and limits of the human
rights approach.
p. 69, line 16: “Amartya Sen...” –the capabilities approach might not be adequately
summarized here: capabilities are freedoms. These freedoms serve to achieve something
that the individual values, i.e. “functionings” that he or she values (“functionings” being the
states and activities that make up ones existence, such as having a job, but also being healthy
and safe, etc).
In essence, it conceptualizes a new multi-dimensional approach to poverty: not just in
terms of economic poverty (i.e. resource-based approach), but in terms of what the
individual can achieve within his or her outside parameters (as in: what choices does he or
she have, based on their personal abilities and outside parameters, and up to which point
can he / she exercise them).
Summary by Sen: “For this reason, while the combination of a person's functionings
represents their actual achievements, their capability set represents their opportunity
freedom — their freedom to choose between alternative functioning combinations”
(Amartya Sen, Development as Freedom, 2001)
In this context we would like to remark that the human rights approach and the capabilities
approach are not synonymous. Rights may be seen as entitlements to certain capabilities
(not to all – there's no “right to the dream job” or “right to travel the world”, even though
these would be functionings).
p. 69, line 31: the “respect, protect and fulfill” approach is common to all human rights.
p. 69, line 43: We suggest to replace “collective rights” with “collective exercise of these
p. 69, line 52: We suggest to replace “them” with “persons belonging to them”.
p. 70, line 28: Please add “2010” after September and “in resolution 15/9” after “the UN
Human Rights Council”.
p. 70, line 34: We suggest to replace “as elaborated...” with “Based on General Comment 15
and the work of the Special Rapporteur, the Human Rights Council has recognized in
Resolution 24/18 of 27 September 2013 that the human right to safe drinking water and
sanitation ”entitles everyone to without discrimination, to have access to sufficient, safe,
acceptable, physically accessible and affordable water for personal and domestic use and to
have physical and affordable access to sanitation, in all spheres of life, that is safe, hygienic,
secure, socially and culturally acceptable and that provides privacy and ensures dignity,”
p. 71, line 25: Capabilities and human rights are not synonymous; however, human rights
definitely accounts for “livelihoods and subsistence needs”.
Chapter 1.1.1:
P. 12, line 34 and P. 13 Box 1: Besides diarrhea the text should mention intestinal worm
infections (being highly prevalent in developing countries and relevant to nutrition, incl. link
to anaemia)
P. 12, line 51: lack of latrines and open defecation also pose a risk for sexual harassment and
violence towards young girls and women (also mentioned on page 20, line 12).
Chapter 1.1.3:
P. 21, line 8: hygiene practices, especially hand washing
Chapter 1.1.4:
P. 24, line 32/33: Water scarcity also implies limited quantities for consumption and good
hygiene practices (potentially leading to negative health outcomes and malnutrition)
2. Has the report adequately covered the diversity of approaches and methodological
issues, in particular concerning metrics and data for water and food security? Which
metrics do you find particularly useful and which not?
We would appreciate if in recommendation 8 about research and development
(p. 79) research for better storage of irrigation water surplus was mentioned.
Given the regional differences in water scarcity the concept of the water footprint
does not offer any advantages without taking into account climate and market
conditions of production (food consumption requirements in relation to availability
of land and water). Since for example Brazil is not affected by water scarcity and
irrigation is not needed it does not seem reasonable to indicate the exact amount of
water used to produce one kilogram of Brazilian sugar cane. Water availability in
Brazil or global water scarcity would not be influenced if sugar cane was not grown in
Brazil anymore.
The draft does not mention that there is a lack of data about water pollution (“grey
water”). “Grey water” is defined as the (hypothetical) amount of fresh water needed
to dilute water pollutants from fertilization or production processes to a
concentration which is environmentally compatible. Data about grey water in
agriculture only incorporates nitrate from nitrogen fertilization. Recent studies also
include phosphate in their data but these are not applicable yet.
In many regions households are supplied with drinking water by their water
suppliers. Therefore internationally coordinated guidelines for the use of installation
products should be developed. In the same way as there are guidelines for packaging
of drinking water the contamination of water by installation products should be
considered. For food packaging positive lists have proofed to be most effective in
giving advice about the use of different materials.
We would recommend to check if the unit in table 2 (p. 34) is correct. Possibly it
rather is “liters per kilogram of product” instead of “liters per ton of product”.
3. Food security involves trade of agricultural produce, and a virtual trade of water.
Agricultural trade interacts with water and food security in various ways, and differently
for food importing countries, food exporting countries, water scarce versus water rich
countries. Do you think the V0 draft has appropriately covered the matter?
Recommendation 6 (p. 78) implies the import of food in countries facing chronic
water scarcity. We would like to point out that this would rather refer to staple foods
than to food in general such as wheat in northern Africa. In countries with water
scarcity the scarce resources could be used for products of high value such as fruits
and vegetables, if appropriate for the given agriculture. We recommend to also
include that in such regions an adaptation of farming systems is needed. As an
example we refer to the widespread practice to plow fields. This is a technique which
maximizes water losses in those regions. Aimed target should rather be to practice
water-saving and water-efficient soil cultivation methods such as preserving methods
or no-till.
4. In this report, we considered the potential for an expansion of the right to water to also
encompass productive uses. What kind of practical and policy challenges would this bring?
5. Which systemic actions/solutions/approaches would be the most effective to enhance
water governance, management and use for food security?
Recommendation 2 (p.76) gives the advice to revisit subsidy and policy regimes with
regard to rich producers and farmers wasting or degrading water resources. In our
opinion the waste or degradation of water resources is not only caused by rich
producers or farmers but can be also caused by smallholders if they have access to
water for a comparable small price.
Ensuring responsible food consumption by using regulation and incentives
(see recommendation 5, p. 77) seems plausible but we have sincere doubts that this
approach can be successful. The problem is with which measures shall governments
initiate and implement a modification of consumption patterns of its population.
Effectiveness and efficiency of such measures are highly questioned.
Comments on Recommendations:
P. 75, line 5: Please add: water for consumption, preparation and processing of
P. 75, suggestion for title of recommendation 1: More Joined up thinking and
action around WASH and food and nutrition security
P. 75, line 47: Please add: locally adapted, affordable and accepted solutions
P. 65, line 38: Please add: the role of water, sanitation and hygiene in reducing
P. 78, line 29: recommendation of importing food implies risks linked to price
volatility and dependency on markets potentially the situation for poor, food
insecure households – import is depending on the context an option, but not a
key FNS strategy. Focus should rather be on restriction of water-intense exports.
P. 80, line 21: Please add: time for child care
P. 80: Please add: promote gender equality through the reduction of work load
for women, e.g. through time-saving technologies around food production and