The United Nations Food Systems Summit (UNFSS), as a key global event in 2021, is pivotal to understanding and supporting food systems transformation at local to global scales, and recognizing the dire importance of food security to achieve the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). This is particularly important for addressing chronic food insecurity and malnutrition across the African continent.
Exploring the role groundwater may play in this quest, the African Ministers’ Council on Water (AMCOW), supported by the CGIAR Research Program on Water, Land and Ecosystems (WLE), hosted a side event during the Science Days of the Summit. In addition to AMCOW, participants at the side event included representatives from the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Land Reform, Namibia, the Ministry of Water and Environment, Uganda, and the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) as well as the International Water Management Institute (IWMI), which hosts WLE.
Realizing the multiple co-benefits of groundwater, a particular benefit that will be decisive going forward is enhanced food production. Recognizing the virtues that the resource brings in terms of year-round availability and local incremental access, which to a large extent caters to smallholder farmers and, in particular, women as part of diversified and intensified livelihood opportunities, there are really good prospects for supporting better food security and livelihoods, along with water security for domestic uses and hygiene in the continent – through the development and use of groundwater.
The side session was instrumental in opening up the groundwater for food security debate in Africa, highlighting both the significant potential across sub-Saharan Africa as well as the challenges. Drawing on the set of complementary partners coming together for the event and on the convening power of AMCOW, it is presumed that the road ahead is paved for more attention and support in taking the best and sustainable measures in developing the resource with these explicit transformational goals in mind.