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Ahead of the UN 2023 Water Conference, the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) calls for accelerated investments to help small-scale farmers in developing countries access and manage increasingly scarce water resources in the face of a changing climate and more extreme weather events

MTEwNDY3MgAs per its new strategy, IFAD aims to accelerate rural development to ensure small-scale producers are resilient to shocks, and have access to nutritious foods. (Image source: IFAD)

About 3.2 billion people overall live in agricultural areas with high to very high water shortages or scarcity. Since 2000, the number and duration of droughts has increased by 29%. Population growth has also caused an increased demand for water, which is also a key driver of water scarcity.

Investment needs are immense. For example, in East Asia and the Pacific, around US$6.8bn is needed each year until 2030 for irrigation expansion, efficiency and water management improvements to be at full efficiency.

According to the OECD, despite a strong economic case for water investments, financing flows are not commensurate with investments needs. For example, in sub-Saharan Africa, although expanding small-scale irrigation can be profitable and benefit between 113 and 369 million rural people, access to finance and credit is a major barrier to access irrigation and water harvesting equipment, in addition to land tenure issues.

Blended finance, which strategically uses development finance to mobilise private investments, sustainable or green bonds, and public-private partnerships, are examples of financial instruments. IFAD is also advocating for the development of water bankable projects with clearly defined revenue streams and viable business models to attract private investors.

“The only solution is to make the best use of every single drop. Small water infrastructure, better soil and water management, and natural solutions such as agro-forestry can go a long way in ensuring small-scale farmers have the water they need. We need to increase investments from the public and private sectors to accelerate the uptake of proven techniques, and local solutions," said Jyotsna Puri, IFAD Associate Vice-President, Strategy and Knowledge Department. "We need to increase investments from the public and private sectors to accelerate the uptake of proven techniques, and local solutions," she added.

Puri also stated that given the amount of financial need and intensification of climate change, further development of innovative financial instruments was necessary to unlock billions from the private sector, channel funds, infrastructure and know-how to small-scale farmers.

IFAD will be present at the UN Water Conference, which is scheduled to take place from 22-24 March 2023. For more information visit: