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Agriculture and Water: Taking a closer look at the problem and solutions

Research Paper by SABC Education Digital Media

In order to produce food, enormous amounts of water are needed. About 70% of the water which is taken from the rivers and ground is used in irrigation. To give you a comparison, we only use about 20% of our land's water for personal use.

Though water is greatly needed in agriculture, it is scarce. It may surprise you to know that South Africa is one of the most water scarce countries in the world.

The problem that we have is that if the population continues to grow the way it has been at 2% per year, we will need to produce more food and more food requires more water, much more water.

Putting such pressure on the food and, inevitably, the water supply could result in disaster if more care is not taken to enhance the water supply and use water more efficiently.

Though it sounds easy in theory, it can be quite challenging, challenging but not impossible. Here are a few ways in which more water can be made available.

Alien plants removal

Alien plants (those not indigenous to South Africa) use more than twice the amount of water that indigenous plants use.

It has been estimated that these alien plants use 3 billion litres of water each year. The removal of alien plants will free up a large percentage of our water supply.

Efficient irrigation

Irrigation is one of the most effective ways to get crops the water they need but the proper irrigation systems must be used, drip irrigation is very effective.

Irrigation systems also need to be checked regularly and maintained in order to save water. Large volumes of water are lost each year to irrigation systems that are not working properly.

Drought resistant crop

By planting drought resistant crops farmers lessen the need for water. There are a variety of drought resistant crops that can be used for many different purposes. Chick peas, sorghum, pigeon peas and pearl millet are examples of such crop.

Adjustments need to be made in agriculture with regards to how water is used.

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