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Natural Resource Governance around the World

Guaranteeing access to water for farmers in developing countries

A brief note prepared by the C2A for the 2012 World Water Forum


Water is an essential resource for farmers in developing countries. They need it to produce food, irrigate their crops, water their livestock and maintain fish stocks, but competition over access to water is constantly intensifying due to demographic growth, industrialisation, urbanisation, and changing modes of production and consumption. Conflicts between farmers, businesses and rapidly expanding urban areas are multiplying around the world, sometimes erupting into violence. Farmers in developing countries are the first casualties of such competition as they tend to have less political power than other more organised and powerful users. As access to water becomes increasingly restricted, many suffer the further injustice of being deprived of their historic rights to obtain this resource above or below ground. A growing number of farmers, herders and fishermen are finding it more and more difficult to access water.

About 75% of the 950 million people around the world who suffer from hunger live in rural areas. There is an urgent need to defend and safeguard the basic right of farmers in developing countries to access water. These producers have immense potential to meet the huge challenges posed by food security and territorial development, protect ecosystems and biodiversity, and maintain employment in rural areas. Safeguarding their access to water is a key aspect of responding to these challenges. This is something can be done at relatively little cost, but it does require genuine political will from governments and the international aid community.


Since the end of 2010, AGTER has been addressing questions of water governance through its participation in the Commission of Food and Agriculture (C2A) work group organized by Coordination Sud, an international federation of Non Governmental Organizations.

On this page, you will find a note that AVSF, CCFD Terre-Solidaire and GRET, and AGTER wrote presenting our shared position on water governance for agriculture. It was originally published in French on Coordination Sud’s Website in November 2011. This brief note focuses on steps that can be taken in order to ensure better water access for small farmers. It has been prepared for the World Water Forum and the Alternative World Water Forum, Marseille (France), March 2012. It is essential to remember small farmers in the South, who are seriously threatened by increasing competition for water access. This is in spite of the fact that small-scale farming is an effective solution for a series of important problems that we face today, such as food insecurity, the destruction of ecosystems and biodiversity, rural unemployment, etc.

Guaranteeing small farmers in developing countries access to water and water usage rights is an essential first step towards addressing the issues discussed above. This brief note invites the reader to think about how we can do so.

C2A Notes are produced with support from the AFD. The opinions expressed in this document do not necessarily reflect the official position of the AFD.

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