Tackling water scarcity, reliability and quality issues requires collaboration between governments, affected communities, businesses, and other stakeholders. South Africa is a water-stressed country ranked as the 30th driest in the world, with annual rainfall of about half the global average. Recent droughts have placed agriculture under even more pressure. Based on South Africa’s growing population, economic growth projections and current efficiency levels, the country could have a water deficit of up to 3.8 billion cubic meters by 2030 – a 17% gap between water supply and demand. The major drought in 2015-2016 – the worst experienced in 30 years – has placed water firmly on the national agenda.
In an effort to tackle this issue, we play a leading role in the Strategic Water Partners Network (SWPN), through which government and the private sector are working together to address pressing water challenges in South Africa. Through the partnership, we’ve supported important projects, such as the Vaalharts Irrigation Scheme, to select the best data logger and internet platform for optimal data tracking and management, and have subsequently supported the roll out of the system across multiple irrigation sites. This support has helped save water and is supporting farmers to make informed decisions on crop management based on water availability.
We are also working directly with farmers to help institute better farming practices in South Africa. We have worked with local barley farmers to provide the advice and support needed to make a valuable difference to water use in their communities. Through guidelines for sustainable barley production we developed with WWF-South Africa, we have helped farmers increase the resilience, productivity and economic value of their crop while reducing environmental impact. By using precision irrigation of barley, the amount of water used to grow malting barley was cut in half, from 117mm to 58mm per ton in two years, while improving productivity. We look forward to taking our learnings from programs like these to other water-stressed regions in Africa and beyond.