Members of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research warn that fewer and fewer people around the globe will have access to clean, safe water, if governments and organizations fail to address the problem of water scarcity.
An official with the U.S.-based International Food Policy Research Institute, Mark Rosegrant, said water infrastructure and management systems in sub-Saharan Africa, in particular, are inadequate to keep up with household demand for water, which is expected to double within the next 20 years, or so. "The number of people without access to clean water will increase dramatically, from about 150 million now to just over 400 million by 2025. On the food side, we're seeing [that] we're likely to have an increase in the number of malnourished children in sub-Saharan Africa, from about 33 million now to 37 million in 2025," he said.
Rosegrant said water scarcity is estimated to cut Africa's crop yields by 25% within the next 20 years or so.
But the water problem is not just restricted to scarcity. A senior official in Kenya's Ministry of Water Resources and Management, George Krhoda, explains that the massive flooding in the country earlier this year cost the Kenyan economy an estimated $48 million, or 0.6% of the country's Gross Domestic Product.
He said the floods, as well as droughts, cause frequent and widespread power shortages in Kenya.
These and other problems were highlighted at a news conference Sunday, and are expected to be discussed more fully during a five-day conference being held in Nairobi.
The event marks the launch of the Challenge Program on Water and Food, a new initiative from the consultative group to study the problem of water scarcity around the globe.
Fifty research proposals have already been approved under the $60 million initiative, which is being funded by 64 governments and institutions, including the World Bank. Officials are trying to raise $120 million within the next six years.