Connecting the dots between the water crisis and agricultureThursday March 8th, 2018
Luis Fernando Guedes Pinto*
The water crisis is accentuated every day, increasing the chances of a collapse that could dramatically affect the population and the economy of much of the country in 2015. In agriculture is no different.
In 2014, only the production of sugarcane has fallen by more than 10% in São Paulo. The dry continues punishing crops, crop threatening decrease in various crops. But if agriculture is a victim, is both villain and savior. Let’s call these points.
In addition to planning a serious problem for water storage, the crisis is due to a severe drought. Extreme weather events are a result of global warming, which the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), occur due to the increase in emissions of greenhouse gases (GHG).
Point 1: Brazil is among the 10 largest emitters of greenhouse gases in the world. In 2013, agriculture was the main source of GHG emissions in the country, accounting for 63% of the total, mainly due to deforestation, livestock and the use of nitrogen fertilizers.
The crisis is accentuated because we are consuming more water than producing. The production occurs by rain infiltration into the soil, which reaches the groundwater, springs and waterways watershed. The more forest exist in a watershed, more infiltration and more will be protected springs and waterways. The better soil conservation, more water infiltrates.
Point 2 is made: our agriculture does not protect the soil properly and occupies most of the key areas for the production of water – such the Permanent Preservation Areas (PPAs). Over 20% of APPs of São Paulo are occupied by pastures instead of forests and some of its most important river basins have less than 5% forest cover. In general, the more monoculture, less forest.
Point 3: the rural sector fought strongly to the publication of a Forest Code that protects less forest and hardly requires the restoration of APPs.
To complete the point 4, agriculture is also a major consumer of water due to irrigation of crops. In general, waste water, as bad considering the type of soil and the need for plants to irrigate a crop. We are far from making efficient irrigation in the field.
Obviously, the solutions to the water crisis pass, not exclusively, but necessarily, agriculture and land use in Brazil. We have the science and technologies to understand and solve these complex issues. But besides not count on St. Peter, we do not have public policies, instruments and incentives to reverse the situation and make agriculture a producer of water and mitigation of climate change, systematically and on a national scale.
* Luis Fernando Guedes Pinto, an agronomist and a doctorate in agronomy from the University of São Paulo, is certification manager of the Institute of Management and Agricultural Forest Certification (Imaflora) and member of the Network Sheet of Social Entrepreneurs (Article originally published in the Folha de São Paulo )