Experts discussed about the challenges of the agricultural product export sector for water sustainability
The meeting is part of the efforts from the SuizAgua Andina initiative developed in Chile, Peru and Colombia, and financed by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC). The event highlighted the importance for companies in the agribusiness and agricultural product export sectors of evaluating the water footprint and seeking and implementing solutions for the resource’s efficient use.
National and international experts met at the Water Footprint: “Model for the most sustainable use of water resource” seminar held by the SuizAgua Andina initiative last June 14 in Chile, to highlight water management and the role that companies have to make a more efficient use of the resource.
SuizAgua Chile is a project promoted by the Swiss Embassy in Chile and the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) with the support of the Sustainability and Climate Change Agency (ASCC) and executed by Fundación Chile. Said initiative aims at implementing corporate water management in the country’s leading companies, especially from the agricultural product export and agribusiness sectors, within a framework where water resource is being affected by climate change.
Claudia Galleguillos, Water Strategy Leader at Fundación Chile outlined that the activity sought to raise awareness among the different water user stakeholders of the importance of using the resource efficiently.
“Chile is experiencing the effects of climate change and we must get ready to adapt ourselves to new environment conditions, especially the agricultural sector that is the first to feel the associated impacts; a complex scenario if we take into account that it generates around 12% of the domestic employment, and it is the source of food for Chile and other countries such as China and the United States,” said Claudia Galleguillos.
She added that water is a resource that supports life and food, and Chile is an important supplier worldwide. “Almost one fifth of the virtual export water footprint in the world is related to production for exportation and 76% is related to agricultural production. Water management is neither a hindrance nor an expense, but an investment to be supported that involves a new way of seeing things and opportunities,” she stated.
Meanwhile, Arno Wicki, Deputy Head of Mission to the Embassy of Switzerland in Chile, besides recognizing the importance of water in sustainable development, he emphasized that the Swiss cooperation has played a key role in setting the Sustainable Development Goal 6 on Water and Sanitation, within the framework of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
“Without water there is no food, health, energy, nor social or economic development, neither safety. It is an irreplaceable resource. Although the water issue is a huge challenge and may be a source of tension, we know that solutions exist and we are convinced that it represents more a source of cooperation and peace,” he pointed out.
The seminar was attended by national and international renowned speakers such as Simon Gmünder, senior consultant of international consulting firm QUANTIS, who addressed the Water Footprint calculator methodology; Camille Rollin, Project Manager at NGO Race for Water (R4W), who talked about ocean conservation and solutions; and Daniel Rodriguez, from Clariant Chile, who highlighted the importance of water for business sustainability in the future, among others.
Assessing water footprint
The SuizAgua Andina initiative is also developed in Peru, Colombia, Mexico and soon in Brazil. Said initiative has mainly focused on companies from the agribusiness and agricultural product export sectors, a key link between the agricultural world and food provision in the national and international market.
According to ProChile data (2016), our country is the main exporter of several categories of fresh fruit worldwide: it provides 36% of the cherries consumed in the planet, equal to supplying the demand of 2,555 million people; 20% of plums and 18% of grapes.
“The agricultural sector uses 87% of the water in the country, therefore, if we manage to mobilize this sector in the efficient use of water, we might significantly shorten the water gap in Chile, in order to progress in the resource sustainability and the sector’s development, says Claudia Galleguillos.
Today, the project in Chile is in its second phase and seeks to better understand water impacts on production of goods and services thus promoting actions from the private sector, public entities and civil society to improve water management. For this stage, responsible and sustainable use of water is expected, as well as to engage collective actions in basins of communities with vulnerable socioeconomic conditions and apply Water Footprint through the Clean Production Agreements (CPA).
Juan Ladron de Guevara Gonzalez, ASCC CEO, said that within the framework of this initiative, Water Footprint inclusion is being promoted through the voluntary Agreements as it has a significant potential to grow in companies’ facilities, value chain and basin management in Chile.
“We are interested in companies knowing and being thrilled and going beyond the traditional water efficiency concept so as to not only reduce consumption but also include measures to generate less liquid waste and be efficient in their various processes,” he indicated. He added that said initiative seeks to measure the agriculture water footprint at companies and continue the analysis towards the value chain, managing to hold a holistic view in the future.
Carlos Descourvières, Development Manager at ChileAlimentos, a SuizAgua strategic partner, pointed out the importance of addressing topics related to sustainability through the Clean Production Agreements, which include water resource management.
“Partner companies have set their corresponding water resource management plans thus allowing to use, save and treat this important resource. They are aware that gaps can still exist, reason why they enthusiastically participate in the SuizAgua project that will allow them to learn about methodologies to calculate water footprint and, consequently, manage the resource better.”
The speakers’ vision
During her talk “Giving hope for ocean conservation: solutions do exist,” Camille Rollin said that “the o
cean is our air, our food and our water. Without oceans there is no life. It is the planet’s main water resource and more than half comes from the sea’s phytoplankton. As for plastic production, if we do nothing, by 2050 there will be more plastic than fish in the sea, and just as a reference, plastic takes up 400 to 1,000 years to disappear.”
Simon Gmünder talked about “Water Footprint: a tool for corporate water resource management,” and on this respect he said: “Water is a cheap resource that can potentially become very expensive. Companies sometimes do not calculate water footprint and do not take any measure because, compared to energy, it is cheaper. It is a shared resource as well; we need to work with all relevant stakeholders of a basin to succeed in managing water in a sustainable manner.”
Click on the videos below to watch the presentations of the specialists who attended the Seminar.
Water Footprint Seminar (part 1)
Water Footprint Seminar (part 2)
Source: Fundación Chile (news)
News, Agencia de Sustentabilidad y Cambio Climático [Sustainability and Climate Change Agency – Chile
News, Mundo Agropecuario [Farming World]
News, Negocios Globales [Global Business]
News, La Serena Online
News, Crónica Digital
News, La tercera.com
News, Energía Limpia XXI [Clean Energy XXI]
News, M&V Comunicaciones -Chile
News, Inversión Sustentable [Sustainable Investment]