To identify opportunities for water efficiency in the agricultural sector and analyse the barriers to improvement in this area, the International Finance Corporation (IFC) has launched a study as part of its Agroprocessing Resource Efficiency Programme.
In partnership with IFC’s partner, Switzerland’s State Secreteriat for Economic Affairs (Seco), the programme was launched earlier this year, and is aimed at improving water efficiency and overall water consumption, and mitigating water supply decline risks in the agriculture sector.
The study has, so far, interviewed more than 50 private firms, government agencies and associations, IFC manufacturing, agribusiness and services adviser Raymond Greig said on Thursday, adding that the findings from the study will drive the programme for the next three years.
The programme has identified five focus areas wherein local government can support water efficiency and agroprocessing, among which strengthening institutions, developing partnerships and stewardships play a role.
Additionally, Greig noted that these areas, as well as improving on site practice, strengthening regulation and improving integrated planning, would play a significant role in improving water efficiency, especially considering that by 2030, water demand is expected to exceed supply by 17%.
Total water withdrawals for all sectors in South Africa are forecast to 2035, with 2050 marking the point at which water supply vulnerability will play a larger role in climate change and medium population growth.
Highlighting the importance of water for agriculture, Greig told media on Thursday that the agroprocessing sector alone, uses about 130-million kilolitres of water a year, of which animal slaughtering takes up 26%, brewing and malting 17% and dairy 12%.
Subsectors that could realise benefit from implementing water efficiency programmes include the poultry, dairy, red meat, fruit and vegetable, brewing and malting sectors; whereas pulp and paper, sugar and wineries are less likely to benefit, considering that these sectors already use best practice methods.
Through the study, the IFC so far has identified that drivers for water efficiency include business continuity, corporate social responsibility, as well as wastewater regulations and tariffs.
However, barriers to this include a poor business case for water projects owing to the low cost of water, access to information on best practices, a complex licensing system, as well as a lack of information on future tariffs and restrictions. Public perceptions also play a role in these, Greig said.
Through the programme, the IFC is hopeful that it can address some of these challenges.
According to Greig, the next steps in the programme will be undertaking a resource efficiency benchmarking study for the red meat abattoir sector.
Through this, the IFC intends to benchmark the use of water, energy and resource use in the sector.
This study for the red meat sector will include up to 30 beef, pork and lamb abattoirs, and will compare with international best practices.
Following completion, the IFC intends to develop best practice guidelines and self-assessment tools, and is already engaging with selected abattoirs to assist with the development of specific projects.