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WWF article, published at:

New analysis reveals that river water irrigation accounts for 25% of all food, while 40% of global fish consumption depends on rivers.

Ahead of the UN Food Systems Summit, a first-of-its-kind analysis by WWF found that one-third of global food production depends on the world's increasingly threatened rivers. This undermines food security and our ability to sustainably feed 10 billion people by 2050.

Published by "Rivers of Food" describes how they underpin four key components of global food production: irrigation, freshwater fisheries, deltas and floodplain agriculture, and how all these critical parts of the food system are increasingly at risk from the ongoing degradation of the world's rivers. Never has there been such a holistic analysis of the fundamental role rivers play in feeding humanity.

"Rivers are critical to feeding the world now and in the future, but protecting and restoring their health and resilience are not even on the periphery of global food systems discussions," said Stuart Orr, Global Freshwater Leader for WWF.

"Rivers have nourished us since the dawn of civilization and still do today, helping to feed billions of people from indigenous communities to megacities. But river systems are under increasing stress and if we don't take urgent action to better manage them, we will not be able to sustainably feed everyone on Earth," added Jeff Opperman, lead Freshwater scientist for WWF globally and co-author of the study.

"Rivers of Food" demonstrates that much more food is directly dependent on rivers than previously thought:

  • Irrigation: about 25% of the world's food comes from cropland irrigated by river water.
  • Freshwater fisheries: 40% of global fish consumption is river-based, including one-fifth of the world's fish catch and more than two-thirds of aquaculture fish.
  • Deltas: river sediment creates and sustains deltas, which produce 4% of the world's food on only 0.5% of its land, and are home to about 500 million people.
  • Riverine agriculture covers at least 10 million hectares, mainly in Asia and Africa, which is equivalent to the arable land in Italy and produces about 1 % of the world's food.
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