Malin Falkenmark symposium: A triple green future for humanity

Sunday 28 August | 14.00-15.30 | Room: NL Music Hall
Prof. Malin Falkenmark, SIWI

Eradicating poverty and hunger in the world constitutes a core objective of the Sustainable Development Goals, and represents an immense challenge. To enable sustainable food systems to feed close to 10 billion people 2050 requires nothing less than a new Green Revolution. Since blue water resources are limited and needed for industrial economic development, an African Green Revolution will have to be green water-based, benefitting from technologies such as rainwater harvesting and conservation agriculture. In the Sahel region, it should be coordinated with the implementation of the “Great Green Wall in the Sahara and the Sahel” activities. In irrigated regions elsewhere in the world, rainfed agriculture is now attracting new attention as a way of decoupling agricultural development from overexploited blue water resources.

The Symposium will drill deeper into solutions and the necessary shift in thinking, needed to secure hunger alleviation in African savannah countries, critically depending on green water management; and to find ways of decoupling irrigated crop production from blue water use. It will address practical, technical and ecological aspects, and stress the need for blue/green integration within a resilience-oriented river basin perspective.


Facilitator: Johan Kuylenstierna, SEI

14:00 Welcome remarks
Torgny Holmgren, SIWI

14:05 A Triple-green future for Humanity – focus on Sub-Saharan Africa.
Malin Falkenmark, SIWI and SRC

14:15 African Water Security; The temptation of infrastructure and its tradeoffs. Charles J. Vörösmarty, CUNY

14:30 Opportunities for a green water based African Green Revolution
Kevin Urama, African Development Bank

14:45 Green water management for a resilient landscape
Fred Boltz, Rockefeller foundation

15:00 Moderated discussion

  • Louise Karlberg, SEI
  • Jenny Grönwall, SIWI
  • Johan Rockström, SRC

15:30 End of symposium



Humanity faces daunting water challenges in the Anthropocene. Water scarcity and shocks linked to hydro-climate, anthropogenic climate change and rapidly rising demographic pressure on water, makes it imperative for the world to place a top priority on water to attain the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Moreover, success requires a deep mind-shift from the predominant blue (liquid) water paradigm, to an integrated green and blue water paradigm that builds water resilience. Green water is the part of the rainfall that is retained in the soil, and which provides at least 70% of freshwater use for food production in the world through rainfed agriculture.
Africa is the global Ground Zero in terms of problems funneling. About 40% of sub-Saharan Africa is semi-arid or dry sub-humid; climate change, and ecosystem degradation creates major water shocks on a continent with a population projected to grow from 1 billion to up to 3 billion this century. Reaching SDG 2 (End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture), requires massive, continental-scale efforts to secure food for a population, which for only semiarid and dry sub-humid regions will likely approach 900 million by the end of the Agenda 2030 period.
It will NOT be possible to reach the SDGs in Africa without an AFRICAN WATER REVOLUTION - based on green water - that builds water resilience for sustainable development.
To attain Sustainable Development Goal 2, the following actions are essential:
1. We identify a need for a sufficiently resourced, long-term, and continental-scale innovation and implementation plan for a sustainable transformation towards productive and resilient agricultural systems across sub-Saharan Africa. We suggest a GREEN WATER INITIATIVE FOR AFRICA to lead the path towards achieving the food security and hunger alleviation goal, which in turn is a precondition for all the other SDGs.
2. We propose a WATER HARVESTING INNOVATION COORDINATION MECHANISM FOR AFRICA under pan-African ownership , to coordinate investments public and private - funded by domestic and international resources. As a strategic African Green Water Plan, a minimum of USD 100 billion investments in green water innovations will be needed to build water resilience for food security and human wellbeing, and to incentivize the business community to invest in small-scale farming innovations and catalyze a Triple Green Revolution in Africa.
3. We see the need for Africa to spark a TRIPLE GREEN REVOLUTION (green for green water, green for productivity, green for sustainability). Rain is the core resource for securing reliable food production in the huge semi-arid and dry sub-humid African drylands. Science clearly shows the necessity of a sustainable, resilience-based agricultural revolution with special focus on water resilience in the vast water-scarce regions in Africa. ____________________________________________________________________________ Malin Falkenmark, Stockholm International Water Institute and Stockholm Resilience Centre

Johan Rockström, Stockholm Resilience Centre

Torgny Holmgren, Stockholm International Water Institute

Johan Kuylenstierna, Stockholm Environment Institute

Charles Vörösmarty, City University of New York