EIA president Moshi Berenstein attended the conference : “Aligning Global Research Priorities & Investment Strategies for Sustainable Water Management”

EIA president Moshi Berenstein attended the conference : "Aligning Global Research Priorities & Investment Strategies for Sustainable Water Management"

EIA President Moshi Berenstein attended the conference : “Organized by the Foundation for Food & Agriculture Research” on March 25-26, 2024, at the Danforth Center Research Center, St. Louis, MO.


Notes from a panel took place during the conference with the topic of: Promoting a System-Based Approach to Advancing Agricultural Management: Biophysical researchers share technical ideas to revolutionize agricultural management.


Abstract of the talk of Moshi Berenstein, President of EIA :


Objective of the EIA talk: Highlight the potential and urgent need for integrated water management to advance SDGs by better understanding how to manage biogeochemical processes through water management.

The session started with few words of introduction on his activity in the last 16 years in Netafim and his role in the European irrigation Association (EIA) for 4 years accompanying the transition to sustainability, carrying the voice of agriculture as well as landscape irrigation sector in Europe.

His talk was organized to answer 3 questions or challenges: (1) Why irrigating? (2) How to solve the (in)efficiency of water use? And (3) How to approach policy makers to recognize progresses?  Keeping in mind that, worldwide, more than 40% of food production relies on 20% of arable lands requiring 70% of available fresh water.


(1) The why question: begins with sharing the understanding that we can’t continue using water for growing food the way we used to do until now.  First because the conditions are changing with less water available per person, less arable land to grow food and less stability due to unpredicted weather events.  Second, question focus on how to move current rainfed and irrigated areas to face water shortage when feeding the world remains the priority.

The issue is to understand the need for doing irrigation differently, stop increasing yields to increase productivity of water, shift to more resilience through deficit irrigation methods.


(2) The (in)efficiency of water use: efficiency is the ratio between water applied and water effectively consumed by the plants.  Such indicator aggregates all the component of irrigation water management to give a good estimate of the overall performance.  This is a matter of technology first that will enable practices to be optimized.

But, efficiency may be hampered by unpredictable events (storms, infestations, heatwaves…) that can influence diversely the crop depending on the technologies or practices in use, the soil or the tolerance of the crop.  Anyway, inefficient irrigation remains widely spread, as water doesn’t cost a lot like comparing to other inputs despite its strategic role. A lot remains to do on bringing the relevant technologies to the field.  We should ask ourselves why most of the farmers DON’T use the toolbox that modern irrigation can offer?  I suspect we face a lack of understanding of the real economic value of water and hence lack of financial motivation.

We need to bring the real value of water to the awareness and sensitivity of end users, and then the financial incentives will follow.  The challenge is huge as there is a gap of understanding of what “efficiency” is and how does it differ from “productivity”, all this under the law of marginal utility… usually when we get up to this point, we tend to lose the crowd’s interest…

We need to work together, research and sector/market to make this depriving part of the real economic value of water understandable.


(3) The Political narrative and how we can challenge it: Irrigation is facing a public preconception against using water to irrigate when it is for growing food or, for landscape, make urban dwelling more livable.  Yes, Irrigation consumes 70% of fresh water but despite its multiple benefits, it is still only seen as part of the problem not of the solution, a way to grow more and not better food or to live in cooler green cities and not storing water in vegetation as long as possible. 

This drives decisions to be dichotomic “irrigate or not” while the truth is in-between, to find a better way of doing it.


These 3 challenges represent a clear opportunity for system-based collaboration between industry, end-users, society, and research, combining various skills: technology, agronomy, environmental studies, sociology and economy, aiming at reaching sustainability at territorial and further global level.

By building the concept of sustainable irrigation we initiate a multi levels collaborations (Farmers, Food & Ag Industries, governments/states, NGOs, research bodies) integrating disciplines that no sector can do alone.  This is one of the targets of the activities around Taxonomy as we consider it in EIA, which will foster and inspire sustainable investments. Recently we’ve published a position paper abstract on sustainable irrigation followed by the EIA definition of 5 recommendations addressing key stakeholders to guide future developments of our sector.

The next step will be to build a Global framework of sustainability certification dedicated to irrigated products and areas (agricultural as well as urban).

Of course, it’s not as easy as it sounds, sustainability is a delicate balance between social, economic, environmental dimensions and as always driven by profitability.  We can’t do it alone, the time for single discipline approach has passed, global collaboration is the challenge to advance SDGs.


Thank you.