Water shortages across much of the developing world have serious implications for the future security of world nations. Author David Molden writes for the Science and Development Network that small-scale solutions are the key. In Sub-Saharan Africa, 95% of farmlands are rain-fed. But elsewhere, particularly in Asia, the "informal" water sector has developed simple ways of transporting water to needy farmers. They've invested in simple motorized pumps, or long flexible pipes, known as "white dragons" in China.
Of course, with rainfall shortages, which will increase with the rise of global warming, it's as important to store water as it is to transport it. Possible options, determined by place and climate include: dams, natural wetlands, enhanced soil moisture, groundwater aquifers, ponds, tanks and small reservoirs. Once these storage options are put in place, they need maintenance. Matthew McCartney writes in a related piece that "In 2009, for example, it was estimated that most of the 4,000 or so rainwater-harvesting ponds constructed by government and non-government agencies in the Amhara region of Ethiopia between 2003 and 2008 were not working or had stopped being used. This failure stems from a range of factors, including poor site selection, design and technical problems (such as inappropriate lining materials, leading to seepage), and a lack of commitment to maintenance."
While small solutions exist—and also function to stimulate local economies—they aren't being implemented as quickly as they are needed, Molden writes. Private finance and government support are needed to get pumps and pipelines into farmers" hands and working smoothly before conditions worsen.