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Rain and food security: what are the links?

Sometimes considered a nuisance, rain has many benefits for France and its varied climate, our agriculture and our well-being. Shouldn't we rather rejoice?



THE BENEFITS OF RAIN

Rain is a vital resource for recharging groundwater and water reserves in France. With climate change and the various episodes of drought, which are more and more frequent, every drop counts. The current rains are helping to renew our freshwater sources and prevent a potential shortage in the future.


Agriculture is an essential sector for the French economy, and rain is crucial for crop development. Regular rainfall helps farmers by providing a source of natural irrigation. Plants and crops thrive on the water received, which guarantees abundant and quality agricultural production. These contribute to food security and the economy of our country.


Rain is also a valuable ally in the fight against forest fires. France has vast areas of forest, and periods of drought can make them vulnerable to flames. Remember that in 2022, nearly 72,000 hectares of forest had burned, and that as of May 2023, more than 23,000 hectares have gone up in smoke. Current rainfall reduces the risk of fires by moistening soils and vegetation. This helps preserve our forest ecosystems and protect biodiversity.


AIR QUALITY IMPROVEMENT

Rain also plays a vital role in purifying the air. It removes dust particles and pollutants from the atmosphere, improving the quality of the air we breathe. At this time when air pollution is a major concern, rain helps reduce the harmful effects on our health and our environment.


WHAT ABOUT WATER CONSUMPTION IN FRANCE?

To guarantee food security in France, water basins have been implemented in many farms, serving as a reserve. These have been the subject of lively debate within society for several years. These large artificial reservoirs are used to store water to compensate for periods of drought or to irrigate crops. Although this technique is presented as a solution to ensure food security and the sustainability of farms, several sticking points emerge.


On the one hand, some actors fear the negative effects on the local environment and ecosystems. The construction of water basins can lead to the destruction of wetlands, the fragmentation of natural habitats, and potentially disturb biodiversity. In addition, excessive pumping of water resources to fill these basins can aggravate water scarcity in some regions, jeopardizing the availability of this vital resource for other uses such as human consumption or the preservation of aquatic ecosystems. .


On the other hand, some advocates of traditional or organic agriculture consider water pans to be an intensive and unsustainable form of agriculture. They argue that this practice could encourage farms to continue crops that are poorly adapted to the local climate, rather than promoting resilient and environmentally friendly farming systems. These call for policies favoring the adoption of more rational agro-ecological agricultural practices and water management.


Finally, social issues are also raised. Some farmers, especially small farms, may find it difficult to access this expensive infrastructure. This could potentially aggravate inequalities between large farmers able to equip themselves with basins and small farmers who cannot afford such facilities.


THE KEY ROLE OF RAIN IN THESE CHALLENGES

The acceleration of the water cycle, characterized by increasingly violent and torrential rains, is a major challenge for farms and the environment. These unpredictable climatic changes can lead to serious consequences, including gullies and soil washouts.


The watershed, defined as a geographical area where all surface waters converge towards the same watercourse or body of water, plays a crucial role in regulating the water cycle. When heavy rains occur in a watershed, the soil, often depleted by intensive agriculture, can struggle to absorb this sudden amount of water. As a result, water accumulates rapidly, increasing the risk of floods, gullies and soil erosion.


Water basins, in theory, could be used to mitigate these risks by temporarily storing excess water during periods of heavy rainfall. However, their effectiveness depends on several factors, such as the pond's ability to collect and store enough water quickly, as well as the proper management of these reservoirs to release water in a controlled manner and avoid overflows.


However, the acceleration of the water cycle makes it difficult to anticipate extreme rainfall events, making the ability of water basins to cope with these sudden changes uncertain. Investments in early warning and weather monitoring systems can therefore play a vital role in enabling farmers to better manage water basins in anticipation of torrential rains.


More generally, it is crucial to take these climatic changes into account in the planning and management of water resources at the hydrological basin scale. This requires an integrated approach to water management, involving the various stakeholders to adapt agricultural and soil conservation practices to new climatic realities. Furthermore, it is essential to invest in scientific research to better understand the mechanisms of the water cycle and to develop innovative and resilient solutions in the face of these growing challenges.



In the face of these debates, it is essential to encourage a constructive dialogue between all the actors concerned, including farmers, scientists, environmental NGOs, public authorities and citizens. Compromises could be sought, such as incentives to adopt more sustainable agricultural practices, the use of more water-efficient irrigation techniques, or the promotion of water basins that respect the environment and are integrated into management strategies. global water management. The ultimate goal is to reconcile the needs of agriculture with the preservation of the environment and long-term food security.





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