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Businesses must act to solve water scarcity in developing countries

F&B giant PepsiCo aims to become 'net water positive' by 2030 to tackle the global threat of scarcity

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PepsiCo works with WaterAid in Asia and Africa to improve water access

The World Economic Forum’s Global Risks Report 2022 ranks climate action failure as the most critical threat to the world and our planet in the next five to 10 years. 

Each one degree centigrade increase caused by global warming is projected to result in a 20 per cent reduction in renewable water resources. This will affect an additional seven per cent of the population – hindering economic growth, spurring migration and other economic and societal risks. 

World Resources Institute states that climate change could drive more than 100 million people globally into extreme poverty by 2030.

In Africa, the impact is more distressing – one in every three people across the continent faces water scarcity and many countries face extreme risks related to water issues.

​It is an imperative to prioritise Africa’s case as the continent is most vulnerable to the water crisis caused by climate change further driven by the pandemic.

Water is the unique connector of all things on our planet. This year’s World Water Week is themed ‘Seeing the Unseen: The Value of Water’, urging us to rethink our roles in uncovering water’s full value for people, economy and climate change. 

Responsibility for ensuring sustainable water management through smarter agriculture, green infrastructure and wastewater recycling lies in the hands of decision-makers and businesses like ours – capable, with combined will, of making sustainable climate action a part of each stage of the value chain. 

As we inch closer towards COP27, PepsiCo in the Africa, Middle East and South Asia (AMESA) is calling for a united front towards the advancement of water friendly long-term partnerships that deliver concrete results for developing countries struggling with the existential climate threat. 

PepsiCo in AMESA is working towards making every drop of water go as far as possible.

As a foods and beverages company, we are acutely aware of the critical role water plays in the food system and our ambition is to become ‘Net Water Positive’ by 2030. 

To achieve this we are improving water-use efficiency across our value chain on farms and in manufacturing facilities, replenishing water and improving the health of the local watersheds that are most at risk and where we operate, and increasing safe water access for communities that face water insecurity, including scarcity and unsafe water sources. 

We strive to understand the water challenges at a local level, especially in high-water risk areas, and support collaborative solutions that address the specific needs of the watershed and the communities that depend on it. 

PepsiCo Positive (pep+), our end-to-end transformation strategy, guides how we create growth and value by operating within planetary boundaries and inspiring positive change for the planet and people. ​

Across PepsiCo AMESA’s direct potatoes supply chains, we have built farmer capabilities through best practices and demonstration farms, expanding use of technology like drip irrigation. This has resulted in the avoidance of using approximately five billion litres of water in 2021 alone.

More than 1,100 Egyptian farmers have been trained on new irrigation practices through the She Feeds the World programme, while in India, drip-technology has been introduced to improve agriculture water efficiency levels.

Given that there are many parts of the AMESA region which are high-water risk, we have improved water use efficiency in our company-owned high-water risk sites by approximately 50 percent, far ahead of our global goals of a 25 percent reduction by 2025.

For example, in eight of its plants in Egypt, PepsiCo has reduced its water consumption by more than 50 percent and replenished 1.3 billion litres of water since 2016. 

World Water Week is a powerful movement for galvanising the world to recognise water as a great priority. With the world’s population expected to double in the next 50 years, an integrated and multi-pronged approach towards mitigating and adapting to the water crisis will become an absolute necessity. 

Forward-looking policies, investments and stronger reforms are critical to build climate-resilient economies, coupled with strong, innovative, ambitious and collaborative partnerships to neutralise water insecurity for a sustainable food, water and energy nexus. 

Eugene Willemsen is CEO of PepsiCo Africa, Middle East and South Asia