Sep 18, 2012, updated September 2012
Moga, in the Indian Punjab, is one of Nestlé’s largest milk districts, from which we buy 1.25 million litres of milk a day from 100 000 farmers. However, local water resources are overexploited and the water table is falling by at least one metre a year, which could affect milk supply in the long term.
More water is needed to produce some products than it is to produce others, and it is not only inefficient to try to grow the most water-intensive products in water-scarce areas; it will contribute to an even greater water crisis in the future. Therefore, together with the International Water Management Institute (IWMI), Nestlé undertook a study of the water intensity of milk, wheat and rice production in the region. The study involved three different phases: measuring the water footprint of the entire farm system; assessing the sustainability of the water footprint of the different crops grown in the area; and developing a comprehensive response using best farming practice to make water use more sustainable and ensure the long-term supply of agricultural raw materials.
WATER FOOTPRINTS: Dr. Babarjit Singh Bhullar advises farmers on good water management techniques during a water awareness programme near Nestlé’s Moga factory in India.
The analysis of the water footprints for milk and crop production shows that current groundwater use is unsustainable and that water stress is becoming a limiting factor for sustaining agricultural growth. More specifically, the study shows that in this region, it takes 1034 m3 of irrigation water to produce a tonne of rice, the most widely produced crop, but only 565 m3 to produce a tonne of milk. Milk is also estimated to provide the highest gross value of production per hectare of land and per cubic metre of water use.
To reduce water use in Moga, IWMI recommends intensifying milk production by increasing the fodder area, the number of lactating cows and increasing each cow’s productivity. It also suggests improving the cultivation and irrigation practices of rice – a very water-intensive crop – to reduce its water footprint. To do so, technologies developed in other regions of the world could be adapted for rice and wheat farmers in Moga.
- delaying the transplanting of paddy fields reduces evaporation losses by 9%, 140 million m3 of groundwater and 11.2 million kWh of energy to pump the water;
- laser-assisted land levelling can reduce groundwater pumping by one-third and improve rice and wheat yields;
- raising the height of retaining “bunds” by 22 cm helps to capture more than 95% of the monsoon rain that falls on rice fields.
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