Reducing water consumption in agriculture

According to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), agriculture consumes around 70 percent of the world's fresh water. In countries with limited water resources, this is becoming an increasingly significant issue.

Therefore, in those countries we support various measures for the efficient use of water in agriculture. Together with the Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) in Zurich, we have conducted a comprehensive risk analysis on the subject of water. «Water stress» in the countries where our fruit and vegetables are produced has also been investigated. This involved checking whether there is sufficient precipitation and whether water is being overexploited as a resource.

More efficient water consumption

Based on the findings, we decided to implement a variety of measures at fruit and vegetable producers in the Mediterranean region as well as in South America and South Africa.

    • Coop water standard:
      With the WWF and GLOBAL G.A.P., a global certification system, we have developed a standard for sustainable water usage in the production of fruit and vegetables. As a first step, this standard is now being rolled out at all our fruit and vegetable producers in Spain and Morocco. It will then be expanded to other countries and regions with scarce water supplies, such as South Africa, Peru, southern Italy and Mexico.
    • Local water offsetting projects:
      In the Agadir region of Morocco, with the support of the Coop Sustainability Fund we have ascertained how much water is used in the production of fruit and vegetables for Coop. That same quantity is now being saved, in the same region, by measures such as rainwater collection containers or drip-feed irrigation systems.
    • Localized irrigation: For strawberry production in Spain, together with our producers we have begun measuring the moisture content of the soil and only watering as needed. This reduces water requirements by around 30 percent.
    • Alliance for Water Stewardship (AWS): Together with the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO), we have staged a pilot project for the implementation of this new water standard at our main asparagus producer in Peru. As part of the project, representatives of producers, non-governmental organizations, the local population and representatives of local government received training in sustainable water management, then underwent an audit.

Participation in international committees and alliances

    • GlobalG.A.P. Water Stakeholder Committee: GlobalG.A.P. is a standard for good agricultural practice that covers every stage of production, from sowing to delivery. Through our active participation on this Committee, we have ensured that comprehensive criteria on efficient water use have been integrated into this standard.
    • Water Benefit Partners: We have also joined this public private partnership, which is dedicated to innovative financing models for water. The actual water savings in specific projects are recorded and certified. These certificates have been tradeable since 2014.

Individual projects in countries of the southern hemisphere

We also support small farmers and producers outside Europe with knowledge and technology to help them establish more efficient water management.

  • Micro-irrigation systems: Together with the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and other retailers, as part of a joint sustainability project we have fitted more than 30’000 households in India, Africa and Central America with modern micro-irrigation systems. These can also be used to irrigate small areas of 20 square metres or more. Smallholders who use the systems can save water, increase productivity and work with self-produced, organic fertilizers. Naturally, we train the farmers in the use of the systems and the production of the fertilizer.

    Such irrigation systems have enabled numerous smallholders to produce fruit and vegetables for the local market in their own gardens. In addition to the income from the sale of their fairtrade products to us, this gives them an extra income that helps assure them of food security.

    Agriculture in Madagascar
    Agriculture in Madagascar
    Equipment for a small irrigation system
    Equipment for a small irrigation system
    Demonstration of the new irrigation system
    Demonstration of the new irrigation system
    Selection of seeds
    Selection of seeds
    Targeted irrigation
    Targeted irrigation
    Reading on work done
    Reading on work done

Principles and topics