Land, soil and water resources and the production of goods and services upon which society depends are intimately linked.   In developing countries, society is largely dependent upon the land for its survival (Figure 1), but the production of food and fibre and the land on which this takes place is subject to huge pressure due to a growing demand, both nationally and internationally. Rapid changes in land use and a corresponding degradation of soil and water resources are the result. Without major changes in production patterns and water productivity, this could result in a 70-90% increase in demand for water worldwide by 2050 (Molden, 2007). Furthermore, as Bossio et al. (2010) state, a global survey indicates that 40% of agricultural land is already degraded to the point that yields are greatly reduced, and a further 9% is degraded to the point that it cannot be reclaimed for productive use by farm level measures. Additionally, they indicate that soil erosion, nutrient depletion and other forms of land degradation reduce water productivity and affect water availability, quality and storage. Climate change and its potential impact exacerbates these concerns and adds to an already alarming water resources and associated production systems situation in South Africa and Africa as a whole.

Figure 1 The links between water, food and fibre production and global change (after Kabat, 2007).