19-September-2020

FOOD AND WATER SECURITY IN A CHANGING CLIMATE Background Paper: "GLOBAL FOOD SECURITY, REGIONAL OPPORTUNITIES AND THE RESOURCE GOVERNANCE IMPERATIVE"

By: Ahmed Alhaj (Site Admin)


Global Water Parnership (GWP) WORKSHOP: KHARTOUM 11-13 2011-05-18


FOOD AND WATER SECURITY IN A CHANGING CLIMATE


Background Paper:


"GLOBAL FOOD SECURITY, REGIONAL OPPORTUNITIES AND THE RESOURCE GOVERNANCE IMPERATIVE"


Phil Riddell "philraddell@hotmail.com/phil.riddell@ia2c.org"By


 


Introduction

So many discussions of this sort concern Africa's problems and what the rest of the world can do about them. But the whole world is facing a food security challenge and does so in a context of unfavorable trade conditions; perverse globalization concepts and a deteriorating, poorly governed natural resource base-all made worse by human induced climate change and fuzzy, misleading "feel-good" factors in the developed markets.

 

Accordingly, and against a backdrop of possibly beneficial but probably damaging agricultural FDI, this paper adapts JEK'S famous line thus:

 

"Ask not what the world can do for Africa but rather what Africa can do for the world"

 

As such the paper has no didactic purpose; but rather is intended simply to provoke a new way of discussing of old subjects. It begins by reminding the reader that food security is, or soon will be, everyone's concern before asking "why Africa- Why Now?.

In line with the GWP'S own mantra "Local food security through regional self sufficiency" the important question of regional trade is then introduced before the paper focuses more closely on how all these issues can be managed in such a way as to benefit Africans, Africa and the Rest of the World and does so in its closing section by postulating "3Rs" of agricultural development in emerging markets in terms of business-as-usual and under more ideal circumstances.

 

With all this in mind, the reader should by prepared for some controversial suggestions, some of which are already in circulation. But as already stressed, the main intention here is to provoke discussion and therefore only to suggest possible ways forward.

 

THE GLOBAL FOOD SECURITY CHALLENGE

Demand

 

The global population continues to rise and everyone needs to eat. Yet in the absence of new production and distribution paradigms, it will become increasingly difficult to meet demand for food due to deteriorating or scarce natural resources; profound demographic changes in terms of human resources and uneven playing fields as far as trade is concerned. Despite all this, demand for food is not expected to rise in line with population growth. Rather, as a result of improving socio-economic conditions and the higher incomes that result, demand for food is expected to increase some 15% faster than population growth.

 

At the same time, economic diversification –especially in traditional food producing areas-will mean that the number of people eating food will continue to rise while the number of producers will continue to fall. In addition, many of the "non-producers" will be the urban poor and the rural landless for whom their governments will be eager to secure and sustain affordable food supplies.

 

So already, a simple review of the demand side reveals an emerging problem; a problem which suddenly becomes very much bigger when we turn around and look at the supply side.

 

Supply

Food security requires a sustainable combination of

i) Natural resources (land and water) from which to harvest or gather food and.

ii) Human resources to do the harvesting and gathering.

 

We gave already seen that the availability of human resources is reducing as a result of economic diversity and urbanization(at least as far as traditional food production models are concerned – see below for more on that) but natural resource sustainability and quality are becoming increasingly compromised while climate change is expected to make food production more difficult or risk laden with the resources that remain. Add to this increasing competition on those remaining resources for industrial crops (which include energy croups) or non-agricultural uses (ie urbanization, energy, industry, tourism and navigation), and the scale of the food security challenge is revealed. However, before moving on to consideration of options for closing the gap between supply and demand, it is helpful to take a closer look at some of the ways by which the production base is being compromised.

The drift of human resources to the cities, away from primary food production in the rural areas has already been mentioned We continue therefore with a brief "threat assessment" in respect of those who remain.

 

In situations characterized by unreliable input supply, unclear land tenure and perceived risk of climate shock (flood as well as drought) or biohazard shock such as disease or pests, farmers are reluctant to invest capital and effort beyond their very limited risk horizons. When poor markets and inadequate market information are also involved, the general picture becomes one of low input, low output subsistence farming –with household self sufficiency, not broader food security being the objective.

This has two important ramifications. The first is environmental in that subsistence farming of this sort is extensive in nature so that low yields can be compensated by larger harvested areas. The problem with this is not only the great toll that low input, extensive farming systems places of the natural environment in terms excessive tillage soil nutrient mining, overgrazing, deforestation etc; but also that by definition it takes place over unnecessarily large areas.

 

Second is that as the number of small scale rural food produces continues to fall in relation to the number of urban poor, it becomes more and more unlikely that development strategies aimed at the small farmer will satisfy demand for food among the population at large .This is self-evident, but even so such strategies remain crucial as they represent a meaningful alternative to rural urban drift while reducing the need for extensive production models, thereby improving natural resource utilization and ecosystem services for all. For this reason, they are to be encouraged ant better resources –son long it is realized that the available funds may have grater food security, poverty alleviation, environmental and economic growth impact if allocated differently. But this being a matter of political economy, is beyond the scope of this paper.

Finally with respect to the small rural producer, is the affect that HIV/Aids is particularly having on the African workforce – at least in the South. Not only is household productivity being compromised by sickness and a shift in responsibility to the frail, prevouse generation and their malnourished grandchildren; but also essential local knowledge is no longer being transferred to the next generation. And we are beginning to realize that sometimes this knowledge can be of immense scientific importance.

 

But extensive production practices are not the only threat to the natural resource base, there is aactually a whole smorgasbord of other factors contributing. And we are beginning to realize that sometimes this knowledge can be of immense scientific importance.

But extensive production practices are not the only threat to the natural resource base, there is actually a whole smorgasbord of other factors contributing to its deterioration. There are also resource allocation problems.

Deterioration of the Natural Resource Base

Looking first at deterioration we see that it is caused by both mismanagement and climate change.

Mismanagement of Natural Resources: and in some cases destruction, can be either consequential or willful.

Consequential mismanagement accrues to coping strategies practiced by the rural poor and is encountered in the form of extensive agriculture and overgrazing as mentioned earlier. Sometimes, these coping strategies are in part due to poor government service delivery (including poor extension services; over-focused, target driven agricultural policies and dilapidated or nonexistent communications and transportation infrastructure).

Willful mismanagement includes deforestation of the kind witnessed daily in the Amazon basin, the Sumatran rainforest of the Annamite Mountains where vast tracts of forest are cut, usually in contravention to poorly enforced laws, in order to make way for commercial activities such as ranching, oil palm or coffee. Such deforestation has a detrimental effect of annual hydrographs and hence the manageability of and access to water.

 

It also increases the risk of flooding, soil loss and sedimentation not only of water management facilities, but also of coastal wetlands where it cn have a devastating effect on the ecosystems that support marine food chains, some of which have massive economic and food security significance.

 

We will see below that the combination of marine food chain disruption and climate change is expected to increase by around I billion the number of people that will depend on terrestrial food sources by 2030, and this is over and above the increases due to population growth.

 

Willful mismanagement can also include destructive soil management in terms of excessive tillage, or inappropriate mechanized practices such as downhill rather that contour oriented cultivation.

 

It also involves misuse of water in terms of both i) wastage, and ii) pollution which reduces the productivity of the water in terms of capture fisheries both directly due to toxicity and indirectly due to eutrophication with its knock-on effects.

 

Sustainable

 

Sustainable water management and allocation  is a complex issue involving legal, governance, institutional policy and economic factors as well wise use practices. But this does not obviate the need to get it right the effects of poor water management and allocation on food security can be summarized as follows.

 

Where irrigation is concerned, over-abstraction can lead to water logging and hence long- term or permanent soil deterioration and reduced productivity. It furthermore reduces environmental stream flows, which clearly reduces access to water for productive ( as well as other) uses by downstream stakeholders.

 

These uses include not only more irrigation, but also capture fisheries which in some locations have a vital food security role. Capture fisheries are also severely compromised as a result of gene pool degradation when water bodies (including rivers) become fragmented due to badly planned storage, over-abstraction or wastage of water.

 

We noted above that excessive sedimentation has a detrimental effect on marine fisheries. This should not be taken to mean that sedimentation is bad per-se. in fact in most large rives systems the opposite is true. The vast, complex and usually economically significant food chains living within these systems have generally evolved on the basis on an annual flood and turbidity cycle.

 

 Disruption of these cycles by means of badly planned dams, excessive abstractions and unseasonal sediment loads (which can be less than required as well as more) can have a catastrophic effect on fisheries on both the rivers themselves and the marine environments into which they discharge.

 

Finally on sediment, is the fact that natural sediment loads carried during normal flooding usually increase fertility when left  in the soil when the flood recedes. It was this very benefit that sustained Egypt as a superpower for thousands of years. Construction of the Aswan High Dam means that this sediment no longer reaches the farms along the Nile Valley upstream. Farmers now depend on expensive artificial fertilizers to do the job. When these are unaffordable, use tends to be excessive, with predictable environmental cost increases.

 

Climate change greatly exacerbates the effects of mismanagement while introducing major additional challenges of its own.

 

Sea level rise for instance could result in permanent inundation of major food producing areas, especially in s and South East Asia which are characterized by vast areas of rice in the coastal lowlands. And even where permanent inundation is not a risk, climate change induced storm surges could result in catastrophic flooding, sometimes iwht saline water, of the same areas. Sea level rise could also affect these ecosystems- hence the claim made above re; the need to find alternative sources of food for the I billion people that depend more or less directly on them for their food security as of now.

 

Climate change is also causing glaciers both to retreat and to thaw early. Glacial retreat results from annual melt rates that are greater than annual precipitation rates and compromises the long term ability of glaciers to supply water using sectors downstream. These crucially include large areas of irrigated agriculture that have hitherto depended on such glacial melt. That this is a problem will be obvious, but there is something else. Early thaws mean that instead of being used for productive purposes, significant amounts of water leave the system before ambient temperatures downstream are high enough for crops to be planted. Thus not only is the overall glacial resources diminishing, the usefulness of that which remains is also diminishing- a double whammy as it were.

A similar picture is also emerging with respect to rainfall.

Although experts are not as yet fully confident in the convergence of their models, especially with respect to inland continental areas, the degree of consistency that is emerging shows that many important food producing areas (existing or potential) will become hotter and drier. Thus the overall water resources represented by precipitation will trend downwards. However, in typical situations, precipitation events are expected to become more intense rendering the water less manageable, in that less of the water that does fall is retained in the root zone, the natural drainage systems (including any aquifers) and artificial storage dams-the double whammy once again.  Lest there be any doubt, long term downward trends in rainfall are already in evidence in major producing areas-South East Africa, South Americam South Asia and Australia for instance- where harvests can be seen also to trend downwards as result. If these trends continue, as seems likely, such areas instead of being net suppliers of food at the global level, may soon be counted among the net consumers.

Conversely, where rainfall is expected to increase –and this is expected in some important food producing areas, there is the associated risk of flooding, thereby increasing either the risks or costs associated with sustainable agriculture.

 

Resource Allocation

 

Making things even more difficult are the competing demands on the natural resources that will remain available. And this applies tl land as well as water.

 

Economies are changing fast in traditional food producing areas. Cities are expanding into agricultural areas which are also being converted to industrial estates and the like. So the land available for agriculture is reduced. But so is the lab our necessary to work the land. In India for instance, staple food production is heavily reliant on seasonal, unskilled labour. But such labour has become better remunerated in the cities, or elsewhere in the economy at lager. Unable to afford mechanization options, the actual farmers are finding themselves forced to abandon farming (at least for the time being thereby further reducing the amount of food that is produced.

Expanding cities and rapid industrialization are also placing new demands on water and agriculture, being a residual user of water, usually finds itself at the back of the queue. The resulting problem moreover, in not always concerned just with the availability of water, but also when it is made available.

 

For instance, operating rules for hydropower power dams, usually take precedence over other uses. Thus whereas agriculture might depend on seasonally variable releases, hydropower relies on diurnally variable releases. Equally, in the absence of high tech, remote sensing networks in the catchments upstream of the dams, incoming flows are generally allocated to storage in order to keep operating levels between prescribed limits. This not only means that the amount available for environmental stream flows and agriculture is less than it could be, it also means that from time to time overflow gates have to be opened because increased storm intensities mean that dams are fuller than they need be. This can result in devastating flooding of farmland downstream(as well as of valuable industrial infrastructure ref: the case of Vietnam's Dong Nai river for instance).  These kinds of competition are clearly inter-sectoral in nature. But there is also increasing intra-sectoral competition for land and water. Receiving most attention at the moment is competition between food and bio-energy crops. But there are other kinds of crops that compete with staple food crops, industrial crops such as cotton being one for instance, high value export crops being another, fodder a third and irrigated grass for golf courses a fourth. none of these are necessarily bad: but a far smarter allocation mechanism is required if potential win-win results are to be achieved.

 

Finally, as already hinted, there is competition over water between terrestrial farming systems, freshwater capture fisheries and economically significant marine food chains that require a cyclic flow of freshwater into, and seasonal sedimentation on to the brackish margins

 

So what Are the Options?

It should be clear from the foregoing that global food security challenge is more complex than a simple matter of keeping up with population growth and changing dietary preferences. Because not only is demand increasing, but also the facility of traditional food producing areas to produce enough food (including the fisheries)is being compromised by climate and land use change, sea level rise and economic diversification.

 

Revisiting the foregoing material allows us to summaries all this as follows:

* A combination of economic diversification, land use changes, climate change and natural resources limitations means that traditional food producing areas are approaching their maximum productive potential, and in some cases are already retreating from it.

 

* there are already more people eating food than growing it a trend which not only will continue but could intensify with a collapse of the marine fisheries upon which an estimated 1 billion people depend.

 

* although there remain vast(and adequate) land and water resources with which to fill the emerging food supply gap climate change, competing uses and the need to exploit the natural resources in a sustainable fashion mean that realization of the undeveloped potential may not be sustainable under a "business-as –usual" paradigm.

 

A three pronged problem needs a three pronged solution thus:

·       Future supplies have to be met in large part from new supply bases; and since there would seem to be no way around this, regions with large undeveloped food production potential will have to brought under production:

·        New socio-economic production models will be required:

·        The resource efficiency of food production will have to be improved.

Why Africa, why now?

On first consideration, it would seem that changes to glacial melt hydrographs and the inundation of vast coastal lowlands in Asia are ont Africa's problem, and indeed they are not, at least not directly. But Africa may be able to help solve these problems and benefit

 economically from so doing.

 

Africa Has the Potential!

As shown in the following table South America and Sub-Saharan Africa both have huge areas of undeveloped natural resources that could be  allocated sustainably to agriculture.

 






































Irrigated area 2005(ha)



Rainfed Area 2005 (ha)



Region



used



available



 used



% used



Available



used



South Africrica



14%



6,031,4000



854,8000



14%



1.042.289.000



144.875.000



 



9%



3,5978,000



327,1000



16%



1,161,634,000



166,988,000



Sub –shara africa



 


Souorce: FAO

 

It has also been estimated that if sub-Saharan Africa were to develop all of its irrigation potential, it would only use around 12% of its annually renewable freshwater. As such, widespread irrigation development in the region would seem to be affordable in terms of water allocation, but this broad statement does not take into account however, the need for trans-seasonal storage in many cases due to the seasonality of river flow, neither does it account for increasing potential for completion at the point of use, nor does it factor insensitive transboundary issues. Nonetheless, despite these caveats, the region clearly has a huge potential food security contribution to make at the national, regional and global levels. But for this to happen requires a new production paradigm.

 

Farming in typical developing country regions is characterized by smallholdings, especially in sub-Saharan Africa. An important current debate therefore concerns the productivity of smallholder production models as compared to commercial models, not least in the face of the international development community's persistence in concentrating on the former as the cornerstone of their food security strategies.

 

We have already noted that for economic and environmental as social reasons abandonment of the small farmer is not an option. Luckily therefore, there is an emerging agreement that it is not a case of one or the other, this is self evident because on the one hand, global food security is unlikely to be achieved by capacity strengthening of a decreasing army of smallholders.

 

Nonetheless an nuanced commercial approach may achieve broader food security with minimal or even detrimental impact on poverty alleviation and other social benefits ditto natural resources. In fact, in the absence of an adequate regulatory framework, broader food security could be achieved in away that further marginalizes, or even victimizes the small famer.

 

This had happened before, and according to some commentators, is likely to happen again if one nation's food supply is to be secured through a so-called mega farm in another, as seems increasingly to be the case-a process that has become known as the "great African Land Grab"!

 

The new paradigm therefore assumes an increasing role for commercial production of basic food crops in developing country regions but one built wherever possible on a mutual well as mutual recognition between the smallholder an commercial constituencies as well as a search of common ground in the form of contract farming, nucleus estate/out grower or community partnership wherever practical and feasible (see below).  However, where such possibilities do not exist-perhaps in areas of low population densities, or are not feasible for whatever reason (perhaps due to competing demands on labour)- opportunities for whatever reason(perhaps due to competing demands on lab our)- opportunities for acceptable commercial production do not necessarily disappear. In fact, it might even become more apparent-but if pursued, any commercially venture, should at the very least be consistent with the sustainable and wise use of natural resources.

 

The high profile "land grabbers" are therefore not the only kind of investor that could mobilize Africa's vast food production potential. We will return to this theme later in the paper. Before doing so however, it is necessary to think beyond the constraints of national boundaries , and the politically cheap mantra of self-sufficiency within those boundaries.

 

 

Regional Trade

 

Figure I confirms that for the time being, there is no alternative to global self-sufficiency. However, in a perfect world, with all other things are not equal but the figure is consistent with the GWP mantra "food security through regional self sufficiency". This is somewhat akin to Pjo'Rourke"s comment in his book "all the Trouble in the World" that "there are a lot of landless people in Manhattan, but they don't all graze their goats in Central Park".

 

Widely accepted economic theory tells that markets are the building  block of economic diversification because they introduce the need for labour differentiation. But markets require trade goods. Equally, others have noted that strong economies are built on thriving agricultural sectors. The implication for us here is therefore that economic and hence income diversification could accrue to an increased trade of primary agricultural commodities across Africa borders, but in more structured and organized way than is currently the case.

 

A figure commonly stated these days is that only 10% of agricultural produce makes its way across a national boundary in Africa. Yet research carried out during preparation of FAO Water Report N 31 indicated the existence of much larger regional markets, especially basic staples such as maize , millet and sorghum.

 

The problem is that grand statements about national self-sufficiency are politically cheep to make. But they ignore the facts that self-sufficiency is usually costly in terms of social development and the environment, not least because it constrains both crop and economic diversification by ignoring comparative advantage in favour of political economy.

 

For instance, is it really a good idea for Egypt to transfer water from Africa to West Asia to grow crops that could be grown more easily in the Sudan with the same water? Does it make sense to store water at Aswan, where 10km/ year are lost to evaporation, when it could be stored with much lower losses in the Ethiopian Highlands, from whence it could generate multiple benefits (power, agriculture and navigation) for all three countries on its way to the sea?

 

This already suggests the need for a radical rethink of the issues, a rethink targeted at regional not national best interests. But another, even more radical question arises in the context of regional trade.

Typically when speaking for a radical rethink of say, the Sudano-Sahelian Region; the Gulf of Guinea Region or East Africa etc. in other words regions are limited to the continent itself and the islands close to it. However, the context of this paper which, between the lines, is concerned with regional trade, global food security and Africa's big opportunity then perhaps more appropriate regional concepts might be:-

 

 

-          The western Indian Ocean Region comprising not only East Africa but also South Asia and the Arabian Peninsula. India especially, is expected to become a significant important importer of rice within the next 10 to 20 ears, and is already importing high value oil seed and pulse crops from East African. Tanzania and Mozambique, with millions of hectares of potential Riceland, are beautifully poised to take advantage of this emerging opportunity.

Or.

-         The North Atlantic region comprising west Africa (especially say Senegal, Sierra Leone, Mali, Ghana etc) western Europe and North America.

 

All things of course are not equal

 

The global trading environment is characterized by gross inequalities, and the international community needs to sort this out –an obvious and in fact vital next step being successful conclusion of the Doha Round. As the Economist said in its edition of 29 July 2006 which had on its cover a shipwreck with the title: the future of globalization".

 

While deploring the fact that "this disaster … signals the defeat of the common good by special-interest politics," the Economist warned that "if the wreck is terminal – and after a five year stalemate, that seems likely-everyone will be the poorer, perhaps even gravely so". For :

"it is not just he narrow business of the Doha round (if narrow is a fit adjective for an ambition to lift millions out of poverty curb rich countries ruinous farm support and open markets for countless goods and services) that is at stake. In the long run, the lack of commitment to multilateral trade that sank the Doha round this week will also start to corrode the trading system an a whole."

 

Clearly there is a huge responsibility incumbent on the developed markets of this world. But even if the Doha round is successfully concluded, the opportunities that would be created would remain elusive to Africa in the absence of change there also. In other words, there is also a lot the Africa has to do itself! Hence this paper's concluding section.

 

THE THREE RS OF AGRICULTURAL DEVELOPMENT IN EMERGING MARKETS

 

This paper has been prepared in the context of a GWP event, yet seems so far to have had more to do with food security and new markets that sustainable water management. Although this is completely valid given the immense and timely economic opportunity that regional and global food security represents for Africa, there are crucial social and natural resource issues that must be faced and quickly, if the new markets, both internal and global are to prove a blessing rather than a curse. These issues can be conveniently though of as the "3 Rs", but what these are depends on the direction taken by typical African countries in the immediate and short term.

 

THE 3RS AND THE WORST CASE SECENARIO –WHAT COULD HAPPEN!

 

There is a serious risk that if nothing changes then the three Rs will stand for Rape, Racketeering and Revolution

 

#  Rape describes a cynical disregard for the natural environment and for the people that directly depend on it for their livelihoods and whose rights are violated by a few powerful entities, when pursuing their self interest;

 

#  Racketeering refers to the oft encountered case that the same powerful entities benefit from this disregard at the expense of the poor and powerless, usually by corrupt means;

#  Revolution refers to the inevitability that one day the price will be paid not just by those powerful interests, but possibility by freedom and civil society. Whether that revolution is a long drawn civil process as was the case in the UK or more raped and violets as was the case in France and is now the case over in Syria remains to be seen.

 

These are the "3Rs" that are likely to happen of nothing changes. Luckily there is an alternatives set.

 

The 3Rs and the Ideal Scenario –What Should Happen!

Under the ideal scenario, governments will adopt the governance imperatives without which the new opportunities would soon become unsustainable. Thus:

 

# Instead of rape we have Rights.

 

It is inevitable that some sort of reallocation of resources will be necessary if Africa is to realize its vast agricultural potential thereby increasing food security at both the regional and global levels. There are many examples in history and around the world of how such reallocations have been made and continue to be made at huge social and environmental costs because of the absence of any sort or rights. Examples would include land enclosures in England, the seizure of land from native Americans and the and the forcible reallocation of community water to industry in India.

 

In addition to these historic threats, a new threat in the form of an unregulated or "free" market has also appeared. But where resources are scarce in relation to demand on them by definition these resources have an economic value. In many basins, water is such a resource, son as concluded at the 1992 Dublin Conference it needs to be managed and allocated economically. It is very relevant therefore that modeling studies by say, IWMi and IFPRI have shown that such the allocation of water according to ecommerce criteria can increase basin welfare in terms of social, economic and environmental benefits. However, a market can be a brutal master instead of a good servant. To prevent this, two measures are necessary. One is regulation (see next bullet), the other is a transparent system of rights.

Potentially, rights give the holder a say in the reallocation of their share of a resource, protect the holder's interests where resources are reallocated and provide him or her with an interest or benefit in the transaction.

 

A well crafted system of rights will be based on an acknowledgement of customary willing a buyer and a willing seller. Furthermore, a social market for say water, would usually involve a trade of water saved willingly by a group of water users. In other words it would only be the marginal use that is traded with water sold representing an additional revenue stream for a more efficient farming system, ie the water saved from a customary right would be an output and not an input of the improved farming system. Under a rights-based allocation system along these lines, economic pricing of water represent a potential financial asset, not a new liability for a cash poor household.

 

This introduces another interesting question. How relevant is physically water use efficiency when it can be allocated by means of a well regulated, rights based social market? After all, in the absence of any mechanism for re-distributing  the water saved, there is a very real danger that it will be reinvested close to where it is saved (ie by localized irrigation expansion) with the result that stream flows, and all the benefits derived from them reduce. In addition, improvements in physical water use efficiency are expensive and subject to the law of physical returns-see Figure 2. But because they are expensive, they remain very attractive to those with an interest in large capital budgets. This is particularly interesting because there is no immutable relationship between high physical efficiency and profitable agricultures as text Box I clearly shows. The opposite is true in Egypt where despite low physical water use efficiencies, multiple re- use means that in terms of the agricultural productivity of water (a convenient surrogate for economic efficiency) it is almost certainly the best in the world.

None of this is to say that increased physical water use efficiency is not desirable. Clearly for a water right holder, anything that increases crop per drop and releases water for possible purchase for another user, perhaps one without a right is a good idea. The real issue therefore concerns the transformation of local savings into basin welfare- hence there is matter of scale. Figure 3 refers where we see that as we move from point of use to basin level, economic efficiency becomes more important than physical efficiency.

 

We therefore suggest here that some sort of market is an appropriate mechanism for transforming local improvements in physical water use efficiency into social, economic and environmental benefits at basin level.

 

And this brings us back to the question of water rights, because for this to work, customary and other use has to be registered as a right. In Tanzania for instance, where the current water policy calls for water markets and the economic pricing of water, all water users were given time to register their customary use.

So if a rights based allocation mechanism represents a better alternative, or a necessary appurtenance to physical efficiency measures, even with the important caveat that the right itself controversial as a concept. Governments seem unwilling to relinquish perceived power to the people, while the NGO community are tempted to see even rights based water pricing as a further demand n the poor –which it does not have to be..

 

And the same is true of the so-called great Africa has plenty of land and not enough resources with which to develop it. There is nothing intrinsically making it available for development to those with those resources. But in the absences of customary or statutory rights, there is a terrible danger that the following questions can be circumvented:

 

# Whose land is it?

# Do they want to dispose of it in some way?

# If so, what is their preferred transaction model?

And

 

# What is the cost in terms of lost traditional land management knowledge? The problem is that there has been a tendency for powerful interests within governments to allocate land to other powerful interests without due consideration of these questions or the associated questions of current occupancy and use.

This is not to say that commercial investment in agriculture is a bad thing. On the contrary, it is to be encouraged, so long as the investor is prepared to answer such questions rather than buy their ways around them.

 

Luckily, a new type of investor has emerged that not only is prepared to do this, but also actually wants to . they have become known, as Impact Investors and include some very high profile figures well known to all of us. Although their approach is profit driven, their philosophy allows customary users and right holders to retain an equitable interest in the commercial benefits. Accordingly their approaches which are based on transaction models such as community partnerships, nucleus estates and the like, represent alternatives that have just as much productive potential as "land grabs" but with social and environmental benefits instead of costs.

 

# racketeering becomes Regulation

Regulation is required for two reasons.

First is to avoid manipulation of markets in ways that benefit the rich and powerful to the detriment of the poor, the marginalized and the environment. In other worlds, for market based allocation of natural resources to increase basin welfare, it is necessary for market activities to be regulated. We have all seen, and most of us have been affected by the lack of regulation of the world's  financial markets. The need that this identifies is intuitively true of a natural resource market.

 

Second is to ensure that natural resource utilization remains within sustainable limits and, especially where water is concerned, is likely to involve qualitative as well as quantitative issues But although such regulations are easy to write, they are useless unless enforced Adequate enforcement usually requires political capital, and governments are often tempted to save political capital for protecting vested interests!

 

And in the case of shared waters there may be transboundary implications. For instance, some 70% of the Sudanese water budget is reportedly spent on ridding irrigation canals of sediment washed down from Ethiopia. It does not matter how secure Sudan's right to Nile water might be, if the water secured by that right cannot be used because of unregulated land use in Ethiopia!

 

Finally,

# revolution becomes Responsibility

An oft quoted saying is that "the environment is a debt owed to our grandchildren" and never before has its relevance been so profound.

 

Notwithstanding our rights and the regulations that protect both those rights and the natural resources that they cover, little will happen until they are complemented by an appropriate since of responsibility at every level of society. This requires a combination of awareness raising and incentives and where possible an injection of traditional knowledge.

 

Phil Riddell "philraddell@hotmail.com/phil.riddell@ia2c.org"

 

Introduction

 

So many discussions of this sort concern Africa's problems and what the rest of the world can do about them. But the whole world is facing a food security challenge and does so in a context of unfavorable trade conditions; perverse globalization concepts and a deteriorating, poorly governed natural resource base-all made worse by human induced climate change and fuzzy, misleading "feel-good" factors in the developed markets.

 

Accordingly, and against a backdrop of possibly beneficial but probably damaging agricultural FDI, this paper adapts JEK'S famous line thus:

 

"Ask not what the world can do for Africa but rather what Africa can do for the world"

 

As such the paper has no didactic purpose; but rather is intended simply to provoke a new way of discussing of old subjects. It begins by reminding the reader that food security is, or soon will be, everyone's concern before asking "why Africa- Why Now?.

 

In line with the GWP'S own mantra "Local food security through regional self sufficiency" the important question of regional trade is then introduced before the paper focuses more closely on how all these issues can be managed in such a way as to benefit Africans, Africa and the Rest of the World and does so in its closing section by postulating "3Rs" of agricultural development in emerging markets in terms of business-as-usual and under more ideal circumstances.

 

With all this in mind, the reader should by prepared for some controversial suggestions, some of which are already in circulation. But as already stressed, the main intention here is to provoke discussion and therefore only to suggest possible ways forward.

 

THE GLOBAL FOOD SECURITY CHALLENGE

Demand

 

The global population continues to rise and everyone needs to eat. Yet in the absence of new production and distribution paradigms, it will become increasingly difficult to meet demand for food due to deteriorating or scarce natural resources; profound demographic changes in terms of human resources and uneven playing fields as far as trade is concerned. Despite all this, demand for food is not expected to rise in line with population growth. Rather, as a result of improving socio-economic conditions and the higher incomes that result, demand for food is expected to increase some 15% faster than population growth.

 

At the same time, economic diversification –especially in traditional food producing areas-will mean that the number of people eating food will continue to rise while the number of producers will continue to fall. In addition, many of the "non-producers" will be the urban poor and the rural landless for whom their governments will be eager to secure and sustain affordable food supplies.

 

So already, a simple review of the demand side reveals an emerging problem; a problem which suddenly becomes very much bigger when we turn around and look at the supply side.

 

Supply

 

Food security requires a sustainable combination of

i) Natural resources (land and water) from which to harvest or gather food and.

 

ii) Human resources to do the harvesting and gathering.

 

We gave already seen that the availability of human resources is reducing as a result of economic diversity and urbanization(at least as far as traditional food production models are concerned – see below for more on that) but natural resource sustainability and quality are becoming increasingly compromised while climate change is expected to make food production more difficult or risk laden with the resources that remain. Add to this increasing competition on those remaining resources for industrial crops (which include energy croups) or non-agricultural uses (ie urbanization, energy, industry, tourism and navigation), and the scale of the food security challenge is revealed. However, before moving on to consideration of options for closing the gap between supply and demand, it is helpful to take a closer look at some of the ways by which the production base is being compromised.

 

The drift of human resources to the cities, away from primary food production in the rural areas has already been mentioned We continue therefore with a brief "threat assessment" in respect of those who remain.

 

In situations characterized by unreliable input supply, unclear land tenure and perceived risk of climate shock (flood as well as drought) or biohazard shock such as disease or pests, farmers are reluctant to invest capital and effort beyond their very limited risk horizons. When poor markets and inadequate market information are also involved, the general picture becomes one of low input, low output subsistence farming –with household self sufficiency, not broader food security being the objective.

 

This has two important ramifications. The first is environmental in that subsistence farming of this sort is extensive in nature so that low yields can be compensated by larger harvested areas. The problem with this is not only the great toll that low input, extensive farming systems places of the natural environment in terms excessive tillage soil nutrient mining, overgrazing, deforestation etc; but also that by definition it takes place over unnecessarily large areas.

 

Second is that as the number of small scale rural food produces continues to fall in relation to the number of urban poor, it becomes more and more unlikely that development strategies aimed at the small farmer will satisfy demand for food among the population at large .This is self-evident, but even so such strategies remain crucial as they represent a meaningful alternative to rural urban drift while reducing the need for extensive production models, thereby improving natural resource utilization and ecosystem services for all. For this reason, they are to be encouraged ant better resources –son long it is realized that the available funds may have grater food security, poverty alleviation, environmental and economic growth impact if allocated differently. But this being a matter of political economy, is beyond the scope of this paper.

 

Finally with respect to the small rural producer, is the affect that HIV/Aids is particularly having on the African workforce – at least in the South. Not only is household productivity being compromised by sickness and a shift in responsibility to the frail, prevouse generation and their malnourished grandchildren; but also essential local knowledge is no longer being transferred to the next generation. And we are beginning to realize that sometimes this knowledge can be of immense scientific importance.

 

But extensive production practices are not the only threat to the natural resource base, there is aactually a whole smorgasbord of other factors contributing. And we are beginning to realize that sometimes this knowledge can be of immense scientific importance.

But extensive production practices are not the only threat to the natural resource base, there is actually a whole smorgasbord of other factors contributing to its deterioration. There are also resource allocation problems.

 

 

 

 

 

Deterioration of the Natural Resource Base

Looking first at deterioration we see that it is caused by both mismanagement and climate change.

Mismanagement of Natural Resources: and in some cases destruction, can be either consequential or willful.

 

Consequential mismanagement accrues to coping strategies practiced by the rural poor and is encountered in the form of extensive agriculture and overgrazing as mentioned earlier. Sometimes, these coping strategies are in part due to poor government service delivery (including poor extension services; over-focused, target driven agricultural policies and dilapidated or nonexistent communications and transportation infrastructure).

 

Willful mismanagement includes deforestation of the kind witnessed daily in the Amazon basin, the Sumatran rainforest of the Annamite Mountains where vast tracts of forest are cut, usually in contravention to poorly enforced laws, in order to make way for commercial activities such as ranching, oil palm or coffee. Such deforestation has a detrimental effect of annual hydrographs and hence the manageability of and access to water.

 

It also increases the risk of flooding, soil loss and sedimentation not only of water management facilities, but also of coastal wetlands where it cn have a devastating effect on the ecosystems that support marine food chains, some of which have massive economic and food security significance.

 

We will see below that the combination of marine food chain disruption and climate change is expected to increase by around I billion the number of people that will depend on terrestrial food sources by 2030, and this is over and above the increases due to population growth.

 

Willful mismanagement can also include destructive soil management in terms of excessive tillage, or inappropriate mechanized practices such as downhill rather that contour oriented cultivation.

 

It also involves misuse of water in terms of both i) wastage, and ii) pollution which reduces the productivity of the water in terms of capture fisheries both directly due to toxicity and indirectly due to eutrophication with its knock-on effects.

 

Sustainable

 

Sustainable water management and allocation  is a complex issue involving legal, governance, institutional policy and economic factors as well wise use practices. But this does not obviate the need to get it right the effects of poor water management and allocation on food security can be summarized as follows.

 

Where irrigation is concerned, over-abstraction can lead to water logging and hence long- term or permanent soil deterioration and reduced productivity. It furthermore reduces environmental stream flows, which clearly reduces access to water for productive ( as well as other) uses by downstream stakeholders.

 

These uses include not only more irrigation, but also capture fisheries which in some locations have a vital food security role. Capture fisheries are also severely compromised as a result of gene pool degradation when water bodies (including rivers) become fragmented due to badly planned storage, over-abstraction or wastage of water.

 

We noted above that excessive sedimentation has a detrimental effect on marine fisheries. This should not be taken to mean that sedimentation is bad per-se. in fact in most large rives systems the opposite is true. The vast, complex and usually economically significant food chains living within these systems have generally evolved on the basis on an annual flood and turbidity cycle.

 

 Disruption of these cycles by means of badly planned dams, excessive abstractions and unseasonal sediment loads (which can be less than required as well as more) can have a catastrophic effect on fisheries on both the rivers themselves and the marine environments into which they discharge.

 

Finally on sediment, is the fact that natural sediment loads carried during normal flooding usually increase fertility when left  in the soil when the flood recedes. It was this very benefit that sustained Egypt as a superpower for thousands of years. Construction of the Aswan High Dam means that this sediment no longer reaches the farms along the Nile Valley upstream. Farmers now depend on expensive artificial fertilizers to do the job. When these are unaffordable, use tends to be excessive, with predictable environmental cost increases.

 

Climate change greatly exacerbates the effects of mismanagement while introducing major additional challenges of its own.

 

Sea level rise for instance could result in permanent inundation of major food producing areas, especially in s and South East Asia which are characterized by vast areas of rice in the coastal lowlands. And even where permanent inundation is not a risk, climate change induced storm surges could result in catastrophic flooding, sometimes iwht saline water, of the same areas. Sea level rise could also affect these ecosystems- hence the claim made above re; the need to find alternative sources of food for the I billion people that depend more or less directly on them for their food security as of now.

 

Climate change is also causing glaciers both to retreat and to thaw early. Glacial retreat results from annual melt rates that are greater than annual precipitation rates and compromises the long term ability of glaciers to supply water using sectors downstream. These crucially include large areas of irrigated agriculture that have hitherto depended on such glacial melt. That this is a problem will be obvious, but there is something else. Early thaws mean that instead of being used for productive purposes, significant amounts of water leave the system before ambient temp

Sudanow is the longest serving English speaking magazine in the Sudan. It is chartarized by its high quality professional journalism, focusing on political, social, economic, cultural and sport developments in the Sudan. Sudanow provides in depth analysis of these developments by academia, highly ...

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