Present and future roles of water and food trade in achieving food security, reducing poverty and water use
ABSTRACT: The development of scarce water resources in the Mediterranean Region has been very important to satisfy the high demands for food, drinking and industrial water of a population that at regional levels has increased substantially. The chapter analyses, in the first part, the past trend of the irrigation development and the future demand. It is evident that irrigation development has contributed substantially to increase the food security. From the point of view of the water resources irrigation development has been and continues to be the largest user. Although irrigation areas have been growing substantially over the last 25 years the possibilities for continue such trend appear small, exception made of few countries, due to scarcity of the water resources. The chapter also reviews the interrelations between poverty, hunger, gender with the development of the water resources and the increased agricultural trade. The scarcity of the water resources has reached alarming levels in several countries of the Region
that made a call to reconsider the future options. One of such option is to use agricultural trade as a source to supplement the national agricultural production capacity. But here several options open to countries in terms of deciding what to produce and what to import/export. The concept of virtual water developed in recent years has helped to understand better the implications of trade in terms of water. However, this concept has not yet penetrated the sphere of the trade decision makers. The chapter intends to look further into this possibility by analyzing historical statistical data (production, irrigation areas, net trade and virtual water) of two selected countries (Egypt and Syria) to identify feasible possibilities of modifying the production cropping pattern – and consequently the trade-so that the water resources are used more efficiently. The second part of the chapter focuses on a specific country (Syria) to assess the implications
that would have changing the cropping pattern of main crops (wheat, cotton, maize) so that the water resources are used in a more sustainable manner while the income of the farmers do not deteriorate. This analysis is made at farm level and shows that, when attempting such changes, other aspects (labor, environmental consequences and incomes) are also important considerations. The consequences of this change at farm level are extrapolated at the national level to analyze the impact that such changes will have in the agricultural trade and the consequences for the government. The chapter concludes that analyzing trade and production data through water policy lenses
provides useful orientations regarding possible changes that can be attempted in the production and trade. However political decisions require consideration of several other factors that affect the production patterns and this may call for detailed studies. Ultimately governments have to make trade off choices between the trade policies and the use of the production factors.