To Neglect Water... Is To Give It To Multi nationals

Invest in water for farming or the world will go hungry

Super crops won't be enough — the planet will run short of food by 2030 unless we invest to avoid an imminent world water crisis, says Colin Chartres.

A long list of factors have been blamed for the global food crisis which along with the energy crisis has hit developing countries, and the poor in particular, hardest. Prices of staple foods have risen by up to 100 per cent.

A growing population, changes in trade patterns, urbanisation, dietary changes, biofuel production, climate change and regional droughts are all responsible, and commentators point to a classic pattern of price increases caused by high demand and low supply.

But few mention the declining supply of water that is needed to grow irrigated and rain-fed crops.

An often-mooted solution to the food crisis is to breed plants that produce the ultimate high-yielding, low water-consuming crops. While this is important, it will fail unless we also pay attention to where the water for all our food, fibre and energy crops is going to come from.

Essentially, every calorie of food requires a litre of water to produce it. So those of us on Western diets use about 2,500-3,000 litres per day. The expected addition of a further 2.5 billion people to the world by 2030 will mean that we have to find over 2,000 more cubic kilometres of fresh water per year to feed them. This is not any easy task, given that current water usage for food production is 7,500 cubic kilometres per year and supplies are already scarce.

Facing severe water scarcity

A few years ago, my organisation, the International Water Management Institute (IWMI), demonstrated that many countries are facing severe water scarcity, either because insufficient fresh water is available or because they lack investment in water infrastructure, such as dams and reservoirs. What makes matters worse is that this scarcity predominantly affects developing countries where the majority of the world's 840 million under-nourished people live.

Serious and extremely worrying evidence indicates that water supplies are steadily being used up. And the causes of water scarcity are much the same as those of the food crisis: demand exceeds a finite supply.

The world's population is projected to grow from 6 billion to 8.5 billion by 2030 and unless we change the way we use water and increase water productivity — ie. produce more 'crop per drop' — we will not be able to feed them. That is the conclusion of the IWMI's recent Comprehensive Assessment of Water Management in Agriculture and its book, Water for Food, Water for Life, which drew on the work of 700 scientists.

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In all of the time I have been posting to this blog on the subject of water scarcity, this message has been the priority. Investing in water infrastructure and educating people in developing countries regarding irrigation methods that save water as well as planting conventional crop varieties that are not as water intensive. However, even though these are the main goals one of the priorities here as well that was also not mentioned in this article is stopping the commoditization and corporatization of water that keeps it from being used by the people as the human right it is.

I have been reporting recently on (linked here in the column) about Monsanto and its plan to spread GM foods across the globe. Foods which biotech makeup has been linked to possible health effects not only in humans but in cows through Posilac (Bovine growth hormones) in milk, and the environmental affects on waterways through the use of Roundup Herbicides. It is an insidious plan wherein they are buying up seed companies globally and binding farmers to only plant seeds in one season without permission to replant next season unless they continue to buy seed from Monsanto at a huge profit to the company. Monsanto has even gone so far as to 'patent' seed and pursue litigation against farmers they accuse of replanting seeds (as has been done in agriculture from its inception centuries ago) and even harrassing farmers who are innocent due to pollen from other fields landing on their crops. They are also lobbying state legislatures to not label foods that contain bovine hormones and GM ingredients.

But not only is Monsanto in the business of monopolizing seeds of the world and taking away the consumer's right to know, they are also involved in pursuing the privitization of water. Currently they have such projects in India and Mexico which will bring them millions in revenues.They are cornering the market on food and water in developing countries and in the US and by their methods putting farmers in great debt to the point that they are committing suicide in India due to BT cotton.

Therefore, while other explanations for food and water shortages certainly are relevant and deserving of our utmost attention, stopping multi nationals as well from patenting and stealing life is also one of the most important and crucial environmental and moral fights we will have in this century. For whoever controls the food and water controls the world.

So again, we do have enough food and water to feed and sustain the world if we start now to work on plans for the future that conserve these resources and address overpopulation. We don't need The World Bank to continue to scaremonger about this for profit. We don't need Monsantos to take advantage of us for profit. We need a plan that actually educates people about conservation and effective irrigation and infrastructure, and we need to give farming back to the farmers and water back to the people.

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