James S. Clark, Dave Bell, Michael Dietze, Michelle Hersh, Ines Ibanez, Shannon LaDeau, Sean McMahon, Jessica Metcalf, Emily Moran, Luke Pangle, and Mike Wolosin
This article focuses on the use of Bayesian methods in assessing the probability of rare climate events, and more specifically the potential collapse of the meridional overturning circulation (MOC) in the Atlantic Ocean. It first provides an overview of climate models and their use to perform climate simulations, drawing attention to uncertainty in climate simulators and the role of data in climate prediction, before describing an experiment that simulates the evolution of the MOC through the twenty-first century. MOC collapse is predicted by the GENIE-1 (Grid Enabled Integrated Earth system model) for some values of the model inputs, and Bayesian emulation is used for collapse probability analysis. Data comprising a sparse time series of five measurements of the MOC from 1957 to 2004 are analysed. The results demonstrate the utility of Bayesian analysis in dealing with uncertainty in complex models, and in particular in quantifying the risk of extreme outcomes.
Cape Town’s Contested Hierarchy of Demand for Agricultural and Municipal Water in a Rainfed Economy 2017–2018
The article provides an analysis of the stakeholders involved in policy decision making on water utilization, especially during the Water Crisis of 2017–2018. It looks at this through the prism of the meetings and key informants of the South African Parliament Portfolio Committee on Water and Sanitation, the City of Cape Town Council and the farmers of the Western Cape. It also considers the effects of the prioritization of the use of water for drinking water and sanitation over agriculture. The South Africa water policy principles set by its Constitution and the Acts of 1996–1997 provide a comparator.
Michael Gilmont, Lara Nassar, Erica Harper, Nadav Tal, and Steve Rayner
This chapter examines trends in water resources used in Jordan and Israel. Specifically it illustrates how these two economies have circumvented significant limits in their natural freshwater resource endowment to enable continued economic and population growth despite static or declining water availability. Using the concept of resource decoupling, it identifies four specific mechanisms by which economies can decouple their water needs from water availability, including economic diversification, food imports, agricultural water productivity, and nonconventional water resource development. Each of these mechanisms are illustrated for the two countries, including technical and political processes shaping their adoption. The chapter also critiques existing conceptualizations of decoupling relative to the water-specific model, highlighting the importance of understanding the unique characteristics of scarcity, flows, and substitutability of water at a global scale. Finally the chapter nests decoupling within the market modes framing this volume, before evaluating the risks and trade-offs inherent in decoupling strategies.
Rob Wilby and Conor Murphy
Some of the most profound impacts of climate variability and change are expected in the water sector. These include more frequent, severe, and persistent droughts; more frequent, widespread, and extreme floods; more episodic and harmful water pollution episodes. Coping with more variable water supplies alongside rising demand will involve institutional reform, new infrastructure, adjustments to operations, and water demand management. A smarter, decision-led approach to deploying climate information in water management will also be required. This chapter begins with an overview of analytical frameworks for assessing and adapting water resource systems to uncertain climate threats and opportunities. It then gives examples of the diverse sources of information that are being accessed by some water managers to establish plausible ranges of climate change as a basis for decision-making. Examples from Denver, Colorado, and Dublin, Republic of Ireland show how narratives of future system changes and historical data can help test the efficacy of decisions under uncertainty. These two case studies demonstrate how early dialogue and information exchange among practitioners and scientists are fundamental to adaptation planning. In both places, unconventional sources of climate risk information were used to more rigorously stress test water management and planning assumptions. The preferred adaptation decision frameworks were dynamic, iterative, and open-ended. The chapter closes by acknowledging that further development of the decision-making approaches described herein may be needed to evaluate mixtures of adaptation options across multiple sectors.
Nourishing food and water are essential for human survival, as are the people who labour in the food system and the planetary ecosystems that underpin foraging, farming, and fishing. Our countries share one planet, woven together by inextricably linked natural and social systems. Global demand for food and water is increasing, while ecosystem decline, poverty, food insecurity, sociopolitical injustice, and racial inequities persist. Meeting food needs exerts tremendous pressure on planetary systems, yet fragmented social, political, economic, and environmental policies continue to threaten food system integrity and sustainability. Global food systems that reflect dietary patterns designed to promote food and water equity while respecting planetary limits, will require embracing values-informed, place-based policies and practices. Food system transformation represents an underutilized but very tangible avenue through which human and planetary well-being can be simultaneously reenvisioned and redirected toward a more health promoting, sustainable, equitable, and resilient future.
Alternative food movements have, from their origins, espoused values of social justice and environmental stewardship in an attempt to challenge existing economic and social norms related to food and farming. Three alternative food movements in North America exemplify the trade-offs between the three pillars of sustainable development: social equity, environment, and economy. Organic food has brought environmental benefits, but has struggled to challenge the status quo and promote the social benefits of the original movement when it goes to scale. Farmers’ markets have brought social and environmental benefits, but only in some cases reduced costs when compared to mainstream market levels. Consequently, good-quality food is often out of reach of low-income groups, as highlighted in a case study of access by underserved people in British Columbia, Canada. Regional food movements are a hybrid approach that balance some of the gains and some of the challenges of these systems. The extraordinary concentration of power in North American food systems stands in contrast to notions of social equity and undermines efforts to effect change in pursuit of sustainable alternative food systems.
Anthony J. Reynolds
Conservation agricultural practices have been widely adopted across the world in the past 30 years. Farmers recognized that their soils had been degraded by deep ploughing and by dependence on chemical fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides. Conservation agriculture, involving the agronomic and technological practices of no-till, cover cropping, and rotation, can be a sustainable alternative to conventional farming both economically and environmentally. While improving soil and crop health, it also has a dramatic and beneficial impact on the soil structure and on organic matter content that in turn can improve drainage and the availability of water. Costs are greatly reduced and crop yields—after an initial decline—return to former levels. Increasing interest and uptake by the global farming community shows that the system can be adapted in a variety of farming situations and significantly aid both the environment and sustainable food production.
Rami Zurayk and Azza Dirar
Since agriculture consumes the largest share of the world’s water, farmers undoubtedly play an instrumental role in the management of this precious resource. As such, various policy approaches have sought to engage farmers in the management of water for irrigation. There is much literature on policy approaches that devolve irrigation management to farmers through organizing them into ‘water user associations’ and mobilizing them into cooperative water resource management. When the implementation experience and success of these approaches are assessed, the results show a great variation in experience with overall limited success. The key challenges stem from various assumptions underlying the policy approaches, namely the way in which farmers are conceptualized as a homogenous group of ‘water users’. Cooperative and participatory approaches to natural resource management cannot be institutionally manufactured without addressing key political ecological realities and the wider contexts in which ‘resource users’ operate.
Vanya Slavchevska, Susan Kaaria, and Sanna Liisa Taivalmaa
Male outmigration from rural, primary agricultural areas and the globalization of agri-food systems have both been linked to a significant increase in women’s work and responsibilities in agriculture, a phenomenon referred to as the ‘feminization of agriculture’. While the term has been broadly used to bring attention to the increasing number of women, relative to men, in agricultural employment, little attention has been paid to what the ‘feminization of agriculture’ means for women’s empowerment and their roles in agriculture more generally. Similarly, there is no clear understanding of how this will impact the agricultural sector and what the consequences for food and water security are. This chapter reviews the global evidence surrounding the “feminization of agriculture” and provides a critical discussion of the implications for women’s empowerment and for food and water security.
Mustapha Besbes, Jamel Chahed, and Abdelkader Hamdane
Northwest African countries (NA) consume 70 percent of their renewable water resources, and groundwater overdraft has become a major problem. Blue water irrigation represents 17 percent of overall water resources and is economically significant. Green water represents 83 percent, but is not yet well evaluated, and is not considered in national water strategies, along with virtual water embedded in international food trade. Irrigation enhances local agrifood production but it has not changed the proportion of staple foods. The region remains a major net food importer and, largely due to population increase, water dependency increased from 30 percent to 50 percent between 1970 and 2010. Population forecasts predict that water demand will continue to grow, and could reach more than three times the present level. Given the blue water status, NA must develop approaches to cope with water–food challenges, based on international virtual water flow optimization and better green water valorization.
Peter Johnston and Arthur Chapman
Irrigation is a critical input for raising food production in southern Africa, parts of which are food-insecure, especially as a result of low levels of technology employed, low investments into the sector, small farm sizes, and high levels of exposure to the hazards of climate variability. Most food production (including exports) and irrigation in the region occurs in the arid south—in South Africa by a large margin. Further north, in Angola, Zambia, and the northern parts of Mozambique, water resources are abundant yet irrigation farming is far less developed and inefficient, resulting in water resources being less intensely managed. The region needs to become more tightly integrated economically, with a greater flow of technology, investment, and management capability to the north, allowing the north to produce more food (and other agricultural products) which would flow to the more industrialized south—essentially virtual water flows to that region.
Michel Petit and Phillipe Le Grusse
The food and water challenges to be faced in the Mediterranean Basin, particularly those on the southern and eastern shores, are daunting. They form a complex nexus of problems and require policies pursuing several important potentially conflicting goals at the same time: reducing or limiting food import dependency through increased agricultural production in environmentally sustainable ways while protecting the natural resource base and keeping food affordable for poorer populations. The worrisome trends affecting countries on the southern and eastern shores of the common sea can also have seriously negative consequences in the North which explains why the North-South collaboration has a long tradition in the region. But, as the case of water management institutions shows, ineffective advocacy for trade liberalization has led to conflicts and tensions on various issues and has distracted attention from potentially much more fruitful areas of collaboration.
America Lutz Ley, Ryan Lee, Yulia Peralta, and Christopher Scott
The United-States-Mexico food system, and in particular the section located in the Sonoran Desert, is an example of the detrimental effects that result from instensified food production to supply increased demand from regional, transboundary, and global areas. Impacts to freshwater and terrestrial ecosystems in addition to human livelihoods and institutions create serious management and policy challenges. Understanding the region as an integrated water-food system with institutional imbalances reveals the following consequences: (a) an increasing reliance on groundwater resources for the majority of agriculture and livestock production; (b) a net export of nonrenewable water; and (c) a virtual water imbalance that further threatens the region’s water and food security.
West Asia is one of the most water-scarce regions of the world and one of its foremost importers of virtual water despite sustained efforts at self-sufficiency, especially in cereal production. Technology-oriented policy solutions eye a reorientation of agriculture towards fruit and vegetables that are less water-intensive than cereals and provide more value added per water unit consumed. Turkey is a role model here; the country has an agricultural trade surplus and ranks among the top ten agricultural economies globally in value terms. Yet technology-oriented policy prescriptions overlook the sociopolitical ‘problemsheds’ that emerge (along with new agro-lobbies) and agriculture as the main water consumer has to compete with other economic sectors and sprawling urbanization. This article looks at the different categories of countries and their specific challenges.
Brendan Bromwich, Tony Allan, Anthony Colman, and Martin Keulertz
Society’s greatest use of water is in food production, a fact that puts farmers centre stage in global environmental management. Management of food value chains, however, is not well set up to enable farmers to undertake their dual role of feeding a growing population and stewarding natural resources. This chapter introduces an analytical framework by which food, water, and society can be investigated. Food value chains comprise three market modes: production; trade and process; retail and consumption. The model demonstrates the interfaces between blue water, green water, virtual water, polluted drainage, and evapotranspiration. By categorizing social, cultural, and political influences on the three market modes the framework enables integrated analysis of food, water, and society . The combined management of food and water through redesign of food value chains emerges as a key challenge for the twenty-first century.
The first purpose of this chapter is to highlight the impact of the food system on environmental and human health. The delivery of secure affordable food is a political imperative. Unfortunately, the food system that delivers it is environmentally blind. Food prices do not effectively reflect the value of food and often seriously mislead on the costs and impacts of food production. For example, actual food production takes place in a failed market—the value of environmental services such as water and the supporting ecosystems are not taken into account. The second purpose is to summarize and expose the political economy of the different ‘market’ modes of the food system. It is shown that there are weak players such as underrewarded and undervalued farmers who support society by producing food and stewarding our unvalued environment. The inadequacies of accounting systems are also critiqued.
Floriane Clement and Alan Nicol
Whereas international debates have increasingly acknowledged the role of gender in food and water security, they have often focussed somewhat exclusively on the role of women in agricultural production. This chapter aims at broadening our understanding of gendered inequities in food and water systems by examining how power structures produce gender-differentiated capabilities along the real-virtual water spectrum. The analysis reveals how gender, intersecting with class, ethnicity, and other social categories, shapes the capabilities to engage in, benefit from, and influence food and water systems. The findings show the relevance of using a commodity chain analysis to highlight the linkages between, for example, food standards in the Global North and gendered exploitative work conditions in the food export industry in the Global South. To conclude, this chapter calls for deliberative approaches to develop just food and water systems by considering the values, preferences, and trade-offs of diverse social groups engaged in these systems.
Given that food production requires a lot of water, more than any other economic sector, one would expect that the world’s food production concentrates in places where water is relatively abundant. This chapter, however, highlights the paradox that various water-poor countries produce food for export to water-rich countries. Food commodity prices do not reflect the cost of water inputs or of damaged water ecosystems, so that the global food market lacks economic incentives to source from places with less harmful impacts on local water systems. The costs of ‘traded’ embedded water thus remain invisible. The chapter proposes an international water label for water-intensive products and argues that international trade rules should include regulations on sustainable water use.
Amir Kassam and David Coates
Conventional tillage agriculture has a built-in propensity for soil erosion and land degradation leading to loss of ecosystem services that are required to sustain agricultural production as well as minimize off-farm impacts. It is associated with suboptimal crop and land productivity. The global uptake of Conservation Agriculture (CA), which is a recognized flagship alternative crop production approach, is built upon three practical interlinked principles of: no or minimum mechanical soil disturbance (‘no-till’), soil cover management, and diversified cropping. The current spread of CA globally is 180 M ha of annual cropland (12.5 per cent), increasing annually at 10 M ha. Knowledge of how CA positively affects ecosystem services at the field and landscape level, with emphasis on water-related services and food security, shows that CA has the potential to meet, or exceed, most of the current shortfall in projected global agricultural water demand by 2050.
The globalization of agrifoods systems is transforming the value chain of multiple food commodities, including wheat. Demand for grains will continue to rise amidst challenges such as water stress and price volatilities. The wheat global value chain is complex and depends on a handful of exporters and international trading houses. International lead firms in the chain are the primary buyers and they link production to consumption regions. Their role has implications for food security and grain trade. This chapter uses the global value chain (GVC) lens to examine the global wheat industry, its governance structure, and the key value chain dynamics that drive power in the chain. GVCs refer to the sequence of value-added activities that comprise the creation, delivery, and end use of a given product or service and the role of actors in the chain.