The QANAT: August 1 – 25

What is The QANAT? A weekly digest of water security highlights. If you have suggestions for next week’s QANAT let me know! The QANAT is named after an ancient water supply system.

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FOOD AND WATER SECURITY

This Qanat is going to focus on a few interesting articles from the last month that are related to food security in a time of global change.

This focus comes from the fact that I will be a Junior Rapporteur at the Stockholm World Water Week, focusing on “Good Governance of Water and Food.” To follow World Water Week posts on Twitter, search for #wwweek – and for the junior rapporteur feed add #Jrap to your search.

Farm in the Sinai peninsula, Copyright Pat Keys 2011, All Rights Reserved

“Amid a devastating drought, does it still make sense to use corn for fuel?” Washington Post (July 31, 2012)

Meat and poultry producers get hit especially hard when the price of corn and animal feed rises. Many livestock producers have to respond by culling their herds to stem losses. In the short term, that leads to a drop in meat prices, which squeezes the industry’s profits further. Only after a delay do meat and poultry prices start to leap upward.

    • Pat’s thoughts: It never made sense to me to make fuel out of food, and the subsidies that are in place that currently distort the market lead to both perverse consequences and incentives. I understand that the market is complicated, but given the overwhelming data suggesting that in the future there will be an inability to grow enough food for future populations, that using arable land and food crops for fuel seems like a mis-allocation of resources. Additionally, given the dubious affect of biofuels on reducing carbon emissions I fail to see the purpose of using corn for biofuels, aside from providing further artificial stability for corn farmers.

“Urbanization and Climate Change” Global Trends 2030 (August 24, 2012)

By 2030, six of out every ten people will live in cities; by 2050, this number will increase to roughly 70 percent of the global population (or 6 billion). By 2030, roughly 450 million people may be living in megacities. The pressures of population growth and urbanization on megacities and their infrastructure may prove quite problematic, particularly as competition for scarce natural resources becomes more intense. For instance, cities account for 70 percent of global energy use.

    • Pat’s thoughts: “Urban resource security” is going to be a buzz word of the coming decades, as urban populations, and their consumption patterns, swell. Understanding the types of food being consumed, and the origin of that food, will be absolutely critical to urban sustainability.

“One man’s future is another man’s present: Farms of the Future hits Tanzania” Climate Change, Agriculture, and Food Security – CGIAR (August 2, 2012)

…Rosalia got the chance to participate in the first farmer-to-farmer exchange visit to Mbinga and several other analogue learning sites en route to see exactly what she might expect from the future, and, better yet, to learn how farmers there are already coping with their climate.

    • Pat’s thoughts: This is an extraordinary example of ‘South-South’ knowledge transfer and climate change planning foresight. Furthermore, the inclusion of female farmers is critical to the longterm viability of any educational effort, given the demonstrated critical importance of women in sustainability efforts – especially in the developing world. It is ironic that they highlight female farmers, and yet the title is refers to “men.”

“Southeast Asia’s rice insulates region from food crisis” VOXXI (August 2, 2012)

But Thailand’s warehouses are practically bursting thanks to a fluke of populist politics. To secure votes in rice country, Thailand’s ruling party has vowed to buy every grain farmers can harvest for up to 50 percent above the market rate.

    • Pat’s thoughts: This article makes it sound like rice will be a valuable crop in the future and will provide some sort of regional immunity to food shortages. However, this quote makes it clear that the mitigating influence of rice on regional food shortage is more due to human influences (populist politics) than climatic influences (drought or flooding). I do think that rice will be an excellent buffer in the future against failures of other crops, in that rice is irrigated where the failed corn harvests are rainfed. Likewise, the fact that “rice baskets” are predominantly in a very different part of the world compared to “corn baskets” and “wheat baskets” (“breadbaskets” doesn’t really seem appropriate, given rice is used primarily for… rice – not bread).

The QANAT April 11 to April 18

CHINA & SE ASIA DROUGHT

“The situation has worsened with the severe drought plaguing northern Vietnam, which has driven many farmers to seek work in China, said Fan Qi, head of Fangchenggang City’s border police.” Illegal immigration from Vietnam surges, China Daily, April 12

“More than 250,000 people are short of drinking water in the sparsely populated Chifeng City of north China’s Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region.” Drought affects 250,000 people in N China’s Chieng, China Daily, April 12

“…no bathing or tooth brushing for weeks; clouds of flies crawling on the bed sheets, along the edges of bowls, and over the latrines; green vegetables a rarity in their diet. These are the realities of daily life for more than 24,000 students and teachers.” Drought takes heavy toll on boarding schools, China Daily, April 15

The snowstorm on Monday and Tuesday hitting many parts of Heilongjiang Province, damaged more than 90,000 seedlings in the province. Direct economic losses were estimated at almost 600 million yuan…” China agriculture hammered by spring extreme weather, China Daily, April 14

“A peasant plows his farmland after welcome rains in Huangping county in drought-plagued Guizhou province on April 13.” Rainfall quenches thirsty land in SW China, China Daily, April 14

DESALINATION

“Systems using carbon-free energy are also being trialled: nuclear desalination in the United Arab Emirates, solar power in Australia, and biodiesel from plants — with cooking fats also slated as a future possibility — at a desalination plant built by Thames Water in London.” Global water crisis sparks surge in desalination, Mail & Guardian Online, March 31

“There is ample scientific evidence that the impact of the effluents from the desalination plants on the seawater environment increase the seawater temperature, salinity, water current and turbidity…” S.Africa looks to sea to meet growing water demand, Reuters, April 16

DAMS & INFRASTRUCTURE

“In coming years there will be extreme scarcity of water in Rawalpindi and Islamabad and the construction of new dams in the region is imperative to overcome this looming danger..” Water scarcity looms large: Construction of Dadocha Dam in doldrums, Daily Times, April 12

“The diversion won’t resolve the water supply problem of the most-at-need people in the sertao, because they are geographically so spread out,” argues Joao Suassuna, a long-time critic. Brazil’s huge river diversion program divides opinion, BBC News, April 12

“”The future of one of the world’s last great rainforests is at stake. The outcome of this fight could determine much beyond Borneo’s borders too, as environmental scientists become increasingly alarmed at the effect deforestation taking place here is having on the world’s weather.” Spears versus bulldozers in Borneo, Al Jazeerah, April 16

INDIAN MONSOON & FOOD

“…the dip in the Kharif output of rice might trigger an upward spiral of foodgrain prices and conveyed the Centre’s action plan to counter a rise in rates.” 246 districts in 10 states drought-hit: Peshawar, Times of India, April 18

“Monsoon forecasts for India are keenly watched by traders and analysts as the south Asian nation, one of the world’s top producers and consumers of sugar, wheat, rice and edible oils, depends on rains to irrigate 60 percent of its farms.…” Western forecasts signal good monsoon in India,
Reuters, April 14

POST-DISASTER RESPONSE

“The first of 50,000 earthquake victims that officials fear are most threatened by Haiti’s looming rainy season were relocated Saturday as nonprofit groups scrambled to receive them.”Haitians relocated to new camps as rains loom, AP, April 12

“…conclusion was made based on water sample tests from three underground water levels in Gyegu Town after the earthquake by a group of environmental experts from the China Environmental Monitoring Station.” Underground water in China’s quake zone safe; emergency wells to be drilled, http://english.people.com.cn/90001/90776/90882/6954746.html People’s Daily, April 18