SOAS University of London

Contradictory Entitlements: Cheap Food v Sustainable Natural Resource Stewardship

Prof Tony Allan (SOAS/Kings College London)

Date: 12 November 2014Time: 7:00 PM

Finishes: 12 November 2014Time: 8:30 PM

Venue: Russell Square: College Buildings Room: G3

Type of Event: Seminar

Water is a vital resource. The purpose of the presentation will be to highlight the contradictions of entitlements to cheap (affordable) food and to sustainable natural water resources.  In contemporary political economies poor people and natural ecosystems are badly served. The focus will be on the food-water consumed in the production of food and fibre. Worldwide 90% of the water needed by its societies is embedded in food and fibre production. The volumes of water needed for drinking - the water right given a lot of attention, for other domestic uses and for industry together, account for only about 10% of consumption. It is becoming clear that 70% of this non-food water could in future be recycled for re-use. Farmers, on the other hand, manage 90% of the food-water in circumstances not of their own choosing. Society has been well served by its farmers. For the past two centuries they have met the perpetual increases in the demand for food. Society now needs farmers to privilege new priorities. We need farmers to become good stewards of natural resources - such as water ecosystems - on which secure food production depends. The regulation of private sector food supply chains is a key issue. But installing and operating accounting and reporting rules together with disclosure measures is proving to be an elemental political challenge. Consumers, their political leaders, almost all public and private sector agents are water value blind. And equally blind to the environmental consequence of misallocating and mis-managing natural water resources. Will law help? Or do we need to first highlight the vital role of water resources.

Tony Allan [BA Durham 1958, PhD London 1971] heads the London Water Research Group at King's College London. He specialises in the analysis of water resources in semi-arid regions and on the role of global systems in ameliorating local and regional water deficits. He provides advice to governments and agencies especially in the Middle East on water policy and water policy reform. His ideas on water security are set out in The Middle East water question: hydropolitics and the global economy [2001] and in a recent book entitled Virtual water [2011]. He has also addressed recent water and land grabbing in the co-edited Handbook on land and water grabbing in Africa [2012]. He is currently working on why the accounting systems in our food supply chains are dangerously blind to the costs of water and of mis-allocating it. He also works on the water/energy nexus. In 2008 he was awarded the Stockholm Water Prize in recognition of his contribution to water science and water policy. In 2011 he became International Academic Correspondent of the Academy of Sciences of Spain. In 2013 he received the international Environmentalist Award of the Florence based Bardini & Peyron Foundation and the Monaco Water Award of Prince Albert II of Monaco.

Organiser: LEDC

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