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Virtual water trade in Latin America: challenges and opportunities for sustainable development under growing water demand
Research Areas
  • Agriculture,
  • Agricultural economics
In the last years, particular attention has been paid to the question whether or not ongoing globalization satisfies the increasing food demand in a sustainable way. Growing international agricultural trade in developing and threshold countries raises issues about the compatibility of sustainable land and water use with development targets. In this paper, we analyse the impacts of amplified food trade in five Latin American countries (Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Mexico, Peru) on green, blue and grey water and their economic and social development. The case of Latin America, being a large exporter and importer, highlights the need for an integrated approach of water management, considering global and national aspects. We couple global demand drivers and national sustainability and development indicators by using qualitative, quantitative and finally econometric methods. The results indicate that virtual water imports of staple food can save valuable water resources in water-short countries, like Chile, Mexico and Peru, allowing production and exports to shift towards higher value products. This in turn has positive income effects adding to economic development in those countries. However, this production shift leads to higher blue water consumption in those semi-arid nations, adding to domestic water scarcity problems in various river basins. Due to abundant natural resource endowments, Brazil and Argentina have become major exporting countries with the predominant use of green water. With agriculture being an important export industry in those countries, income and poverty indices have improved. It is concluded that virtual water trade can be a powerful tool to alleviate water stress and promote economic development. However, sustainable water use can only be guaranteed with a functioning water and land management. The use of appropriate data and information sources on water availability, use and productivity from sub-national to global scale, is crucial to a well-founded decision making and resource allocation.
Planet under pressure
London UK
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  • Autor: Insa Flachsbarth . (UPM)
  • Autor: Alberto Garrido Colmenero (UPM)
Research Group, Departaments and Institutes related
  • Creador: Grupo de Investigación: Economía Agraria y Gestión de los Recursos Naturales
  • Centro o Instituto I+D+i: Centro de Estudios e Investigación para la Gestión de Riesgos Agrarios Medioambientales (CEIGRAM)
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