Virtual water as a policy for ensuring food security in the MENA region
GHADA EL HEFNAWY, CAIRO UNIVERSITY, EGYPT
Virtual water is the amount of water that is embedded in food or other products needed for its production. Food security and environmental health are the rationale for encouraging virtual water trade as a water policy instrument. The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) is the most water short region in the world, and with one of the world’s highest birth-rates, water per capita availability is likely to be around 1,000 cubic meters per person per year. This is considered to be a critical level, not least since there is considerable disparity within the region as regards actual availability. This means that even with substantial increases in the efficiency and productivity of water use, these countries will not have the sufficient water resources to satisfy minimum water requirements for domestic uses and meet industrial, environmental and agricultural demands for water. This paper examines the virtual water controversy and its importance in the food security debate in the MENA region.
Keywords: Virtual Water; Food Security; Water Scarcity and Footprint; MENA; Trade; Water Use Efficiency; Food and Trade Nexus; Irrigation; Food Import.