Achieving water security through cooperation and food trade

Abstract : This thesis contributes to the ongoing debate about whether water scarcity will lead to growing water conflicts and potential threats to food security. Using quantitative and econometric tools, it addresses the empirical allocation of water resources in the context of shared water and international trade of agriculture.Chapter 1, co-authored with Prof. Eric Strobl, studies transboundary water management between upstream and downstream African countries (1949-2007). We find very little evidence for water conflicts over the years, even though cooperation is likelier when there is little economic and water asymmetries between countries. We also show that wealthy downstream nations mostly take the lead in cooperation, allowing geographical asymmetries to be offset by economics. Results indicate that cooperation is independent from the past, meaning that transboundary basins with a history of tensions over water may likely cooperate in the near future.Chapter 2, co-authored with Prof. Shlomi Dinar, investigates whether countries produce and trade food according to their comparative advantage in water. Using panel data of bilateral trade at a global level (1994-2007), we find that the driest countries use trade as a means to alleviate water scarcity. Relative water productivity and food trade display an inverted u-shape, suggesting a threshold effect in demand and a disregard for water resources relative to the lack of other inputs (such as capital, technology or qualified labor) in water-scarce countries. Countries do not take water endowments enough into consideration when deciding about production and food is traded in the wrong direction, from less to relatively more water productive nations.Because agricultural-dependence is water-dependence, we end by asking whether water scarcity can be a threat to development. Chapter 3 shows that exports concentrate with growth but diversify with water availability. The interaction effect is positive, suggesting that countries, as they develop, concentrate on fewer products for which they have comparative advantage in water. As water intensive goods display lower subsistence in time in water-scarce countries, we argue that inefficient management of water prevents countries from developing and exiting the state of water/agriculture dependency and slow growth. We recommend that water-scarce countries focus on improving the water footprint of a small number of goods in order to trigger positive spillovers.
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Esther Delbourg. Achieving water security through cooperation and food trade. Economics and Finance. Université Paris-Saclay, 2016. English. ⟨NNT : 2016SACLX077⟩. ⟨tel-01494749⟩

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