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There’s a new gold rush on, but it’s not about gold. It’s about land. More specifically, it’s about buying and selling land, food, water, and ultimately, resilience. A number of countries, short on arable land and water, are investing in a sort of global insurance policy. Countries like China, Saudi Arabia and South Korea, with significant portions of their countries operating beyond their own water budgets, are busy making up the difference by buying up lands in water and soil-rich areas of Africa, South America and South Asia, growing crops on the acquired land and then shipping the crops (and the embedded or “virtual” water that went into growing them) back to their respective countries. The sellers, on the other hand, are giving up land, water and future resilience for, in some instances, pocket change (see Lester Brown). One might call this the “global resiliency market,” and as with any market, there are serious risks for all who participate.
In an earlier post, we wrote about the potential for conflict and cooperation in the Nile River Basin – highlighting the impact of new political boundaries (the creation of a new state, South Sudan) on transboundary basins, and the role of climate change, among other factors. What we didn’t talk about was data – particularly data that reveals new, previously undetected international river basins. (more…)