Jul 242016

Many thanks to Lyle for the article below, “Turmoil in Saudi water . . . “.

Earlier, related postings  appear at bottom.

First, a bit of background on The Great Land Grab  is helpful to understanding the full impact of Lyle’s comment.

Note:  The Land Grabs usually take place in the Global South.   Welcome, Canada!   The sale of the Canadian Wheat Board took place under Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his Minister of Agriculture, Gerry Ritz.

  1. Wikipedia:   Land grabbing  is the contentious issue of large-scale land acquisitions: the buying or leasing of large pieces of land in developing countries, by domestic and transnational companies, governments, and individuals. While used broadly throughout history, land grabbing as used in the 21st century primarily refers to large-scale land acquisitions following the 2007-2008 world food price crisis.[1]

Obtaining water resources is usually critical to the land acquisitions, so it has also led to an associated trend of water grabbing.[2]

By prompting food security fears within the developed world and new found economic opportunities for agricultural investors, the food price crisis caused a dramatic spike in large-scale agricultural investments, primarily foreign, in the Global South for the purpose of industrial food and biofuels production.

Although hailed by investors, economists and some developing countries as a new pathway towards agricultural development, investment in land in the 21st century has been criticized by some non-governmental organizations and commentators as having a negative impact on local communities. International law is implicated when attempting to regulate these transactions.[3]

2. Oxfam:

What’s a land grab?

Imagine waking up one day to be told you’re about to be evicted from your home—being told that you no longer have the right to remain on land that you’ve lived on for years. And then, if you refuse to leave, being forcibly removed. For many communities in developing countries, this is a familiar story.

In the past decade, more than 81 million acres of land worldwide—an area the size of Portugal—has been sold off to foreign investors. Some of these deals are what’s known as land grabs: land deals that happen without the free, prior, and informed consent of communities that often result in farmers being forced from their homes and families left hungry. The term “land grabs” was defined in the Tirana Declaration (2011) by the International Land Coalition, consisting of 116 organizations from community groups to the World Bank.

The global rush for land is leaving people hungry

The 2008 spike in food prices triggered a rush in land deals. While these large-scale land deals are supposedly being struck to grow food, the crops grown on the land rarely feed local people. Instead, the land is used to grow profitable crops—like sugarcane, palm oil, and soy—often for export. In fact, more than 60 percent of crops grown on land bought by foreign investors in developing countries are intended for export, instead of for feeding local communities. Worse still, two-thirds of these agricultural land deals are in countries with serious hunger problems.


Paper published by the Oakland Institute


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This sheds some light on the Harper/Ritz gift of the CWB (Canadian Wheat Board) assets to the Saudi gov’t.  (G3 is a Saudi/Bungi joint venture).

If your people are on the way to water deprivation and starvation,   isn’t a grain collection system in Canada a real gift?   It would be nice to know what we, farmers and taxpayers, got in return!


From the Middle East Eye

Kieran Cooke's picture
Kieran Cooke

Photo: Two men sit on wall overlooking the Red Sea at a popular cafe in the northwestern Saudi town of al-Wajh on April 25, 2016. (AFP)


Saudi Arabia could run out of water in the next 20 years after decades of mismanagement of domestic resources

Middle East watchers are familiar with the considerable financial problems facing Saudi Arabia as oil prices continue to drag along the bottom and the country’s budget deficit balloons.

Less well scrutinised is a potentially far bigger crisis unfolding in the desert kingdom’s vital water sector.

Government policy aimed at removing large subsidies on water use in order to tackle the serious state of public finances has met with a storm of protest on social media.

There have been widespread complaints over the implementation of a new water metering scheme brought in at the beginning of the year, in particular serious billing errors. Some residents complain their water charges have risen from a few dollars to several thousand.

In April the country’s long-serving water and electricity minister, Abdullah Al-Hussayen, was sacked by the royal family and, as part of one of the biggest shake-ups in the labyrinthine Saudi bureaucracy in recent years, his ministry was dissolved.

Everyone, including the Saudi government, is agreed that the country and its population of 32 million – including an estimated nine million non-nationals – are facing immense water-shortage challenges. With demand rising at five per cent per annum, the country is in danger of running dry within the next 20 years.

Predicted lower rainfall in future and increased temperatures caused by climate change are likely to exacerbate the problem.

Saudi Arabia is part of one of the hottest and driest regions on the planet, receiving on average about 100mm of rain per year.

Due to generous government subsidies, Saudis – living in a land dominated by desert with no natural rivers or lakes – have become used to paying virtually nothing for their water. As a result, they are among the world’s most prolific consumers, using on average up to 350 litres of water per person per day. In Europe the equivalent figure is about 130 litres per day.

In the more affluent areas of cites such as Riyadh and Jeddah, the figure climbs to more than 500 litres per person per day.

There has been chronic mismanagement of water resources. Half a century ago, Saudi Arabia sat on one of the world’s biggest and oldest aquifers, containing an estimated 500 cubic kilometres of water.

Scientists say that in one generation most of that massive amount of water has been exhausted, mainly through a seriously flawed agricultural policy.

Agriculture accounts for more than 80 percent of Saudi Arabia’s water usage. In the late 1970s and ’80s, a programme of food self-sufficiency was pursued. The government subsidised pumps and energy so farmers could suck out underground water. Irrigation methods were primitive, with vast tracts of desert flooded for crops.

The country became one of the world’s biggest wheat producers. On average it takes 1,000 tons of water to produce one ton of wheat. Large herds of cattle were kept in air-conditioned pens.

In recent years the self-sufficiency programme has been abandoned: the government says it will stop subsidising and buying domestically produced wheat and many other crops this year.

Instead, Saudis have been urged to invest in land and water resources overseas as part of the King Abdullah Initiative for Saudi Agriculture Investment Abroad.

The activities of Saudis abroad and accusations of a “land grab” in countries such as Ethiopia and Sudan have come in for growing criticism.

As part of the recent restructuring of the government bureaucracy, Abdul Rahman Al-Fahdli, the former agriculture minister, has been appointed to head a new environment, water and agriculture ministry.

Ironically, Al-Fahdli – who for many years has been CEO of Almaria, Saudi Arabia’s giant food conglomerate – is seen as one of the main architects of the country’s food self-sufficiency policy, presiding over the exploitation and near exhaustion of freshwater sources.

To cope with an ever more parlous water problem, the desert kingdom has become increasingly reliant on production from desalination plants. Saudi Arabia is by far the world’s biggest user of desalination technology, with its more than 30 plants on the coast processing millions of gallons of water each day, then piping it hundreds of kilometres to Riyadh and other population centres.

Over-dependence on desalination creates its own set of problems. Saudi officials are trying to curtail state spending but desalination is an expensive business. Estimates are that to keep up with water demand, as much as $29bn needs to be invested in desalination over the next 15 years.

The desalination process requires large amounts of energy. To fuel its desalination plants, Saudi Arabia uses up to 1.5 million barrels of oil per day – more than the entire daily oil consumption of the UK.

There is also a wider environmental issue: not only does the burning of oil during desalination result in more climate-changing carbon dioxide being emitted into the atmosphere, but the process also discharges large amounts of salt brine into sea water. This has resulted in increased salinity in Gulf waters, threatening fish stocks.

The Saudi authorities have tried to lower water use, mounting big publicity campaigns and giving away water-saving devices such as more efficient showerheads.

In some areas the campaigns have been successful, but the government is realising mistakes arising from its overly generous subsidy regime.

Once people have grown used to paying virtually nothing for services, they deeply resent any charges – even if the taps are running dry.

– Kieran Cooke is a former foreign correspondent for both the BBC and the Financial Times, and continues to contribute to the BBC and a wide range of international newspapers and radio networks.


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This latest cable further confirms that globally promoting genetically modified foods is a high priority for the US State Department.  As discussed in a prior piece, numerous leaked cables reveal a strong focus by embassy officials on cataloging how nations perceive GMOs, boosting GM acceptance in Africa, and even going so far as to discuss spiking food prices to spur GM acceptance in Europe. The latest cable is no different: 

“Post will continue to lobby the Vatican to speak up in favor of GMOs, in the hope that a louder voice in Rome will encourage individual Church leaders elsewhere to reconsider their critical views.” 

Strong opposition within the church cites the monopoly control over food held by multinational corporations: 


Corporate ownership of farmland   

The information is about Canada (Agcapita). 

. . .   More than 50 front groups, working on behalf of food and biotechnology trade groups―Monsanto being the most prominent―have formed a new coalition called Alliance to Feed the Future.

  . . .  this alliance and many other industry-sponsored front groups masquerading as non-profits and consumer protection organizations are becoming increasingly exposed for what they really are

…  how the food and agricultural industry hide behind friendly-sounding organizations aimed at fooling the public, policymakers and media alike.



The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Eye.


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