We are running out of waterBY PIETRO PAGANINI

Leggi in italiano

The global population is growing, and the demand for food with it, while productivity lowers and prices increase. It should be the other way around. There are many factors affecting productivity today, including environmental ones like the drought that is devastating many areas of the world, including Italy. What can we do to survive drought and increase productivity?


Policies to mitigate the scale of climate change are going to be too costly and ineffective if they do not come with investments in technological innovation along productive processes.

  • Low productivity limits the access to a healthy and balanced diet, negatively affecting the sustainability of productive processes, and destabilizing the socio-economic system.
  • We must counter factors, like drought and deforestation, that prevent a growth in productivity.

La Niña is now in its third consecutive year, and will be around until August (US Climate Prediction Centre). According to some analyses, it could even stay until 2023. It causes long stretches of drought along the coasts of the US, Argentina, Brazil, and Mexico. On the other hand, it devastates Australia and Indonesia with violent storms.

El Niño is the opposite phenomenon: it brings drought to Australia and Indonesia, causing wildfires, deforestation, and subsequent biodiversity loss.

The effects of these weather patterns are felt across the globe, alternating long stretches of drought to periods of intense storms.


Drought affects 2.3 billion people in the world, including 160 million children. The number will grow to 4.8-5.7 billion in 2050. Ever since the year 2000 it has grown by 29%. The most affected areas are in Africa, but 39,2% of the USA (159 million acres, or 91 million people) are also concerned.

In Europe, it affects 15% of the surface and 17% of the population. Norway, the Alps, Northern Italy (especially the Po Valley), Southern Sweden, Greece, and the Balkans are especially prone to drought.

That is 2 million acres each year.


The current drought in Argentina is reducing the wheat production capacity. The country exports 8% of total global wheat (first producer in Latin America). Soy cultivation (for vegetable oil and feed) have already felt the consequences of the dry weather of 2020/2021 and 2021/2022, reflected in the drop in production and an increase in prices. Productivity per hectare of soy also dropped by double digits in Brazil.


Reduced production of soy, coupled with the scarcity of Ukrainian sunflower oil, puts increased pressure on palm oil.

  • Vegetable oils are crucial for a healthy and balanced diet (WHO) for each of the 7.9 billion people inhabiting the planet.
  • Each year, 16 trillion K/Cal are required to satisfy global demand, a part of which is obtained through vegetable oils, that are now expensive and hard to come by.

Policies to mitigate climate change are going to be slow and very costly. They must be accompanied by a pragmatic plan, following the Chinese model, for food energy.

  • We need secure supply chains for agricultural commodities
  • We urgently need investments in technology – including in genomics – to create resilient crops, efficient management process to handle logistics, and international political agreements with third countries.

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