Trade Liberalization, Rural Poverty and the Environment
Edited by Jonathan A. Cook, Owen Cylke, Donald F. Larson, John D. Nash and Pamela Stedman-Edwards
Chapter 6: Trade Liberalization, Rural Poverty and the Environment: A Case Study of Sugarcane Production in the Incomati River Basin in Mpumalanga, South Africa
Jo Lorentzen, Anton Cartwright and Charles Meth The Incomati River Basin is a very poor and highly water-stressed area of South Africa. Sugarcane production, primarily for export, is the most important commercial activity, despite the heavy demand that cane production places on water. Liberalization of the South African economy, and particularly of the country’s sugar policies, has contributed to the expansion of the sugar industry. This expansion has provided development opportunities for some farmers in the region. However, the sugar industry’s demands on water and land have important impacts on the region’s environmental resources and on the large poor population that depends on those resources for their livelihood. Recent changes in the European Union (EU) sugar-subsidy regime are expected to affect world sugar production, including production in the Incomati Basin. This study examines the role that sugar is currently playing in the Incomati and how the changes in the EU sugar regime and the global sugar economy may affect the prospects of poor rural people and their environment. The conflicts and trade-offs examined in this chapter epitomize the conflicts that affect many other parts of southern Africa, and indeed the rest of the world. Global water usage has increased sixfold over the last 100 years and is forecast to double again by 2050 (FAO Aquastat; Falkenmark, 1997). Clearly, in South Africa there is excess demand for water. Resources in three of the country’s four catchments – Gariep, Limpopo and Incomati – have been over-allocated. When, in 2003–04, South Africa experienced a...
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