In Brief

Impact of global droughts laid bare by World Bank report

Ruined food production could feed more than 80 million a day, says study

A World Bank study has laid bare the impact of drought on global food production.

In a new report, it says food production lost to drought could feed 80 million people a day and the “shockingly large and often hidden” consequences of prolonged periods without rain threaten to stunt the growth of children and condemn them to a lifetime of poverty.

It also says women born in areas deprived of water grow up mentally and physically stunted and undernourished, with less access to education and more likelihood of suffering domestic abuse. The Guardian says the report also shows that problems caused by droughts are passed on to the next generation, “leading to a vicious cycle of poverty”.

Guangzhe Chen, senior director of the World Bank’s water global practice, said: “These impacts demonstrate why it is increasingly important that we treat water like the valuable, exhaustible, and degradable resource that it is. We need to better understand the impacts of water scarcity, which will become more severe due to growing populations and a changing climate.”

Closer to home, Environment Secretary Michael Gove warned the UK is 30 to 50 years away from “the fundamental eradication of soil fertility” in parts of the country as he launched the Sustainable Soils Alliance (SSA).

Arguing that intensive farming practices, including the use of chemicals, have seriously harmed British soil and biodiversity, Gove said: “Countries can withstand coups d’etat, wars and conflict, even leaving the EU, but no country can withstand the loss of its soil and fertility.”

British farmers, who overwhelmingly voted to leave the EU, are anxiously waiting to see if Brexit will take them out of the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy. Many say they face ruin if current European subsidies are withdrawn and not replaced by the government.

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