Greening the desert: a solution to food security in a warming planet?

In a warming, water-scarce planet, we are hearing again that the future lies in “greening the desert.” In the face of growing fears of ecological limits to production under the specter of overpopulation, climate change, and peak oil — strands of the alternative food movement along with policy makers and industry players are promoting agri-technologies and on-farm practices that make it possible to turn semi-arid and arid areas into new centres of food production.

Paradoxically, these greening the desert narratives come at a time of growing public attention to the water crises that have been intensifying in arid and semi-arid regions from industrial agriculture production.

My latest article, published in a special issue on the politics of food (Duke University Press), addresses this paradox by examining the role of greening the desert in the spread and development of industrial agriculture (and horticulture, in particular) in new Southern regions since the 1970s.

I use a case study of agroexport farms in Egypt, based on field research, that raises fundamental questions about the promise of the next technical fix to secure food futures in a new climate regime.

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