Assessment of food trade impacts on water, food, and land security in the MENA region
The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region has the largest water deficit in the world. It also has the least food self-sufficiency. Increasing food imports and decreasing domestic food production can contribute to water savings and hence to increased water security. However, increased domestic food production is a better way to achieve food security, even if irrigation demands an increase in accordance with projected climate changes. Accordingly, the trade-off between food security and the savings of water and land through food trade is considered to be a significant factor for resource management, especially in the MENA region. Therefore, the aim of this study is to analyze the impact of food trade on food security and water–land savings in the MENA region. We concluded that the MENA region saved significant amounts of national water and land based on the import of four major crops, namely, barley, maize, rice, and wheat, within the period from 2000 to 2012, even if the food self-sufficiency is still at a low level. For example, Egypt imported 8.3 million t yr−1 of wheat that led to 7.5 billion m3 of irrigation water and 1.3 million ha of land savings. In addition, we estimated the virtual water trade (VWT) that refers to the trade of water embedded in food products and analyzed the structure of VWT in the MENA region using degree and eigenvector centralities. The study revealed that the MENA region focused more on increasing the volume of virtual water imported during the period 2006–2012, yet little attention was paid to the expansion of connections with country exporters based on the VWT network analysis.