Letter: Cash crops cause water crisis

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Sir: In your important front-page lead "World is running out of water" (25 January), you end by suggesting that global water shortages result from the need to feed a fast-growing world population. Yet it won't have escaped readers' notice that the crop you previously referred to is not a food at all, but Egyptian cotton.

The world's agribusiness conglomerates would like us to believe that the root problem is one of producing food for the hungry. However, it is cash-cropping that causes the greatest hardship and ecological damage.

Charities such as Oxfam, Christian Aid, Cafod and Safe have long united in condemning this pernicious practice, whereby poor countries cut down forests and divert precious water resources to grow cash crops such as coffee, tobacco, sugar or chocolate, which they sell on the world market for a pittance.

When we made our BBC2 documentary Sex, Drugs and Dinner, coffee farmers in the Dominican Republic showed us how they were being forced by low prices to turn to new higher-yield coffee plants which demanded more water and light - ie yet more deforestation and costly irrigation.

It's an oft-quoted statistic that half the children in Ghana are starving, and half the land is growing chocolate for export to us. As you point out, Egypt is already a heavy importer of foodstuffs and it is cash-cropping, a con-trick which promises riches and delivers hunger and destruction.

CHARLIE HARRIS

Footloose Films

London NW3

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