In this paper, we quantified important evolutions in the water and food systems of southern Africa as linked to international trade. The impacts of trade liberalization and climate extremes are observed in the virtual water trade dynamics. Importantly, imports to compensate food deficits and exports to recover from drought-induced production shocks have both been from more to less water productive areas, highlighting the role of trade in driving efficient allocation of resources. However, the particular regional context – with water scarcity in major exporting countries – threatens the sustainability of internal food production and trade. This needs to be accounted for in future regional level decisions regarding water, agriculture and trade.

Carole Dalin and Declan Conway (2016). In: Environmental Research Letters, Volume 11, Number 1

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