Discussion Paper

No. 2017-39 | June 27, 2017
Key policy actions for sustainable land and water use to serve people
(Submitted as Global Solutions Paper)


To achieve food security for all, new resource policies for sustainable land and water use are needed. Land, water and energy need to be considered jointly in policies, not in isolation. G20 countries’ policy makers, corporate and civil society actors, and those of other countries should act in coordinated fashion in the following four policy areas on which specific proposals are made in this policy paper: 1) focusing land, and water resource policies on human wellbeing, 2) investing in and sharing water, agricultural and energy innovations, 3) making wider use of digital opportunities for sustainable agriculture, and 4) re-designing global governance of agriculture and food.

JEL Classification:

F53, Q10, Q18, Q28


  • Downloads: 329


Cite As

Joachim von Braun, Ashok Gulati, and Homi Kharas (2017). Key policy actions for sustainable land and water use to serve people. Economics Discussion Papers, No 2017-39, Kiel Institute for the World Economy. http://www.economics-ejournal.org/economics/discussionpapers/2017-39

Comments and Questions

Christian Henning - Referee report 1
August 03, 2017 - 11:06

see attached file

Anonymous - Referee report 2
August 17, 2017 - 11:15

The authors argue that it needs a holistic or comprehensive approach for developing new resource policies. Land, water and energy policies should not be developed in isolation. Instead, these needs to be considered jointly in policies and also linked to agriculture. Linkages will be key to addressing and achieving food ...[more]

... security and improved nutrition for all. The authors propose 1.) Focusing land and water resource policies on human wellbeing; 2.) Investing in and sharing water, agriculture and energy innovation; 3.) Making use of digital opportunities for sustainable agriculture, and 4.) Re-designing global governance of agriculture and food. Four implementation options are proposed for the four G20 areas, the people focus, innovations, digitalization, and governance. G20 member countries can collaborate, assist and support each other, share technologies and innovations, and G20 can implement regulatory frameworks since, e.g. land degradation, climate change, water overuse, are to a considerable extend a global burden.

Overall, an interesting, well-written paper that addresses important interlinkages and challenges, which need to be considered in future directions of G20 policies. One of the main issues, “people’s wellbeing” is coming off badly. “People’s wellbeing” is in the focus of the proposals, however, not all facets of how wellbeing can be achieved are considered. The authors describe that people are exposed to health, food safety, and hygienic risks due to technical constraints. Further, small scale farmers and agricultural practices are mentioned, which can have an impact on wellbeing, too. It is not mentioned that people’s wellbeing also depend on how they individually behave and decide, e.g., choices of food eaten influences wellbeing as well. Knowledge and information, but also preferences, habits and attitudes can play a role. In this context, behavior oriented policies would come into play. Have the authors thought about addressing behavior oriented polices? Should these also part a G20 policy strategy?

Anonymous - Referee report 3
September 08, 2017 - 09:07

This paper calls for increased cooperation and coordination between donors, recipient country as well as other stakeholders in order to improve land and water use. The authors provide evidence of the wide variety of challenges with respect to the use of the scarce resources land, water, and energy. Their overuse, ...[more]

... inefficient use and lack of holistic approaches in their allocation have serious consequences for people’s well-being already, for example through nutrition, poverty and health. In the medium and long term sustainability concerns and the readiness to cope with climate change with even increase stakes.

The authors’ main proposals are therefore timely and highly welcome. First, they argue for land and water policies to be designed to serve human well-being. Second, they call for investment in relevant technology, skills, and more sensible policies, highlighting synergies that joint action by the G20 can create. Third, they highlight the role of digital technology for measurement, planning and implementation of land and water allocation. Fourth, the authors propose that the G20 should develop and introduce sound international standards for a sustainable bioeconomy and economic policies that factors in trade effects of water and land use. Finally, they propose an IPCC-like international panel on Food, Nutrition and Agriculture to provide advice and to aggregate scientific knowledge on this important field.

The authors do an excellent job at highlighting the fields in which improvements would be necessary and where coordination by the G20 would be particularly beneficial. However, several of these points can also be addressed by other international bodies, subgroup of the G20 or the UN or individual countries.

This overview and the proposals in this paper are highly recommended to interested readers who would like to gain a broader perspective how agriculture and other uses of land and water can be made more efficient for human well-being now and in the future.

Joachim von Braun, Ashok Gulati, and Homi Kharas - Responses to referee reports
September 18, 2017 - 13:12

see attached files