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Resource Security Watch - No. 5

Edited by Chloe Thompson
June 22, 2017

As global temperatures rise, fungal diseases have begun to spread to new parts of the world. All told, plant disease is estimated to account for the loss of approximately 10-23 percent of crops before harvest, and 10 percent after harvest. Fungi are the principal cause of plant disease, and are responsible for nearly 70 percent of all crop loss. Fungal blight, meanwhile, is migrating. Fungal pathogens move northward at a rate of almost five miles per year in search of more temperate environments, making them a growing threat to both North American and northern European agriculture. (
Ensia, April 26, 2017)

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has debuted a new method for mapping populations with more detail and specificity than ever before. The method combines remote-sensing data and computer-learning algorithms to locate human populations around the world, which will be especially useful in rural areas and developing nations. The Foundation developed the method to optimize vaccine delivery systems, but the program has implications for national security as well, because it can track refugee and migrant populations on the move and provide a more accurate picture of when and where people are moving. (
Scientific American, May 11, 2017)

Islamabad is in a deepening hydrological crisis. The Pakistani capital now faces water rationing due to water shortages that are expected to continue throughout the summer. The Municipal Corporation of Islamabad (MCI) claims that the primary cause of the shortfall is a malfunctioning motor in the Khanpur Dam, but the situation has been exacerbated by chronic mismanagement of water resources in the nation's capital. The city requires 150 million gallons of water a day, and official sources are currently only capable of supplying a third of that (some 53 million gallons daily).

This shortfall, in turn has given rise to a private water tanker mafia, which collects 3.7 million Pakistani rupees from the city's population per day in exchange for supplying it with water obtained from other sources. The water supplied by the tanker mafia is much more expensive than that provided by official means (2000 to 2500 rupees a gallon, compared to the government rate of 350-450 rupees), creating a burgeoning hydrological black market. (Lahore
Dunya, March 30, 2017; Karachi The News, May 15, 2017)

Over the span of just eight months, illegal gold mining has destroyed almost two square miles of the Madre de Dios forest in the south of Peru in a clear manifestation of the growing prevalence of this criminal practice. Illegal gold mining in Peru has significant adverse environmental effects, causing deforestation and mercury contamination for water sources. The practice has also been linked to significant increases in population displacement, forced labor, and sex trafficking. But the illegal gold trade is nonetheless booming, because it has become a bigger source of revenue for Peruvian traffickers than cocaine. Gold brings in approximately $2.6 billion a year for criminal elements involved in illegal mining, while the cocaine industry produces only $1-1.5 billion annually. (Lima
El Comercio, May 24, 2017)

Agricultural scientist Tony Rinaudo has pioneered a technique called Farmer Managed Natural Regeneration (FMNR) in Tanzania, which helps to slow desertification and soil depletion in barren areas. Rinaudo's technique involves pruning trees and plants very close to the ground, which encourages the plants to rely more on their root systems, rather than above-ground resources. Planting new tree seedlings in a tropical area takes an intense amount of time, money, and resources (namely, water), which are often in short supply in Tanzania. FMNR helps plants adapt to higher temperatures and drier conditions, thus surviving longer and improving the conditions of the soil. With this technique, Tanzanian farmers can hold the effects of desertification back with greater success. (
Deutsche Welle
, May 26, 2017)