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A Human Right to Water for Food Production?

Congress: 2008
Author(s): Inga T. Winkler
Inga Winkler Doctoral Student Heinrich Heine University Duesseldorf School of Law Universitaetsstrasse 1 40225 Duesseldorf Germany Postal address: Lerchenstrasse 24 70176 Stuttgart Germany +49 711 2296873 inga.winkler@uni-duesseldorf.de

Keyword(s): Agricultural Water Use, Human Right to Food, Human Right to Water, Subsistence
AbstractThe human right to water has gained broad recognition in recent years. It covers water for personal and domestic usage. Yet, water is also a critical factor in producing food. In rural areas, a great number of people living in poverty rely on subsistence farming for their livelihoods and the satisfaction of their food needs. Severe poverty is often found where access to water resources is unreliable. The paper therefore goes beyond the question of a human right to drinking water addressing the question whether there is a human right to water for food production. This would result in the guarantee of significantly higher quantities of water than water for personal and domestic use as at least 2,000 litres per person are necessary to produce sufficient food for one day. The paper considers the human right to water as well as the human right to food as legal foundations for a human right to water for food production. It argues that the question should be considered in the context of the right to food because agricultural water use aims at the fulfilment of food requirements. The paper then turns to the question of State obligations in regard to the realisation of the right to adequate food. It focuses on policy options that States have to fulfil the right to food and in how far access to water resources is necessary to accomplish this aim. It will be shown that States have a number of options to fulfil the right to food and that they are not constrained to providing access to water resources for subsistence agriculture. It is thus concluded that there is no specific human right to water for food production. Rather, providing access to water resources is an important measure for the realisation of the right to food, but not the only one.
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