A study, by the development charity Progressio, has found that industrial production of asparagus in Peru’s Ica valley is depleting the area’s water resources so fast that smaller farmers and local families are finding wells running dry. Water to the main city in the valley is also under threat, it says. It warns that the export of the luxury vegetable, much of it to British supermarkets, is unsustainable in its current form.
The Ica Valley is a desert area in the Andes and one of the driest places on earth. The asparagus beds developed in the last decade require constant irrigation, with the result that the local water table has plummeted since 2002 when extraction overtook replenishment. In some places it has fallen by eight metres each year, one of the fastest rates of aquifer depletion in the world.
Peru earns more than US$ 450 million a year from the trade that has created around 10,000 new jobs in a very poor area. Around 95% of Peru’s asparagus production comes from the Ica valley. The expansion of the asparagus production was made possible thanks to multimillion dollar investments by the World Bank from the late 1990s on. Nevertheless the trade has provoked conflict. When a World Bank executive went to investigate complaints about the water shortages in April 2010 he was shot at.
Progressio is not calling for an end to the asparagus export business, but is asking supermarkets and investors to take responsibility for finding a more balanced solution.
Read the full report by Progressio:
Hepworth, N.D. … [et al/] (2010). Drop by drop : understanding the impacts of the UK’s water footprint through a case study of Peruvian asparagus. London, UK, Progressio ; Lima, Peru, Centro Peruano de Estudios Sociales (CEPES) ; London, UK, Water Witness. ISBN 978-1-85287-335-6. Download [PDF file]
Read also the press release by Progressio, 15 Sep 2010
Source: Felicity Lawrence, Guardian, 15 Sep 2010