How will these resources help you?

Food and water security issues worldwide are frequently in the news, and climate change exacerbates shortages in vulnerable regions. With their global awareness and analytical skills, geographers are well-placed to assess and suggest solutions to these problems. These resources will help teachers and students look more deeply into the challenges and opportunities related to resource management in the context of popular case studies. The further materials encourage a critical thinking approach to this topic – which are the most effective and sustainable solutions?

Large-scale schemes tackling food and water shortages

Water Management in the Indus Basin in Pakistan: Challenges and Opportunities

by Asad Sarwar Qureshi, published by International Mountain Society, (2011)

The Indus Basin Irrigation System is often used as a case study for GCSE geography, which can lead to the creation of resources that reduces this complex system and its related issues to a checklist of advantages and disadvantages. This paper takes the reader beyond the basics, setting the scheme in its physical context and explaining the gap between supply and demand in the region. The issues of low efficiency and saltwater intrusion are tackled, and there is a particularly informative section on vulnerability due to climate change. The article ends with suggestions for the way forward. 

Small-scale schemes tackling shortages

Sand dams: Africa’s answer to climate change?

by Simon Maddrell and Sophie Bown, published by Excellent Development, (2017)

Sand dams are invaluable for GCSE geography teachers and students – they link to improving water and food supplies, tackling desertification, responding to climate change and using intermediate technology to close the development gap. This example of a small-scale, sustainable approach can be used in the context of both food and water shortages. This paper delves into this approach, arguing for sand dams as a way to ‘climate-proof’ development. Particular strengths of sand dams as a water harvesting method are community involvement and the combination of mitigating and adapting to climate change (see also 'How can we stop the drought crisis' in Further materials).

How using traditional technology can tackle food and water shortages

Water resources management: traditional technology and communities as part of the solution

by J. Hussain, I. Husain and M. Arif, published by International Association of Hydrological Sciences, (2014)

Geographers appreciate simple solutions that can be applied to complex problems, including the value of reassessing traditional practices and technologies in light of today’s issues. This paper explores traditional techniques for water harvesting in Rajasthan in India, including johads, which collect water during the monsoon rains and store it for use as a water supply or for irrigation to improve food supplies throughout the year. Many of these techniques are to be found at Still, this paper takes the reader beyond the basics, making it particularly useful for teachers reading around the topic or for older students.

How can water transfers tackle water shortages?

Lesotho Highlands Water Project to receive $86.72m injection from AfDB

by Nomvuyo Tena, published by ESI Africa, (2021)

The Lesotho Highlands Water Project is a popular example used in GCSE geography lessons, but textbooks usually only cover the early phases of this project. This article looks at more recent developments, including building a new dam, a water transfer tunnel and various infrastructure developments. This is important as many of the criticisms levelled at this project involve the imbalance in benefits between Lesotho and its more powerful neighbour, South Africa. This phase sees the improvement of Lesotho’s electricity infrastructure, potentially redressing the imbalance. Students could consider the costs and benefits of this scheme for Lesotho (see also ‘Water treaty revisited’ in Further materials).

How we can feed 10 billion people

How to Sustainably Feed 10 Billion People by 2050, in 21 Charts

by Janet Ranganathan, Richard Waite, Tim Searchinger and Craig Hanson, published by World Resources Institute, (2018)

The authors identify three gaps that would need to be closed to feed 10 billion people by 2050: a food gap, a land gap and a climate change mitigation gap. They present a five-course menu with 22 items on the menu, offering solutions for how this has to be done, all without increasing GHG emissions, deforestation or increasing levels of poverty. Each ‘course’ details the challenge and what needs to be achieved to adequately tackle food shortages by 2050. We need to reduce growth in demand for livestock and some crops, but at the same time, increase food production without increasing land use, increase wild fish production, protect and restore ecosystems, improve land management and reduce greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture.

Further materials

Earthwatch Institute debate: How can we stop the drought crisis? by the Environment editor, published by The Guardian, (2009) Read this article
Water treaty revisited by Kananelo Boloetse, published by Public Eye, (2019) Read this article
Salt in wounds by Shahid Husain, published by The Guardian, (2003) Read this article
Catherine Owen is Head of Geography at The King Alfred School an Academy, a CGeog and a Geographical Association Consultant. She writes and presents for OUP, Hodder Geography, Tutor2U and more.

Text © Catherine Owen, 2022-2023