UBC Theses and Dissertations

UBC Theses Logo

UBC Theses and Dissertations

Water grabbing and conflict in the Nile River basin : a focus on Ethiopia Crego Liz, Eva


The phenomenon of large-scale land investments for agricultural production – also referred to as land grabbing – has grown in recent years all over the world, especially after the 2007-2008 international food price crisis. Ethiopia is among the most targeted countries by foreign investors concerning farmland demand. But not only that, the Ethiopian Government is actively promoting and encouraging private sector participation in large-scale farming, especially in the low land border areas of the country that are part of the Ethiopian Nile River basin. The development of land transferred to investors in these areas will necessarily result in an increase of Ethiopia’s Nile waters use. The intensification of Nile waters consumption in Ethiopia, in turn, may challenge the existing arrangement at the basin level, where Egypt has historically acted as the hydro-hegemon opposing any water resources development in the upstream countries. Thus, in this research I explore the implications of land grabbing on water resources as well as the ways in which specific ideas about water configure different power geometries at different scales. By using the agronomic model CROPWAT, I estimate the amount of water required to bring into production all the land that has been transferred to investors in the Ethiopian Nile River basin. Results from CROPWAT show that large-scale farming development could increase the pressure on water resources in some areas to unsustainable levels, as it is the case of the Pibor – Akabo – Sobat sub-basin. It could represent as well, a decline up to 3.4 % of Egypt’s Nile waters share – up to 10.2% in the case of Sudan – clearly challenging the existing hydro-hegemony in the basin. Furthermore, by interrogating different notions of water – those of the state, private investors and local communities – through the hydrosocial cycle framework, this research reveals how water discourses configure social structures and power relations at different scales; and how water injustices reveal or conceal themselves depending on the scale of inquiry.

Item Citations and Data


Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International