Who’s In The Way

Obstacle 1:

Industrial Agriculture/ Agribusiness

The industrial food chain has a massive influence on land use and water consumption for growing, processing and transporting the goods. The meat processing industry is one of the largest consumers of total freshwater. The industrial agriculture sector uses 75% of the world’s agricultural land but it actually produces only about 30% of the world's food. About 50% of the produce is allocated to feed the livestock of which only 12% comes back as animal products.

The increasing demand of meat products puts pressure on agricultural lands as more feed crops results in expansion of land use. Most of the human appropriation of freshwater resources is for agriculture (>80%) and not for drinking (<10%). In order to meet the increasing demands, value chain agriculture framework is promoted as a way to meet demands for feed crops. This further puts pressure on intensifying agri-inputs like seeds, fertilizers, agrochemicals and mechanization to cover the cost and demand, while deteriorating groundwater quality and polluting surface water as pesticides and livestock industry manure runoff results in unhealthy levels of bacteria, phosphorus pollution and frequent algae blooms.

On the other hand, the pollution of water creates dead zones limiting the production of fish stocks for the river communities. More than half a billion people depend on fisheries for their livelihoods of which about 90% fisher people work in the small-scale fishing sector and catch half of the world's total catches by volume. However, Rights-Based Fishing have led to the privatization of the oceans along with a shift from state ownership toward private ownership of fishing rights. The fishing industry implements systems where the 10% minority fisher folks are instructed to catch one particular species. The shift dramatically removes stewardship which was built on the multi-species character of small-scale fisheries. The marginalised fishers whose livelihoods depend on marine resources eventually lose their livelihoods due to the privatization efforts. It is critical to recognize small-scale fisher communities in order to transition towards an ecologically and socially just food regime.

Therefore, in order to move away from exploitation of land, water and labor, it is critical to recognize and promote food soverignity as a way forward. Food Sovereignty is a solution to address the global water crisis because of the amount of water used in the global food supply chain.

This solution intersects with solutions for food and can be found here.

Organizations working against Industrial Agriculture or Agribusiness:

ETC Group

ETC Group works to address the socioeconomic and ecological issues surrounding new technologies that could have an impact on the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people. 

Global Alliance for the Rights of Nature (GRAIN)

GRAIN is a small international organization which supports the struggle of peasants and social movements to strengthen the control of communities over food systems based on biodiversity. Their report Impossible Emissions shows that together, the top five meat and dairy companies (JBS, Tyson, Cargill, Dairy Farmers of America and Fonterra) are already responsible for more greenhouse gas emissions than ExxonMobil, Shell or BP.

Transnational Institute’s Agrarian & Environmental Justice programme

TNI’s Agrarian & Environmental Justice programme brings together research and analysis on the collective struggles of rural working people to democratise access, ownership, and control of land, water and other natural resources. It works closely in alliance with local, national and global alliances of small-scale farmers, fisherfolk and marginalised rural working people.

La Via Campesina

La Via Campesina is an international movement bringing together millions of peasants, small and medium size farmers, landless people, rural women and youth, indigenous people, migrants and agricultural workers from around the world. Built on a strong sense of unity, solidarity between these groups, it defends peasant agriculture for food sovereignty as a way to promote social justice and dignity and strongly opposes corporate driven agriculture that destroys social relations and nature.

Friends of the Earth International (FOEI)

FOEI campaign’s on today’s most urgent environmental and social issues. We challenge the current model of economic and corporate globalization, and promote solutions that will help to create environmentally sustainable and socially just societies.

Additional Resources on Food’s Impact on Water

Organizations leading the fight against Fishing Industries

World Forum of Fisher Peoples’ (WFFP)

The World Forum of Fisher Peoples (WFFP) is a mass-based social movement of small-scale fisher people from across the world, founded on 21 November 1997 in New Delhi, India, by a number of mass-based organisations from the Global South. WFFP has 29 member organisations from 23 countries and represents over 10 million fisher people from all over the world.

World Forum of Fish Harvesters & Fish Workers (WFF)

WFF is an international organization that brings together small scale fisher organization for the establishment and upholding of fundamental human rights,social justice and culture of artisanal /small scale fish harvesters and fish workers,affirming the sea as source of all life and committing themselves to sustain fisheries and aquatic resources for the present and future generations to protect their livelihoods.

Additional Resources:

Books, Articles, and Reports: 

Maps and Catalogs: 

Documentaries and Videos: 

Obstacle 2:

Extractive Industries

The central mechanisms of extractive industries capitalize on the environment through commodification or more commonly through the establishment of ecosystem services. Some of the most extensively operated extractive industries that impact people and our environment throughout the developmental stages are oil & gas, hydroelectric power dams, dams and reservoirs (agricultural purposes and consumption), beverage companies, mining, retail industries (fashion, manufacturing goods, plastics), and industrial agriculture projects (groundwater extraction). The process of minerals extraction creates industrial wastelands from vast open pit mines and mountaintop removal, voracious use and poisoning of water systems, deforestation, contamination of precious topsoil, air pollution, acid leaching, and cancer clusters. The construction of large scale projects like dams and reservoirs divert a major part of river flows, threatening the livelihood and survival of rural communities and indigenous peoples who depend on the rivers, leading to loss of biodiversity affecting fishing communities and again leading to food insecurity.

Roy, Arundhati, and Aradhana Seth. Dam/age: A Film with Arundhati Roy. Brooklyn, NY: First Run/Icarus Films, 2004. Internet resource.

In the last 50 years, the transport of goods through globalization has also given rise to the concept of ‘virtual water’. Virtual water is defined as the hidden flow of water if food or other commodities are traded from one place to another. Large private water companies, agribusinesses and extractive industries are the main profitters and traders of virtual water (the amount of water embedded within the production, processing and trade of commodities). The extraction of water for the production and processing of products for global consumption has altered the dynamics of how we interact with our environment. 

The push to create stronger regulations from the impacts of Climate change has led to the dramatic shift in domestic environmental laws and the introduction of state agencies to oversee the facilitation and implementation of the federal and local laws. The efforts to mobilize should not be limited to enforcements because fundamentally the state is designed to act as a platform to legally extract through state mechanisms like permits, enforcements and licenses to operate. The state’s central function is to legally allow extraction of resources for the sole purpose of profit margins and economic developments. In the late 1960s, nations in the global North saw a rise of the modern environmental movements which extended to influence the global south and follow a similar pattern introducing regulations, enforcements and impact assessment reports. However, it is important to be critical of the platform which is premised to operate within the system that is designed to exploit the environment for the sole purpose of development through management and ecosystem services.

Organizations leading fight against Extractive Industries 

The GAIA Foundation

The GAIA Foundation is an organisation with over 30 years experience accompanying partners, communities and movements in Africa, South America, Asia and Europe. Together we work to revive bio-cultural diversity, to regenerate healthy ecosystems and to strengthen community self-governance for climate change resilience. Post-extractivism is founded in philosophies of Buen Vivir (Good Living) and intersects with alternative development and economic theories/practices from de-growth to the commons.

Yes To Life, No To Mining (YLNM)

YLNM was founded in 2014 by communities, organisations and networks from Africa, Europe, North and South America. The  network exists to support those communities who have decided to say NO to mining, in recognition of their right to say no, their right to Free Prior and Informed Consent and the unique challenges they face in defending land, water and life.

The organizations are also listed under Obstacles section in Energy + Minerals Section [Link here]

Readings & Resources to learn more about issues related to Extraction

  • Mining

Obstacle 3:

Financial Institutions, Transnational corporations and Governance 

Understanding and responding to water injustice will necessarily involve attention to key linkages related to food, energy, and health and other sectors. Water access and the quality of water are highly unequal as it varies according to a range of social and spatial gradients.

Water grabbing involves the capturing of the decision-making power around water, including the power to decide how and for what purposes water resources are used now and in the future. The injustice deprives local communities whose livelihoods often depend on these resources and ecosystems.The dominating forms of water expertocracy facilitating privatization and water grabbing have varying levels of detrimental impacts on the environment and local communities. Subsequently, it is critical to recognize the comprehensive mechanisms that underpin large scale projects across the globe. They are initially supported by transnational corporations and/or financial institutions, and facilitated by treaties, international policies, backed by credit agencies, and formulated and/or operated government bodies. At the local level, the projects are consulted with water experts, reviewed and approved by local state agencies whose primary goal is to secure and strengthen economic development, while ignoring the detrimental effects of the projects on the local communities.

The environmental crises of the Anthropocene are deeply connected to economic policies that have enabled and continues to perpetuate exploitation and injustices. Some of the major global institutions and sectors are listed below:

  • Public-Private Partnerships (PPP)
  • State bureaucracies and Water Expert Communities
  • Water Privatization Companies 
  • Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP)
  • World Trade Organization (WTO)
  • World Bank
  • International Finance Group (IFC)
  • Asian Development Bank (ADB)
  • International Monetary Fund (IMF)
  • Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)

Organizations working to create awareness about Trade agreements:


A shared concern about the growth of bilateral trade and investment deals outside of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and a feeling that these less visible agreements were "under the radar" of many social justice activists led to the formation of bilaterals.org website. The site’s goal is really to support social movements resisting the imposition of these deals, in a way that builds bridges between isolated efforts and shows the bigger, often global, dynamics at play.

La Via Campesina

La Via Campesina is an autonomous, pluralist, multicultural movement, political in its demand for social justice while being independent from any political party, economic or other type of affiliation. The movement fights against Capitalism and Free trade, Transnational Companies and Agribusiness, and Patriarchy. 

                                   Poster Image from La Via Campesina’s Communication kit 

Transnational Institute(TNI)

TNI’s Trade & Investment project opposes the European Union’s corporate-driven trade and investment policies by providing well-researched analysis on its social and ecological impacts, supporting the development of popular campaigns and proposing alternative policies that prioritise people’s rights over corporate profits.

Overview of Trade Agreements & Info on Global Financial Structures

Additional Reports, Publications & Articles:
  1. [Paper] The Social Construction of Scarcity, Water in Western India
  2. [Article] Perils of the US-India free trade agreement for Indian farmers
  3. [Report] The Clean Development Mechanism: Local Impacts of a Global System
  4. [Blogpost] Anti-politics of climate change [Bangladesh]
  5. [Slides] Water governance in India
  6. [Paper] The UN World Water Development Report 2016, Water and Jobs : A Critical Review: Assessment: WWDR 2016, Water and Jobs
  7. (Article) Indian Tea Estates [Land and water grab]
  8. (Report) Indian Tea Plantations
  9. [Leaflet] The Unfair Cooperation Agreement on Water Privatization (Jakarta)