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Next Monday, October 16, is World Food Day.
World Food Day occurs annually to celebrate the founding of the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). And every year, organizers choose a theme to inspire mass collective action. This year’s theme is: Water is Life, Water is Food. Leave No One Behind.
Focusing on water is more urgent than ever amid the climate crisis, and it’s critical to understand the links between food systems and water use. After all, only about 0.5 percent of the planet’s total water is fresh and available to drink. And nearly three-quarters of that small percentage goes to agriculture, per the FAO.
With population growth, urbanization, agriculture, and climate change, our water resources are becoming increasingly stressed, FAO warns. Right now, one in four people worldwide don’t have access to safe drinking water at home. And even those who have these resources could—and already do—face water shortages. If we don’t course-correct, two-thirds of the world could face water scarcity by 2025.
Of course, water access isn’t just about drinking: Fresh water is also vital to sanitation, hygiene, and disease prevention. About 3.6 billion people, or nearly half the global population, lack adequate sanitation services at home, according to numbers from the UN Water Conference earlier this year. Inadequate water access can also make existing challenges like malnutrition significantly worse.
This year’s World Food Day can spark important global action around water. Just like nutritious food, clean water is a human right.
And I’m inspired by the many organizations and advocates around the world who are taking serious steps to conserve water and reverse the degradation of our most important resource.
This progress is taking place on the ground, around the globe. And in fact, because water touches so many parts of our lives, solutions to this crisis are wide-reaching and incredibly creative.
In India, farmers are rethinking small ditches called dobas to help use water more efficiently, and in California, some farmers are able to irrigate crops with treated wastewater. In Louisiana, the Recirculating Farms Coalition is building innovative hydroponic and aquaponic farms that can sustainably recycle clean water back into the growing operation.
And plenty of inspiring efforts to conserve water are crossing national borders, too. The organization Water.org, founded by Gary White and actor Matt Damon, is helping people in poverty access long-term water and sanitation by building accessible financing models. A multi-country initiative in the Middle East called the Blue Peace Strategy is working to build peace through water cooperation and knowledge sharing.
Folks whose livelihoods are on the water know the challenges we’re facing better than anyone. In Mexico, a conservation society called the Sociedad de Historia Natural Niparajà is educating fishing communities and protecting water sources from mining. And our friends at Fed By Blue are showing how aquatic or blue food systems can also help protect water resources.
Looking toward Indigenous knowledge traditions can also provide a clear-eyed path toward water conservation. Traditional land management practices like cover cropping and planting native species can revitalize their soils and mitigate the effects of drought.
“That’s something that we’re advocating for,” said Bleu Adams, a Mandan/Hidatsa/Diné restaurateur and entrepreneur who directs a project called IndigeHub and grew up in the Navajo Nation. “We need to support our small farmers and growers that are reintroducing Indigenous crops into their environments, to strengthen the soil and to clean the water, clean the air. It’s a way we can immediately address a lot of the issues we’re seeing as far as climate (and) food scarcity.”
(Hear more from Bleu on this week’s episode of the Food Talk podcast!)
So as a Food Tanker who cares about water resources, I hope you’ll join us on World Food Day to highlight and celebrate the importance of clean drinkable water.
Food Tank is proud to co-host the official North America World Food Day event, themed around “Water is Life.” The Summit runs from 12:30 to 4:30PM PT next Monday, Oct. 16.
Food Tank, the FAO, the University of British Columbia, and Simon Fraser University are presenting this event in collaboration with the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), the University of Guelph, the Arrell Food Institute, Driscoll’s, WholeChain, and Compass Group Canada. We’ll be at Simon Fraser University’s Morris J. Wosk Centre for Dialogue in Downtown Vancouver—making this Food Tank’s first Summit in Canada!
We hope you’ll attend via livestream, which is free! You can catch the stream at foodtank.com or Food Tank’s YouTube channel, or get virtual tickets by CLICKING HERE. (We’re almost at capacity in person, but if you’ll be in Vancouver, email Kenzie at Kenzie@Foodtank.com to request an invitation.)
Our conversations with amazing speakers will cover topics including strengthening water management for food systems, building environmental resilience into business, the private sector’s role in transforming water use, steps policymakers are taking to improve water conservation, and more.
Speakers include: Zafar Adeel, Simon Fraser University (SFU); Steph Baryluk, Mrs B’s Jerky; Councillor Rebecca Bligh, City of Vancouver; Tiare Boyes, Fish Harvester; Royce Chwin, Destination Vancouver; Claire Dawson, Ocean Wise; Camil Dumont, Vancouver Park Board Commissioner; Evan Fraser, Arrell Food Institute at the University of Guelph; Alexandra Gill, The Globe and Mail; Lawrence Goodridge, University of Guelph; Paul Kariya, Coastal First Nations; Lisa Kenoras, Working Group on Indigenous Food Sovereignty; Naomi Krogman, SFU; Dana James, University of British Columbia (UBC); Paul Lansbergen, Fisheries Council of Canada; Tongzhe Li, University of Guelph; Dana-Lyn Mackenzie, RESEAU Centre for Mobilizing Innovation; Elizabeth McSheffrey, Global News; Tom Pesek, FAO; Lizeth Ardila Ramírez, UBC; Mark Smith, Pacific Seaweed Industry Association; Saul Milne, Ha’oom Fisheries Society; Jennifer Silver, University of Guelph; Hugh Simpson, University of Guelph; Sean Smukler, UBC; Tammara Soma, SFU; Jyoti Stephens, Nature’s Path; Rashid Sumaila, UBC; Tannis Thorlakson, Driscoll’s; Asha Wheeldon, Kula Foods; Heather Wilkie, Compass Group; Connor Williamson, Canadian Food Policy Advisory Council; and Dean Rickey Yada, UBC.
HERE’s a sneak peak at the agenda.
One more thing: I also hope you can join the World Food Day satellite event—”World Food Day 2023: Water is Food: Emerging Knowledge”—hosted by the Arrell Food Institute and University of Guelph, before Food Tank’s Summit in Vancouver. This satellite event will be streaming on Food Tank’s YouTube channel from 9 to 10AM PT, and will feature discussions with several University of Guelph researchers, moderated by Evan Fraser, Director of the Arrell Food Institute.
World Food Day is not only a day—it’s a jumping-off point for action year-round. Repairing our water resources will take a lot of work. Let’s talk about ideas: Send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org to highlight folks in your communities who are prioritizing water rights, and let’s talk about actions we all can take, too.
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Photo courtesy of Snehal Krishna, Unsplash