Wednesday, September 02, 2015

Water water everywhere: Not a farmer to spot!

I just returned from the World Water Week in Stockholm, the Swedish capital.

Organized by the Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI), the week-long event was focusing on Water and it's intricate and crucial link to development worldwide. It was, as I learned, the 25th year of the event.
The Prime Minister of Sweden addressing the participants at the inaugural session of the World Water Week.

As you would expect in a global event like this, there were participants from different walks of development and water: scientists, finance experts, engineers, political leaders and activists and media personnel like me. There were talks of innovation, technology, finance, aid, collaboration, policy, regulation, transparency and so on. We also heard some country heads talk about some of the burning issues of our time: climate change, disasters, conflict and the migrant influx.

But there was something crucial that was missing: the voice of the farmer. And it came as a surprise - of a rather shocking nature. After all, this was an event discussing water and it's role in the world's development, especially the Sustainable Development Goals which are soon to replace the Millennium Development Goals.

Food production and food security are always the key to  a sustainable world. And everyone was talking of this - except the food grower himself. Irony much?

Now, some may argue that how could a token representation - like a solo farmer - change anything.

But, even a single farmer could at least share with us his/her side of the story: the growing water stress, the growing expenses of producing food, loss of crops due to lack of or access water, the decreasing level of water and what it all means to his community. He could have told the leaders not of just the problems, but also of the solutions that the farm community thinks would work for them.

Yes, of course the experts gathered at the event had varying degree of knowledge of the farming sector and its needs. But, it's one thing to be speaking OF and FOR the farmers. It's entirely different to have the farmer speak for himself.

Today, the world population is 7.3 billion. According to the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDSA) report “World Population Prospects: The 2015 Revision” , this number will reach 9.7 billion by 2050. This means, a third more mouths to feed. This means, the world will have to increase it's food production by 60% by 2050, says the UN Food and Agriculture Organization.(UNFAO).

If we are to achieve this, the food growers themselves have to be included in the talks and discussions - especially one that centers around the job of sustaining this world, or in plain words, the very job of feeding ourselves.

Next year, the theme of the World Water Week will be Water for Sustainable Growth. By then, we will already be in the SDG era where 'Inclusive Growth' will be the key word.  I hope we will hear the farmer's opinion and thoughts there - in his own voice.

Because without that, all these discussions are neither truly inclusive, nor honestly democratic. Also, without that, we  are only pretending to be MR/MS Know-it-all. Time to stop doing that!

No comments: