A Word on Water
In the global fight for food sovereignty, community coalitions and activist groups have highlighted the need for water access to be part of the conversation. As outlined in the Nyeleni Declaration (2007), food sovereignty is the right of peoples to healthy and culturally appropriate food produced through ecologically sound and sustainable methods, and their right to define their own food and agriculture systems. Let’s explore some of the major ways that water impacts our access to food and shapes our relationship to the environment.
Agriculture and water go hand in hand, and we need water for the growth of fresh fruits and vegetables, the sustainability of the land, and the nourishment of livestock. The Water Footprint Network (WFN) estimates that agriculture in the U.S. accounts for 80 percent of the nation’s consumptive water use. Water scarcity directly yields food insecurity and disadvantages communities, and unsafe water has detrimental effects on public health.
Water is a critical requirement for biodiversity. From the earthworm that helps with soil fertility to the crop byproducts that feed the cattle, each species has an important role to play. Without biodiversity, natural sustainability is threatened, and ecosystems are at greater risk of degradation in the event of a large-scale disaster or disruption. Since we are the greatest contributors to declining biodiversity, it is important that we preserve our wildlife and recognize all of the important benefits of biodiversity, like nutrient storage, pollution breakdown and maintenance of ecosystems.
The water cycle’s pivotal role in climate can be seen in the melting glaciers and changing patterns of precipitation over the past century, which has lead to an increased likelihood of drought and flood in certain regions. Climate and water are interconnected, and water supports the regulation and sustainability of most ecosystems.
In short, water’s role in the global food system cannot be understated. Water is a key component in the wider struggle towards food sovereignty and reiterates the rights of communities to have agency over their own resources.