Water, Water…Everywhere?

It makes sense that food activism would focus its efforts on, well…food. But recently I have been reading a lot about water, and the ways it impacts the food movement.

Water is something most of us living in this country are able to take for granted. If we turn on the faucet we are pretty much guaranteed that something potable will come gushing out. I never really thought twice about this luxury before travelling to Uganda, where drinking straight from a well or faucet is actually one of the most dangerous actions you could take–and this is a country that is no stranger to violent/physical crime. I spent 4 months either drinking from sealed water bottles (which contribute HUGE amounts of environmentally-harmful plastic) or from jerrycans filled with water that had been sufficiently boiled. This means that if you ran out of water bottles after the dark, and you didn’t have the time to start a fire and boil water (about an hour-long process, at least) you didn’t have any water until the stores opened up again in the morning. I also had to be wary of any foods that might have come in contact with unclean water–say buh-bye to salad for 4 months.

Now, I don’t claim to be any sort of expert on water security, but after looking at the map below I think it’s pretty obvious something needs to be done:


The fact that such large swaths of people face water insecurity simply due to economic factors is horrifying. And it’s not surprise that these at-risk regions are found exclusively in the global South.

Interestingly, one of the solutions suggested by the blog Nourishing the Planet is to support small-scale farming. While this is just one more bone to pick with industrial agriculture in developed nations, it is also an intriguing arena we could use to engage local populations in more rural nations–especially the ones facing economic water insecurity. Small-scale farming is already a way of life for many of these people (it certainly is in Uganda) and if efforts are made to educate farmers about water conservation and management, a more efficient system could be built.

Of course, the problems I mentioned above about the lack of potable water won’t be solved merely by conserving resources. There will also have to be significant political will in order for adequate safety and distribution methods to be implemented.

Obviously all of this is wrapped up in the complex political, economic, and social forces that are globalization, and coming at it from a food activist perspective won’t solve everything (wouldn’t that be nice?) But I think it’s fascinating to consider these less obvious avenues for engagement when it comes to alleviating some of the world’s most pressing issues. It is becoming ever more apparent to me just how far-reaching the effects of the food movement have the potential to be.


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