Sunday, March 8, 2009

Who Owns Your Food and Water Globally and Locally?

Last Friday, Simmons hosted the 12th annual International Women's Day breakfast: Who Owns Your Food and Water Globally and Locally?

The breakfast started off some amazing bread from Mamadou's Artisan Bakery in Winchester. One of IWD's slogan, Bread & Roses, calls for fair pay, decent working conditins, and respect. The phrase originated from a protest in Lawrence, MA, in which women's factory hours were reduced, but production increased and workers' salary was cut.

In the U.S. and many other parts of the world, we are used to the idea of paying for water. However, Patricia Jones from the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee spoke about access to water as a human right.

According to a 2006 Report on the Water Crisis by the UN:
  • 1.1 billion people don't have access to safe water
  • 2.6 billion don't have access to water sanitation
  • 5 million die annually from water-related diseases
Nevertheless, here is a good sign: South African was the first constitution to incorporate water as a human right. Improving water sanitation is within our interests. Every dollar spent on water sanitation benefits the economy by $8!

With the number of water shut-offs rising and increasing water scarcity due to global climate change, among other reasons, we need to learn more about our water. You can start from as little as paying more attention to your water bill, learning more about the Paul Simon Water for the Poor Act, or supporting grassroots organizations such as the UUSC. At the moment, the U.S. has no national water policy. What Patricia recommends: the U.S. needs a just and equitable national water policy with women involved, and which has a priority for the poor.

Other speakers included Ruby Maddox-Fisher, the co-founder and past director of the community-based urban agriculture program in Springfield, MA: Gardening the Community. The GtC:
  • Makes use of abandoned lots to grow fruits and vegetables
  • Helps to educate youth about urban agriculture
  • Increases access to locally produced food, and promotes the community
  • Contributes to the greening of the city and helps to recycle urban wastes, such as grey water
  • Grey water, or water produced from domestic purposes such as dishwashing or doing laundry, can be filtered and cleaned and used for other purposes!
Jenny Ruducha, involved with several NGO's such as Save the Children and PATH, spoke to us about the international outlook on Food and Nutrition. Some interesting facts to note:
  • World agriculture produces 17% more calories per person than 30 years ago.
  • 982 million people live on <$1/day. And unsurprisingly, around the same number of people, 963 million, suffer from hunger worldwide.
  • In Sub-Saharan Africa, 1:3 people are chronically hungry.
  • According to FAO, 33 countries are facing critical food shortages.
  • Poor nutrition is the cause of more than 1/2 of all child deaths worldwide.
Solutions include food and cash transfers (a project already undertaken in Malawi) and addressing chronic food insecurity through productive safety nets.

Last but not least was the director of Natick Community Organic Farm Lynda Sinkins. Because we all eat, we are all part of the agriculture system. And because 85% of food is imported, and 15% is produced locally, we need to support and buy from our New England farmers so they do not run out of business. And with local CSA's, greenhouses, and urban agriculture, the ability to buy local produce and to do so year round is increasing every day!

And if you would like to learn more about International Women's Day, look here!

1 comment:

Elizabeth Jarrard said...

bummer i missed it!!! great write-up though!