A sweet experience: the Water and Food Award event 2010

Professor Alfredo, photo Birger Pohl

I am just back from attending the Water and Food Award in Copenhagen. The event celebrated this year’s nominees for the most innovative, sustainable, replicable, community initiative to bring water and food security to an area.

And I just want to say it was one of the most amazing and sweet events I have attended for a long time. Perhaps it was the simplicity of the message: promoting solutions to ensure everyone goes to bed on a full stomach. Perhaps it was the expression that the basis of the award is a heartfelt response to a basic need. It may be that security of food means people can concentrate on building prosperity and peace in the world. Perhaps it was simply that people with a genuine sense of humanity met in the same room

The event opened with the founder Tina Lindgreen giving her perspective: we can align our attitude with our heart and the actions will follow. That we should carry the vision of water and food for all and focus on what works.

I followed with a talk on what the Award sees as the challenge of sustainability: keeping people fed in a context of land degradation, fossil fuel shortages, urbanisation, the lack of community cohesion and the challenge of aligning our finance system with the need to ensure we live in a mature ecosystem. (Slides and soundtrack here).
The situation really does not look good, and I think I managed to convince a good proportion of the audience that land erosion, growing population and diminishing fossil fuel and other resource supplies means we need to be looking now for solutions if we are to avoid a crisis not only in developing countries, but in our own.

We then heard from the main sponsor, Bayer CropScience represented by their CEO from the Danish headquarters, Ernst von Frank.

It was wonderful to hear Ernst’s perspective: that business is about making profits whilst supporting and stimulating a healthy environment and prosperous society. As he said, the business case supporting the water and food award is natural for an agricultural company like Bayer: as food security comes to an area, and prosperity grows, so does the potential market.

Dr. Pierluigi Orati-Journalist and CSR Consultant finished off the series of presentations with an appeal for the business community to go from a locust mentality of take-make waste to a honey bee attitude of borrow- use- return.

See his presentation here

Finally, aided by Dr Alfredo Opubor I presented the nominees.
Each initiative, one after the other, gave us reasons to hope:
Sadhana Forest gives us, among other things, hope that we can reach the heart of volunteers and engage them to turn barren land back to being fertile.
Solvatten showed us that it is possible to use just the power of the sun to produce pure water from badly-contaminated sources.
The Hunger project showed us that we can engage the community, that they can come together around a common vision to solve water, food and sanitation challenges.

Ecotact Ltd, showed us that it is possible to recycle human waste to a valuable resource and change peoples attitude to sanitation. Reducing diseases and recycling waste drive prosperity.
The Permaculture Research Institute shows us with their initiative how it is possible, using advanced design practices and knowledge, to green the desert and to disseminate the skills to others.

It was wonderful to be able to sit and hear how the growing sense of concern for sustainable development is also bringing people together from different walks of life, young and old, to just work together to get the job done and to do it with respect for people’s dignity.

This atmosphere carried over to the second part of the day, with the innovation workshop and award ceremonies, but that I the subject of my next blog.

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