There’s no food with­out wa­ter Food pro­duc­tion needs the sta­tus it de­serves

The hor­ti­cul­ture in­dus­try has just fin­ished its con­fer­ence sea­son. One of the ma­jor themes of the con­fer­ences was food se­cu­rity. What, in the fu­ture, may dis­rupt food sup­ply to New Zealan­ders and the world.

The Orchardist - - Water - By Les­ley Wil­son Les­ley Wil­son is pres­i­dent of the Hawke’s Bay Fruit­grow­ers As­so­ci­a­tion

Food se­cu­rity is the abil­ity for peo­ple to re­li­ably ac­cess safe, af­ford­able and nu­tri­tious food when needed.

Our work at the Hawke’s Bay Fruit­grow­ers’ As­so­ci­a­tion cur­rently fo­cusses on two ma­jor dis­rup­tors to food se­cu­rity, ac­cess to land and ac­cess wa­ter with which to grow our fresh fruit and veg­eta­bles.

Wa­ter has been very top­i­cal lately and there are three sep­a­rate an­gles to this de­bate cur­rently be­ing dis­cussed in Hawke’s Bay.

Firstly, there is the wa­ter con­ser­va­tion or­der Fish and Game has ap­plied to have placed on the Ngaruroro River. It is hard not to be alarmist about this.The al­lo­cated vol­umes the group has asked for in its ap­pli­ca­tion leave NO wa­ter for hor­ti­cul­ture at all.

Sec­ondly, there is the new sci­ence that shows that the aquifer is fully al­lo­cated, and thirdly there is the pro­posed wa­ter tax. All of these im­pact on our abil­ity to grow food.

I be­lieve we need to have a con­ver­sa­tion around the pri­or­ity of wa­ter for the grow­ing of food. Hu­mans have three ba­sic needs - food, wa­ter and shel­ter and in so­ci­ety many of us play roles in pro­vid­ing these three ba­sic func­tions.

While teach­ers teach and doc­tors doctor, farm­ers grow food to sup­port the com­mu­nity, thereby en­abling it to go about do­ing what it does. With­out land and wa­ter, food pro­duc­tion can­not oc­cur, es­pe­cially not at a scale that can sup­port a com­mu­nity like Hawke’s Bay. This is not about an ur­ban-ru­ral di­vide, as some would have you be­lieve, it’s about com­mu­ni­ties flour­ish­ing, and we all have roles within it.

So what would this con­ver­sa­tion look like?

There would be dis­cus­sions around good hor­ti­cul­tural land be­ing pre­served for food grow­ing. Around the world farm­land preser­va­tion pro­grammes are tar­geted at look­ing af­ter good land to in­crease food se­cu­rity for the com­mu­nity.

We also need to talk about ac­cess to wa­ter for food-grow­ing be­ing given the same pri­or­ity as ac­cess to wa­ter for hu­man life. Wa­ter is in­ex­tri­ca­bly linked to food and, as stated, wa­ter and food are two of the ba­sic needs for life.

Of course we are not ask­ing for open slather on ac­cess to wa­ter. We are not ask­ing to have no rules and reg­u­la­tions. In fact hor­ti­cul­tur­ists thrive on prob­lem solv­ing, we take pride in get­ting it right. Prob­lem solv­ing, work­ing with the lat­est in­no­va­tions, is what we do best, it’s part of our job, all day, ev­ery­day.

What we do want is for food pro­duc­tion to be given the sta­tus it de­serves. If this doesn’t hap­pen, and good hor­ti­cul­tural soil is cov­ered in houses and ac­cess to wa­ter is limited, what are the con­se­quences?

Where do you think our food for our com­mu­ni­ties will come from? Do we im­port it from the very coun­tries that come to us be­cause our food - that we pro­duce - is safer?

Do we grow food in ware­houses us­ing ar­ti­fi­cial light? Will food grown fresh on a farm be only for the wealthy? Will ac­cess to a di­verse range of foods de­cline?

Will wa­ter used for ir­ri­ga­tion come only from stor­age or from gi­ant de­salin­i­sa­tion plants? What does the gen­er­a­tion that has yet to be born want and need?

These are all big ques­tions that need to be thought through. We need com­mu­nity-based solutions for com­mu­nity-based is­sues.

Hor­ti­cul­ture is cur­rently do­ing very well in Hawke’s Bay but this dis­cus­sion is not about the prof­itabil­ity of busi­nesses. It’s

about the health of our com­mu­ni­ties.

“This dis­cus­sion is not about the prof­itabil­ity of busi­nesses. It’s about the health of our com­mu­ni­ties.”

Les­ley Wil­son

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