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.
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.”