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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


UA hosts international event to tackle issues of food and water in the desert

Cedar Gardner
Mike Rosenkrantz enjoys a vegetarian tamale from Del Cielo Tamales on Wednesday, Nov. 2.

The UA hosted a Food and Water in Arid Lands event featuring expert panelists from desert regions around the world such as Saudi Arabia, Africa and South America to speak about the implications of creating sustainable living in a water scarce environment at the Grand Ballroom in the Student Union Memorial Center, Friday and Saturday, Nov. 4-5.

Mika Galilee-Belfer, director of the UA Social and Behavioral Sciences’ Special Projects and Strategic Planning, said the event focused on how to stay sustainable, utilize models that will help keep us healthy, and continue providing clean food and water in the future.

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“We need this,” Galilee-Belfer said. “This is the start of action because we’re able to bring into the same space people from various parts of the world with such different perspectives.”

Galilee-Belfer said there were a lot of culturally traditional people at the event and the UA has really shown that it cares about hearing their voice on these issues.

One of the panelists, Stefano Ravizza from the Confederazione Nationale Coldirett in Italy, spoke about the difficulty of supplying environmentally friendly food to arid regions. Since the early 2000s, people have begun to care that the food they eat is healthy, sustainable and fair to the environment. Ravizza stressed the importance of “moving forward” locally on this issue.

Professor Kepa Morgan from the University of Auckland in New Zealand said he felt the conference was a step in the right direction. He pointed out that having conversations is what it takes to build the trust that starts the process toward a more sustainable living.

Morgan brought up the situation in Arizona where the Tohono O’odham tribe wants to use vast amounts of water to grow crops in the desert. He said although the government wants to put that water back into the ground to rebuild the depleted water table, it needs to listen to the voices of the people who have lived here for thousands of years.

“For indigenous people, they define the ecosystem and the ecosystem defines them,” Morgan said. “Their cause is to ensure their survival in in our environment.”

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According to the Central Arizona Project, the Tohono O’odham tribe reached an agreement in 2006 where it would receive a 66,000 acre-foot of water delivered to it by the federal government every year for the purpose of farming. But now the cost and environmental issues associated with supplying this water have skyrocketed and the government is expressing its desire to use the water to replenish the Arizona water table and then give the tribe the agreed upon water’s value in money.

Several of the Tohono O’odham farmers were at the conference and shared their concerns for their livelihood. They’re unhappy with the government’s plan and fear it will prevent them from farming in the future.

“The focus was dialogs and we had a lot of opportunities to meet with everybody and talk with them about the work they are doing,” said Teresa Newberry Ph.D. of Tohono O’odham Community College. “This is one step, one baby step, forward.”

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