conference, gender, international, sanitation

#wwweek Talk Brief: Gender, Water, and Food Security

The second event I tuned to was the Concrete Actions: Advancing the Integration of Gender, Water, Food Security talk. The theme of this seminar was exciting because I had previously grappled with developing a tool for measuring gender equality and empowerment in water and sanitation. And as Hon. Bigombe so eloquently said, “If you want to go fast, travel alone. If you want to go far, travel together.” This talk focused on gender, water, and food security with a feature on the African Ministers Council on Water (AMCOW) Gender Strategy. The AMCOW Gender Strategy is a model that could be adapted by other regions because it addresses gender equality in “water-livelihood spheres” while identifying minimum targets for gender, water, and food security. The aim of the talk was to have multiple experts review methods of gender, water, and food security measurement to find common measurement tools. As I have experienced, measurement of gender equality and empowerment for water can difficult because gender and water cover multiple scales (household, community, political) and multiple dimensions of interaction (access, planning, and management). So I was excited to learn from these women.

Empowerment Measurement Meinzen-Dick
Above Photo: Domains of Empowerment for Water by Dr. Ruth Meinzen-Dick, IFPRI

The esteemed speakers presented ways for understanding and measuring gender equality and empowerment. Dr. Dikito-Wachtmeister from GWP said the AMCOW gender mainstreaming process gathered comments from stakeholders and developed key targets. Their approach honors qualitative data and participatory action. Dr. Sisto from FAO outlined four national gender-sensitive indicators: 1) management of land/water, 2) access to paid employment, 3) access to education, and 4) institutional empowerment. FAO also developed a checklist for organizations to use while mainstreaming gender in agriculture. Dr. van Koppen from IMWI identified gender-sensitive indicators for different water realms including livelihoods, uses, control over technologies, and control over resources. Her talk is featured on YouTube here. Dr. Meinzen-Dick from IFPRI reviewed a WEAI tool to measure empowerment in agriculture within five domains: 1) productive decisions, 2) control over resources, 3) control over income, 4) leadership opportunities, and 5) adequate time. She made comparisons of these domains to the water sector (see above image). Overall, I’m excited to scour the presentations again to improve my understanding of gender equality and empowerment measurement in water and sanitation. Scalable is important – yes, but socioeconomic conditions have to inform any model. I’m curious to see if “a one size fits all” approach is practical.

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agriculture, research, rivers

Fungal Micro-pollution in Water

Molds, mushrooms, and yeasts – prevalent in all locales from the cracks of a sidewalk, in the forest, and sometimes even your refrigerator. At times, fungi have wonderful uses including yeasts for brewing beer or wine to the gastronomic delight of the rare white truffle. At other times, certain fungi will produce a substance toxic to living beings called Mycotoxins. Recently, research has found certain Mycotoxins (micro-pollution) originating from fungal outbreaks in food-crop fields will enter waterways through irrigation run-off, as noted in a review in Science Daily.

While some toxins in this family may weaken the immune system or act as an allergen, other toxins have no evident effect on humans. This study showed increased quantities of such micro-pollution in Swiss rivers, and indicated “a need for stronger monitoring and control of these overlooked micropollutants.” The report “Fusarium Mycotoxins: Overlooked Aquatic Micropollutants?” will be released on February 13, 2008 in the ACS’ Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.

By the way, this post reminds me of a favorite joke:

Why did the algae and and the fungus get married?

Well… they took a lichen to each other.