The Faculty of Agricultural and Food Sciences (FAFS) at AUB celebrated World Water Day on March 22 with lectures, awareness booths and social media campaigns, water facts Q&A games, and a race around AUB campus. The events aimed to raise awareness on the importance of sustaining resources such as water through management, preservation, and regeneration.
The day started with three lectures by Dr. Nadim Farajalla, director of the Climate Change and the Environment Program at the Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs at AUB; Dr. Hadi Jaafar, assistant professor in the Department of Agriculture at AUB active in teaching and research in the field of remote sensing and smart irrigation; and Dr. Majdi Abou Najm, assistant professor at the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at AUB with research focus on sustainable water resource management.
“We need to manage our resources differently and approach water resource management from the principle of integrating all aspects of it,” said Farajalla who addressed water resource management within the framework of the water-energy-food nexus with linkages to climate change. “We cannot keep thinking of water alone. By looking at the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), we see that a resource management approach that looks at water, food, and energy as a nexus, or a combination, makes more sense.”
Dr. Hadi Jaafar startled the audience with some facts and figures about the current and diminishing availability of fresh water globally, much less water that is safe for drinking. He presented methods for estimating water use for food production, such as remote sensing, with the goal of arriving at methods for targeted consumption reduction for sustainable livelihood. He explained how “high water footprint can be controlled by decreasing the demand for high water-consuming foods.”
“If we want to sustain life, we have to focus on the water status, particularly given climate change,” said Jaafar, explaining that one impact of “water stress,”—or the scarcity of water to satisfy minimum human consumption daily—on demographic changes as it also stirs conflicts and migrations. “The current water use is not sustainable.”
Dr. Abou Najm spoke about nexus and education. He shed light on the necessary skills that are needed to improve and understand the larger picture of the wide range of processes and interactions involved, urging a modeling and mathematically-driven approach in research.
“The talk was tailored for those who want to go beyond the standard and classic awareness of mindful consumption,” Abou Najm told us. “As AUB scholars, if we want to lead a new wave of nexus sustainability, we need to fully understand and comfortably couple the interactions between the complex science of interconnected processes, with human behavior, sociopolitical constraints, and planetary boundaries. We need to challenge our comfort zones, and perhaps break our fears with mathematics, the only language that can serve as a common ground to those complex interactions.”
“This kind of lecture reminds all of us of the effort we all need to make to preserve life on earth,” said Omar Baassiri, who graduated in agribusiness and started his first year studying agriculture. “The larger picture is frightening and the change needed is immense, but step-by-step, through what seems like a slow process, and through presentations such as these that give some very valid points and are migrating to more long-term solutions, I have full confidence that people will be driven to make the needed change and impact.”
Around 30 AUB students, staff, and alumni then participated in an awareness-raising race, running from FAFS courtyard, around campus, and finishing at the AUB Green Field. Titled “Run for Water,” the race ended with a distribution of medals by FAFS Associate Dean Ammar Olabi.
“On Water Day, it was essential to make a statement in unison that we need to reduce the consumption of water and raise awareness about the different ways we can conserve the use of water for sustainability,” said Imad Keniar, vice president of the Student Agricultural Society currently in his fourth year studying agriculture, “It’s great to run for a cause: run for water, run for life!”
FAFS is active in research for integrated solutions and action for resource management. It is collaborating with schools and research units at AUB on issues related to primary resources; building awareness of the water–energy–food–health nexus renewable resources initiative (WEFRAH); mobilizing AUB faculty to collaborate in competing for large-scale external funding; and expanding research, education, and capacity development opportunities at AUB’s experimental station in the Beqaa valley, the Advancing Research Enabling Communities (AREC) Center.
The faculty, represented by its dean, Dr. Rabi Mohtar, participated in the world’s largest water-related event, the Eighth World Water Forum
, organized by the World Water Council March 18 -23 in Brasilia, Brazil. Dean Mohtar offered a keynote presentation on the topic of ‘Bridging Science and Policy’ and co-organized and participated in several sessions including “Multi-stakeholder Dialogue: Water-Energy-Food (WEF) Nexus and SDGs Implementation
,” which focused on policy coherence in the implementation of SDGs and built on sessions focused on water for energy, water for food, governance, financing, and communication. Mohtar also participated in a session entitled “Sustainability Challenges need integrated solution: is water, energy, and food the answer?” and contributed to a high level panel which addressed “Water-related SDGs in crises prone regions: turning reconstruction into sustainable development.”