16 October 2019 | Story Valentino Ndaba | Photo Rulanzen Martin
Dr Thuli Mphambukeli and Victor Okorie
Water is a fundamental human right, says Dr Thulisile Mphambukeli, (left) Senior Lecturer at the Department of Urban and Regional Planning. On the right is Dr Victor Okorie.

Research shows that “access to water and food remains critical to the survival and stability of any nation”. This is according to a team of academics that has been hard at work exploring ways in which to secure water and food in Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa (BRICS nations).

These scholars from the University of the Free State (UFS) and North-West University recently published a paper titled: Exploring the Political Economy of Water and Food Security Nexus in BRICS. Dr Thulisile Mphambukeli, Dr Victor Okorie, and Prof Samuel Amusan are members of the Food Security Research Cluster of the South African BRICS Think Tank that has been fervently tackling the water and food in(security) challenge.

Water as a key to social justice 

The team argues that unequal access and distribution of water has in the past led to violent conflict. The paper cites Qwaqwa as one of the many areas affected by water-service protests in the recent past. “Water and food crises are worsening thanks to the intensification of climate change, rapid urbanisation, nutrition transition and population growth. Solutions to these crises partly lie in cooperation and collaboration among nation states, regional economic commissions, and global power brokers.”

What are some of the local solutions? According to the scholars: “For agronomic and husbandry practices, there is a pressing need for research activities on innovative ways of supplying water to crops and animals such that water loss through evaporation and run-off is significantly reduced. 

“Similarly, research activities on redesigning toilets, especially the urinary section – where more than nine litres of water are used to flush less than one cubic centimetre of urine – are timely in the context of managing the water and food security nexus crises.”

Improving livelihoods

In an effort to achieve food security, BRICS aims to stimulate domestic capacity for production. Food and nutrition security cannot be achieved without water security, and vice versa. 

It is evident that the water and food insecurity issues are complex. However, concerted efforts are being made by various sectors to solve these challenges and improve the livelihoods of urban and rural citizens within BRICS nations.

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