LINCOLN, Neb.– “Water is life,” said Deborah Hamlin, CEO of the Irrigation Association. It was a sentiment shared by 400-some participants who gathered from across Nebraska, throughout the U.S. and from more than a dozen countries to learn how the power of water can sustainably grow enough food for our world’s rapidly increasing population. The participants were part of the ninth Water for Food Global Conference, produced by the Daugherty Water for Food Global Institute at the University of Nebraska (DWFI), held April 29-30 at Nebraska Innovation Campus.
“It was inspiring to see the enthusiasm and energy of people from all over the world sharing innovative ideas and perspectives on water and food, and rising to the challenge of transforming these into impacts,” said Peter G. McCornick, DWFI executive director.
The conference title, “Water for a Hungry World: Innovation in Water and Food Security,” highlighted the focus on emerging breakthroughs in research and technology that are fueling the future of agricultural water management and increased productivity.
In the course of two days, scientists, government agency directors, non-profit leaders, entrepreneurs, water managers, policymakers, farmers, students and private industry executives listened to experts share their perspectives and attended a selection of 20 sessions.
Sessions covered a wide range of important topics, such as supporting sustainable farmer-led agriculture, innovations in irrigation technology, an entrepreneurship marketplace, water re-use in food processing, predicting and mitigating drought, as well as the intersection of water quality, nutrition and climate change.
“The only part of the conference I didn’t like was having to choose just one of the concurrent sessions to attend,” commented Ali Omata, of the Federal Ministry of Water Resources in Abuja, Nigeria.
“I love coming to Nebraska,” added Rachael McDonnell, senior researcher with the International Water Management Institute and based in Rome, Italy. “I am amazed with the talent you have at this university. I always learn something new from the researchers at NDMC [the National Drought Mitigation Center] and DWFI every time I visit.”
The conference closed with a Heuermann Lecture by Mark Rosegrant, research fellow emeritus, International Food Policy Research Institute, who spoke about the recently released report, “From Scarcity to Security: Managing Water for a Nutritious Food Future,” sponsored by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs. Rosegrant emphasized the critical need for effective water management policies to ensure we maintain this precious resource for urban, rural and environmental needs.
A “Women for Water” side event was held the following day, May 1, with more than 100 participants discussing a variety of topics related to agricultural water management and the opportunities for women in this field.
“The networking was extremely valuable,” said Rachel Bellamy, senior development manager with KickStart International. “I’ve met several people who are also looking at ways we can use irrigation to improve the lives of farmers in places like Ghana, Ethiopia and Sudan.”
Most conference sessions were recorded and will be available to view on the institute’s YouTube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/c/WaterForFood. Speaker blogs and the conference agenda are available on the DWFI website: https://waterforfood.nebraska.edu/. Official conference proceedings will be mailed to conference participants and available to read on the institute’s website later this year.
The Robert B. Daugherty Water for Food Global Institute at the University of Nebraska was founded in 2010 to address the global challenge of achieving food security with less stress on water resources by conducting scientific and policy research, using the results to inform and advise policymakers, and educating future water for food leaders.
The University of Nebraska has invested in four interdisciplinary institutes that leverage talent and research-based expertise from across the University of Nebraska system to focus on complex state, national and global challenges.
Learn more at waterforfood.nebraska.edu/.