TED Conversations

Bernelle Verster

Merah Mas Industrial Biotech, University of Cape Town, Centre for Bioprocess Engineering Research - CeBER


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How do we best integrate food security, cities & urban design, and water management to create something beyond sustainable?

This year the UN World Water Day, 22 March 2012, considers the link between Water and Food Security. You would agree that we can’t really consider this link without simultaneously considering energy, and how cities function, and then how all of this is affected by climate change etc …, one needs to consider all these aspects together. A deeper systems approach and institutional collaboration and communication is needed.

The Young Water Professionals (YWP) and friends are hosting a conversation around the systems approach of how food and water interact at the University of Cape Town, South Africa on 29 March 2012.

This is a complex matter for academics to discuss, and yet, the key to progress is to communicate these interlinking issues to the public in a way that empowers civic groups to see the bigger picture and take informed action (or plainly, inspires). It is in this context that we are hosting a conversation around water and food security. Water ties us all together. This TED conversation explores the conversation further, and we are partnering with TEDxCapeTown to potentially take thoughts arising from this conversation further as a multi-year action & outcome based social campaign, in the run up to Cape Town being World Design Capital in 2014.

The conversation will kick off with Carolyn Steel's TED talk 'How food shapes our cities' to place the conversation into context, and will take place with specific context to Cape Town.

The conversation in Cape Town will include several academics - Jane Battersby, Tania Katzschner - practitioners - Shannon Royden-Turner, as well as science journalist Leonie Joubert who is currently publishing a book on this topic.


Closing Statement from Bernelle Verster

While some of the comments here were hard to swallow at first, looking back at it, it was very informative. We're working on it. The main conversation that this was built around can be found here: http://www.aquaduct.org.za/tedxcapetownsalon-foodwatercities-29-march-2012.html

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    Apr 4 2012: Well, what the YWP's do as a group is work on the need that professionals are poorly supported to do their job. We tackle this through the following:
    · Provide opportunities for YWPs to meet and communicate
    · Provide career development opportunities for YWPs
    · Support employers with the recruitment and retention of YWPs
    · Ensure the Programme remains relevant to YWP

    What I increasingly realised is that we don't engage with the greater public about what the people in the water industry itself is doing to provide e.g. clean water as part of their actual jobs (and yes, this is in the context of (rural) South Africa, which has similar but also different challenges that the rest of the African continent) - hence my main and original reason for getting involved in TEDx.

    We, as working professionals, also work with NGO's, but what we often find that the communication with NGO's are poor, we often undo each other's work (e.g. NGO's installing their own pumps rather than work with improving the maintenance of the already existing ones, improving the local system). So if you were looking for projects where we ' provide clean water' I can only direct you to our technical internal sites, coz that's what we do - http://www.ewisa.co.za/. The YWP site is here, by the way, I know there is an inactive one on the web too - http://www.wisa.org.za/ywp/.

    My frustration, that I share with you, is that there is a fantastic amount of great stuff out there, and the researchers and practical people in the field don't have the time or skills or will (we're not meant to be PR people) to get this out into the world in a way that makes sense to people who are not experts in this field. How do we best engage with the world? I don't think a website is the best way - even more so in Africa where internet just is not well developed. TEDxtalks?

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