Water Knowledge: Basic Element for Food Security

29 May 2012 | News story

First fair on water knowledge as basic element for food security was held March 22 and 23 in the Tacana municipality to celebrate World Water Day 2012.

San Marcos, Guatemala, March 2012 (IUCN) – In honor of World Water Day, a fair called “Water Knowledge as Basic Element for Food Security” took place with the joint participation and funding of the Tacana Municipality; the Municipal Forest Office (OFM); the Municipal Water and Sanitation Office (OMAS); the Tacana Health Center; the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), CARE, the Joint Program comprised of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO); the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources (MARN), the Water for the Future Participatory Water Management Fund Association (AFOGESHIP), Fundación AGROS, HELVETAS and the United States International Development Agency (USAID) Guatemala office.

The fair’s organization and development arose from the need to raise awareness among residents of the San Marcos highland and demonstrate measures to mitigate the effects of unwise water use; their close connection in watershed management, solid and liquid waste management, climate change and risk management; and the importance of water for food security.

More than 1200 people participated in the Water Knowledge Fair on March 22 and 23, including representatives of microwatershed councils; municipal, departmental and national authorities; and leaders in the municipalities of Tacana, Tajumulco, Ixchiguán, San José Ojetenam and Sibinal. Education centers in Tacana’s municipal seat and neighboring communities also attended. What made the fair so important and special were its enjoyable activities using participatory and inclusive dynamics to inform, educate and raise awareness about caring for water and using it wisely.

Participating in the formal inauguration of the event were Sergio Ruano, Vice-Minister of Environment and Natural Resources (MARN) in Guatemala; Froilán Rodas González, Mayor of the Tacana Municipality; Gilben Escobar, San Marcos Departmental Delegate of the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Food; Daniel Villegas, Tacana Municipal Delegate of the Secretariat of Food and Nutritional Security (SESAN); Christina Maria Elich, General Coordinator of the Joint Program, “Reduction of Vulnerabilities to Contribute to Development in Five Municipalities of the Coatán River and Upper Suchiate in the Department of San Marcos”; and Ottoniel Rivera, Technical Officer of the IUCN Water Management Unit in San Marcos. The event was then opened to the general public.

• Module I, Watershed Management
This module was divided in five sections to explore the concept and aspects of watersheds and microwatersheds, the process occurring when natural disasters take place in a microwatershed, and an example of a microwatershed and its division. Participants constructed a jigsaw puzzle of the Coatán river basin, and then interacted in a game of roulette enabling those in charge of the module to assess what participants had learned.

• Module II, Importance of Water
In the module’s five sections, participants discussed the importance of sampling and analyzing drinking water and learned about solar panels and ecofilters to make use of and disinfect water, respectively; methods of disinfecting water (through boiling, chlorination and solar action); and the importance of personal hygiene and washing hands.

• Module III, Food Security
This module on nutrition, food quality and security was implemented by community representatives who prepare or fabricate marmalade, bread, honey, desserts, pickled chili peppers, vegetables (onion, celery, beans, lettuce and cauliflower), shampoo, and other items. The aim was to promote products made in the communities of the microwatersheds and allow participating families to generate revenues from the sale of their goods.

• Module IV, Management of Solid and Liquid Waste
The module’s two sections focused on the importance of sorting liquid and solid waste, and using waste to construct housing (“ecobricks”).

• Module V, Risk Management
The module’s two sections allowed participants to learn main concepts of disaster risk management and observe the different stages of a volcanic eruption (formation of fumaroles, pyroclastics, lava flow and final volcanic explosion).

•Module VI, Local Organizations Connected with Water Management
In this module participants found out about the actions being carried out jointly by the Participatory Water Management Fund Association (AFOGESHIP) and the Tacana Municipal Water and Sanitation Office (OMAS), and the importance of conservation in water recharge zones to ensure the quality, quantity and continuity of drinking water service in the municipality’s urban area.

• Module VII, Audiovisuals
Here the object was to raise participants’ awareness through talks and videos about current problems and uses, and proposals on management and use of natural resources, especially water.

• Water Lottery
Visitors could win prizes by participating in the lottery, whose main purpose was to teach concepts and show the importance of suitable water management.

Also taking place on March 22 was a forum to share experiences in payment for environmental services (PES) and drinking water systems, including IUCN, the “Water for the Future” AFOGESHIP of Tacana, the “Living Water” AFOGESHIP of San Pablo, Helvetas and the potable water commission of the canton of Nueva Esperanza, Tacana. The object was to present and share some of the experiences taking place at the community and municipal level in payment for environmental services and in the implementation and administration of drinking water systems in the San Marcos department. Municipal, institutional and international donor agency representatives participated in the forum.

For more information contact:
Ottoniel Rivera Mazariegos
Technical Officer of the IUCN Water Management Unit for San Marcos, Guatemala
E-mail: ottoniel.rivera@iucn.org
IUCN Regional Office for Mesoamerica and Caribbean Initiative
Phones: 00502-5510-5890 and 00502-7760-4294