DkIT student event sparks lively debate on World Water Day23 March 2018
Achieving SDG 6 - The Realities for Irish Agriculture
March 22nd 2018 is UN World Water Day, a day for exploring our relationship with our water resources. To mark the day, the 4th year students BSc (Hons) in Sustainable Agriculture, in collaboration with Development Perspectives, hosted a showcase event to explore the challenges that Irish agriculture faces in relation to achieving Sustainable Development Goal 6 (SDG 6): Clean Water & Sanitation. The Sustainable Development Goals are a set of goals adopted by 193 countries in the United Nations to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all by 2030.
The innovative event was student-led and designed to allow them to articulate the challenges associated with achieving SDG 6, and exploring potential sustainable and collaborative solutions. The event consisted of video diaries, presentations, panel discussions and a lively Q&A session.
The audience were treated to a diverse range of perspectives, facilitated by Bobby McCormack of Development Perspectives on how SDG 6 is relevant to Irish Agriculture.
Thomas Cooney, Chair of the Environment and Rural Affairs Committee of the IFA highlighted how farmers are striving to advance farming practices to help improve water quality in Ireland. He stressed that “the future is about meaningful collaboration”, a theme echoed by the other speakers.
Dr Eleanor Jennings, Director of the Centre for freshwater and Environmental Studies at DkIT gave a fascinating overview of drinking water issues in Ireland and finished with the encouraging statement “We can fix it!”
Padraig Stack, the student representative on the panel discussed the challenges of fertiliser application for farmers in relation to the present system of calendar farming and slurry application. He drew attention to the fact that under this system it often becomes a “waste management issue rather than a nutrient management one”.
Roisin Dowd Smith of the National Federation of Group Water Schemes (NFGWS) discussed how group water schemes are “intrinsically associated with Irish Agriculture” and highlighted the fact that “source protection actions are pivotal to improved raw water quality”.
The Q&A session allowed the audience to fully participate. Right2Water voiced concerns that the urban perspective was not adequately represented and that intensive agriculture globally is responsible for deteriorating water quality and quantity. This sparked lively debate and allowed members of the panel to emphasise that while many areas of the globe are experiencing this phenomena, Irish farms tend to be family holdings and are generally running sustainable water usage systems.
A common thread throughout was the need for an integrated and collaborative approach to water resource management with education, engagement and awareness raising as key components to success, with Roisin Dowd Smith stressing that this should begin as early as primary school.
Summing up the event, Dr Alec Rolston of the Centre for Freshwater and Environmental Studies paraphrased Daniel Turner of Yorkshire Dales Rivers Trust that “farmers should not be viewed as the problem, rather as the solution”. He challenged all present to become SDG ambassadors and to raise awareness of how “as a community we can undertake actions to help improve water quality”.
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