Growing up in the foothills of Southern Ohio, water never seemed to be a problem–it was everywhere I looked. Our cattle drank straight from the Scioto River, which ran through our back field before it joined the mighty Ohio River ten miles down the road. I was oblivious to any kind of water crisis that might be taking place in the rest of the world, until traveling to West Africa.
Last summer, I joined a group of fellow Ohio State agriculture students and spent more than a month in the Volta Region of Ghana on a service learning and arts tour. In Ghana, much of the electricity is generated by the Akosombo Dam on Lake Volta, which is the largest man-made lake in the world. At one time, Akosombo generated enough hydro-electricity to power the majority of West Africa. Now, due to lower water levels and consistent drought, the dam barely produces enough energy for the citizens of Ghana. This means during the dry season, the government is sometimes forced to decide amongst the basic needs of people–who will receive electricity, who will stay in the dark and who will get to shower. I had no idea everyday tasks that I take for granted, like showering or washing clothes, were so volatile.
Water issues, in countries like Ghana, go beyond water being unsafe to consume and bottled water being more expensive than any other drink in their market. This lack of water inhibits the essential needs and everyday tasks of an entire country.
Water dilemmas vary from place to place, making it more difficult to find a cohesive solution. In some populations, water sanitation is the largest problem, but in others simply having water is an ongoing battle. During my time at Monsanto, I have had the opportunity to see how challenging it is to address the demands of a crisis as complex as water. With agriculture accounting for 70 percent of all fresh water usage, Monsanto has been focusing on how to reduce that percentage. But where do you begin?
Recently, I was able to participate in a series of conversations between Monsanto and a group of global leaders–who have long been involved in the water discussions–about what can be done to help solve the crisis. By drawing input from external parties like Stuart Orr, from the World Wildlife Fund, and Dr. David Molden, from the International Water Management Institute, Monsanto is able to look at the water issue in a very holistic manner. By forming relationships with multiple organizations we are able to fully understand what type of positive impact we can have as a company, and to identify what type of technologies would serve the greatest use to the environment and farmers.
There is not just one problem nor is there just one answer. The more organizations involved in a collaborative effort, the closer we will get to a solution.
Whittney is an intern in the Public Affairs department. Having grown up on a small cattle farm in Southern Ohio, it was a natural decision to attend The Ohio State University where she is in the process of obtaining a bachelor’s degree in Agricultural Communications, with a minor in Animal Sciences. Upon graduation in May, she will enroll in the Agricultural Communications Master’s program at Ohio State, where she will continue her studies and the singing of Hang on Sloopy. In her free time, Whittney enjoys any and all sports, outdoor adventures, judging 4-H livestock and sewing contests and plotting the perfect cross breeding rotation for dairy cows.