Each year, the United Nations allocates a calendar theme to bring a cause of international significance to the limelight and give certain issues the kind of attention they deserve. It is not uncommon for a year to share two or more related themes. 2012 for instance was the International Year of Cooperatives and the International Year of Sustainable Energy for All. 2013 has been declared International Year of Quinoa and International Year of Water Co-operation.
The International Year of Water Co-operation recognizes that ‘water is critical for sustainable development, including environmental integrity and the eradication of poverty and hunger, and is indispensable for human health and well-being.’ In a release, the UN states that 2013 will focus on ‘lessons that can be learned from successful water co-operation initiatives. It will also emphasize key water management issues such as water education; water diplomacy; sharing of water resources across national and community borders; and national and international legal frameworks on the use, and sharing of water.’ World Water Day celebrations on March 22 and World Water Week in August will be devoted to the theme of water co-operation around the world.
According to the UN ‘the objective of this International Year is to raise awareness, both on the potential for increased cooperation, and on the challenges facing water management in light of the increase in demand for water access, allocation and services. The Year will highlight the history of successful water cooperation initiatives, as well as identify burning issues on water education, water diplomacy, trans-boundary water management, financing cooperation, national/international legal frameworks, and the linkages with the Millennium Development Goals’. It also will provide an opportunity to capitalize on the momentum created at the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20), and to support the formulation of new objectives that will contribute towards developing water resources that are truly sustainable.
Similarly, The International Year of Quinoa (pronounced kéen-wa) aims to focus world attention on the ‘nutritional, economic, environmental and cultural value of quinoa,’ a seed originally cultivated for food in the Andes, primarily in Peru, Bolivia, and Ecuador. The main objective of designating 2013 as the International Year of Quinoa (IYQ) is to raise awareness of how quinoa can provide nutrition, increase food security, and help to eradicate poverty around the world. Complimenting this year’s theme; the United Nations has released an IYQ slogan: ’a future planted thousands of years ago’ recognizing the contribution of the Andean indigenous people as the original custodians of quinoa. Thanks to their traditional knowledge and practices of living well in harmony with mother earth and nature the Andean people have been able to maintain, control, protect and preserve quinoa as food for present and future generations.
Quinoa is gluten free and contains high-quality protein, complete with all essential amino acids. The crop appears to adapt to different ecologies, making it easy to grow in a variety of climates and soils. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN, ‘Quinoa has a remarkable adaptability to different agro-ecological regions. It can grow at relative humidity from 40% to 88%, and withstands temperatures from -4 ° C to 38 ° C. It is a highly water efficient plant, is tolerant and resistant to a lack of soil moisture, and produces acceptable yields with rainfall of 100 to 200 mm.’ Quinoa’s nutritional importance and adaptability propose great potential in areas where ecological conditions do not readily support other food crops, and in regions of the world where animal protein is not significantly featured in the diet. It can grow under the harshest conditions, withstanding temperatures from -8 ° C to 38 ° C, it can be grown from sea level up to 4000 meters above sea level and it can withstand drought and poor soils.
It is absolutely imperative that there be awareness raised on both these issues that have been recognized by the United Nations.
Senel Wanniarachchi- UNIC Colombo