About Becca Farnum

Becca Farnum is the King's Water Department Aid at KCL. She is a 2012 EPA Marshall Scholar currently researching for a PhD in Geography at King's College London, where she explores discourses of environmental conflict and cooperation, particularly around food and water resources in the Middle East and North Africa under the supervision of Drs Naho Mirumachi and Alex Loftus. Becca has completed an LLM in International Law focused on environmental and human rights law at the University of Edinburgh and holds an MSc in Water Security and International Development from the University of East Anglia. She graduated in May 2012 from Michigan State University with degrees in anthropology, interdisciplinary humanities, international development, and international relations. Her senior honors thesis explored “Food and Water as the Middle East and North Africa’s ‘Coal and Steel’: Regional Economic Integration and Peace Prospects.” In Summer 2011, Becca worked at The White House in First Lady Michelle Obama’s Correspondence Office. Becca is a member of the United Methodist Church and a great believer of interfaith and intercultural understanding and activism. In her undergraduate years, she cofounded MSU’s Campus Interfaith Council and worked with Students for Peace and Justice and the MLK Diversity Committee. In the United Kingdom, Becca works with Norfolk County Council to teach environmental education residential programmes for students, building capacity and demand for sustainable economies, and The Brilliant Club to tutor high-achieving pupils from low-participation schools, raising aspirations for university study. She also helps run the London Water Research Group and co-convenes a Working Group on the Hydro Cycle, examining societal knowledge of hydrological science and anthropogenic impacts on water. Becca serves as an International Board Member for Dorm Room Diplomacy, an organisation building relationships between international undergraduates through online videoconferences, and as the Founding Secretary of the AMEND Fellows, the American Middle Eastern Network for Dialogue based at Stanford University.

Upcoming talk: “Landslides, (Palaeo)Floods, and Tornadoes”

The Department of Geography has recently launched a series of Departmental Talks marking recently completed sabbatical leave. In the second installment, Bruce Malamud will be speaking on “From landslides, (palaeo)floods and tornadoes to hazard interactions”This talk will take place on Tuesday 7th March at 6pm in Room S-2.08, with free drinks served beforehand from 5.15pm in the 4th Floor Geography social space.

A sabbatical is a focussed period to work on existing projects you have not been able to focus on, begin new research, and to apply for grants for future research, so that you have research ‘fat’ that will carry you over during the busy periods of teaching and administration upon return from your sabbatical. Paraphrasing from a meeting with Denise Lievesley (former Dean of SSPP) Bruce Malamud reflects on research undertaken and grants applied for and obtained, during his one year sabbatical (2015/16). Research included work on landslides, palaeofloods, tornadoes, hazard interactions, and invasive alien species, resulting in 6 papers submitted (4 now published/in-press). Grants submitted that were successful included: (i) as lead investigator a £2M NERC/DFID grant ‘LANDSLIP’ on early warning systems of landslides in India (with KCL co-investigators G. Adamson, A. Donovan, M. Pelling), and 2 small grants (£90k PhD studentship on UK hazard interactions with EDF energy, and €4k for a secondary school workshop in Malawi), and (ii) as co-investigator one large and one medium grant. The talk will focus on some of the research worked on during this period, the 4-year grant LANDSLIP in India which was applied for and started Nov. 2016, and some slides from countries visited (often together with other KCL staff members) during his sabbatical year, which included Austria, China, DPRK, Germany, India, Italy, Kenya, Malawi, Spain and USA.

 

Event flyer for Bruce Malamud's research talk on 7 March

Gender-based violence, education, and the environment

King’s Water marked the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women with a blog post for doctoral researcher Amiera Sawas reflecting on the WASH-Gender-Violence Nexus in Developing Cities. PhD candidate Becca Farnum published a piece in The Conversation highlighting some initiatives in North Africa promoting women’s empowerment and discouraging sexual harassment. Here, Becca follows up on that piece for Human Rights Day, considering the relationships between gender-based violence, education, and the environment.

 

Violence against women is a global pandemic. A full one-third of women around the world will be physically or sexually assaulted in their lifetime.

The issue has been in the news as the International Day for the Prevention of Violence against Women was marked on 26 November. This Thursday, the United Nations commemorates the 67th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In between, the Center for Women’s Global Leadership led a #16Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence Campaign.

What is emerging is an awareness that eliminating gender-based violence is about far more than ensuring women around the world are safe from rape. It is about making sure that humans around the world, regardless of their sex, are seen as just that – humans. It is about fully and truly implementing human rights.

Continue reading

PhD Student attends Global Environmental Guardians Network Launch

PhD Researcher Becca Farnum was in Baltimore, Maryland this weekend to attend the launch of the Global Environmental Guardians Network, an initiative of the Kuwait Dive Team.

Farnum on a beach cleanup

King’s Water PhD Researcher Becca Farnum removes harmful rubbish from the Back River in Baltimore, Maryland, during a conference on environmental volunteering.

The Network brings together volunteer marine conservation organisations like Ocean Conservancy and the Plastic Ocean Project to build resources around citizen science on marine debris as well as the Back River Restoration Committee and Ocean Defenders Alliance to share techniques for salvaging and waste disposal.

The initiative is one of several of the Kuwait Dive Team’s environmental diplomacy techniques. Becca Farnum is working with the Team, as well as other environmental NGOs in the Middle East and North Africa, to inform her PhD on environmental peacebuilding, exploring the role of nature in diplomatic efforts.

Baltimore's Trash Wheel

The Inner Harbor Water Wheel harnesses the Jones Falls River’s current to turn a wheel that lifts trash and debris from the water. http://baltimorewaterfront.com/healthy-harbor/water-wheel/

During the weekend, she helped the Team lift some 5 tonnes of debris from upstream of the Chesapeake Bay, went on a live tour of a new technology using solar and current energy to remove rubbish from rivers, and brainstormed new marine conservancy educational programmes for Kuwait during a visit to the US’ National Aquarium.

 

 

“The Water We Eat”

King's Water researchers publish new edited volume on virtual water & food security

King’s Water researchers publish new edited volume on virtual water, food security, & water footprinting

King’s Water researchers Marta Antonelli and Francesca Greco have published a new edited on virtual water, food security, and water footprinting with Springer Water.

The book includes a chapter from King’s Professor Tony Allan on “Water and Food Security: Food-water and Food Supply Value Chains”.

From the book publisher’s description: “This book pursues a comprehensive, multidisciplinary approach in order to analyze the relationship between water and food security. It demonstrates that most of the world’s economies lack sufficient water resources to secure their populations’ food requirements and are thus virtual importers of water. One of the most inspiring cases, which this book is rooted in, is Italy: the third largest net virtual water importer on earth. The book also shows that the sustainability of water depends on the extent to which societies recognize and take into account its value and contribution to agricultural production. Due to the large volumes of water required for food production, water and food security are in fact inextricably linked. Contributions from leading international experts and scholars in the field use the concepts of virtual water and water footprints to explain this relationship, with an eye to the empirical examples of wine, tomato and pasta production in Italy. This book provides a valuable resource for all researchers, professionals, policymakers and everyone else interested in water and food security.”

To read more and buy the book, visit http://www.springer.com/us/book/9783319163925.

Drought and Social Division

PhD Researcher Becca Farnum recently reflected on the California Drought and social conflicts, cooperation, and peacebuilding amidst resource scarcity as a guest writer for The Society Pages, an open-acces social science project headquartered in the Department of Sociology at the University of Minnesota bringing social science to broader public visibility and influence.

With co-author Evan Stewart, Farnum asserts that “California is facing record drought, water restrictions, and threats of wildfires. The solution seems simple—just find more water through increased pumping or desalination—but these quick fixes ignore deeper questions about how we turn public necessities into commodities and determine who can lay claim to natural resources. These issues can lead to cultural conflict, but struggles for water can also renew solidarity across different social groups.”

Read the rest at The Society Page’s post.

WASH Week: That’s a Wrap!

WASH Panel

King’s WASH Week convened a panel on “Ownership and Participation”, with contributions from Sam Drabble, Mariano Matoso, Amiera Sawas, and Cathy Stephen.

King’s Geography’s WASH Week, in celebration of World Water Day 2015, has come to a close after several days of panels and talks on the links between water, health, sanitation, gender, and development. King’s students and WASH practitioners joined together for a series of exciting cross-sectoral talks, with positive feedback across the board.

Louisa Gosling WaterAid

Louisa Gosling (Wateraid) talks on Vulnerability, equity and inclusiveness in WASH as part of WASH Week’s “WASH, gender and vulnerability panel”.

 

 

Reflecting on Transboundary Water Politics to Mark World Water Day 2015

King’s Water’s own Naho Mirumachi recently published a book on Transboundary Water Politics in the Developing World. She reflects on the themes of the book and World Water Day below and online at the Water Diplomacy Network’s Blog. Read more at http://blog.waterdiplomacy.org/2015/03/reflecting-on-transboundary-water-politics-to-mark-world-water-day-2015/.

 

World Water Day reminds us of the very contemporary challenges facing many of our freshwater bodies. This year, World Water Day focuses on the link between water and sustainable development, and it offers a useful opportunity to consider in depth the politics surrounding water abstraction, allocation, access and use, particularly in developing country contexts. While there is little credibility to sensationalist views on water wars occurring between states, international transboundary river basins do shed light on some of the most contentious and intractable issues of water sharing. The Nile River basin is a good example, where the construction of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam symbolises Ethiopia’s ambition to utilise water resources for energy production and to mark economic development. However, this may seriously affect the existing status quo of water allocations downstream: the Egyptian prime minister stated the dam project as threatening the security of its nation.

The controversy of the dam on the Blue Nile represents the complex and multiple drivers of river basin development. In any river basin, there are competing demands: water for energy and agriculture; water for growing population and rapid urbanisation; water to maintain and improve both human and ecosystem health. In my recent book, Transboundary Water Politics in the Developing World, I argue that we need to consider the political economy of transboundary water resources, rather than viewing basins as objects of interstate conflict or cooperation. The key to understanding transboundary water politics is to unpack the ways in which the river basin is valued for what purposes, how institutions are established to govern allocation between states and between competing uses, who is involved in the decision-making and who is excluded. Typologies of the Nile as a conflictual basin or the Mekong River basin as a cooperative one paint over the ever-evolving deliberation and contestation of river basin development by various stakeholders at multiple spatial scales. Thus, solely looking at the number of international agreements or investigating when multilateral river basin organisations are set up may not be enough to give a bigger picture of the political economy of transboundary water resources.

Typologies of a basin as “conflictual” or “cooperative” paint over the ever-evolving deliberation and contestation of river basin development by various stakeholders at multiple spatial scales. (NASA imagery of river basin mouths. clockwise from top-left: Orange, Ganges, Mekong, Nile)

Typologies of a basin as “conflictual” or “cooperative” paint over the ever-evolving deliberation and contestation of river basin development by various stakeholders at multiple spatial scales. (NASA imagery of river basin mouths. clockwise from top-left: Orange, Ganges, Mekong, Nile)

Conflict and cooperation over transboundary water resources are not mere representations of failed or successful negotiation outcomes between states. Focusing instead on transboundary water interactions between states highlights that conflict and cooperation coexist, with their intensities changing over time. At the same time, this approach calls attention to how state agency operates in determining river basin planning and infrastructure development. The Transboundary Waters Interaction NexuS (TWINS) approach that I put forth in my book highlights how and why coexisting conflict and cooperation change over time. One of the main insights from applying the TWINS approach to the Ganges, Orange-Senqu and Mekong river basins is that we need to understand how power asymmetry works, both in material and discursive ways. Power asymmetries manifest not only in infrastructure construction at the detriment of other states’ water use but also in the way problems are discursively framed: an ‘unharnessed’ river short of realising its economic potential; shared water resources as a catalyst for sustainable development or regional integration. Such problem framing is often done by elite decision-makers who favour technical, modernist, hydraulic mission-style solutions that involve costly large-scale infrastructure. Notions of ‘benefit’ and ‘development’ are narrowly defined. These problem frames have a tendency to be dominant over other rationalities or world views on the role the river and river basin play in society, constraining governance. The findings probe issues of equity, not just in terms of quantitative water allocation between states but also regarding the long-term implications on society and the natural environment from these hard-to-undo choices of river basin development. The ways in which water resources are abstracted, transferred and utilised ultimately reflect a very political and entrenched landscape of power and vested interests.

 

Dr. Naho Mirumachi is Lecturer in Geography at the Department of Geography, King’s College London. Her book, Transboundary Water Politics in the Developing World, was published March 2015.

King’s Geography invites you to participate in WASH Week 2015

Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) is a human right, enshrined in international law since 2010. However, there are still 748 million people in the world without access to clean, drinkable water, and 2.5 lack access to basic sanitation. Diarrheal disease – most often caused by poor WASH – is the second leading cause of deaths in children in the world. WASH is essential to human health, livelihoods, culture and dignity.

To mark World Water Day on 22nd March 2015, King’s Geography is launching a WASH Week. A range of expert speakers from NGOs and academia will be joining us to talk about different aspects of WASH – why it is not a universally enjoyed human right and what needs to be done to facilitate that goal. The causes for the gap are numerous, but one centrally recognised issue is the distribution of resource and decision-making power at various scales in WASH development and distribution programmes. The conference will also offer training sessions for those interested in obtaining new skills in WASH management.

Please see the full conference programme here. The themes of the panel are as follows:

  • WASH, infectious diseases and complex emergencies
  • WASH ownership and participation
  • WASH, the environment and climate change
  • WASH, gender and vulnerability
  • Sanitation and Hygiene post 2015

If you are interested in attending, please register here.

PhD Student Becca Farnum at the London International Dive Show

King’s Water PhD researcher Becca Farnum attended the London International Dive Show 14-15 February to talk about the work of the Kuwait Dive Team, a volunteer organisation working to preserve and protect the marine environment of the Gulf.

DSC_0050Becca traveled to Kuwait in October 2014 in order to learn more about the Team and shadow their operations – where her research on environmental diplomacy took her under the sea for her first scuba dive!

IMG_1425The Team uses their salvage and rescue expertise to do people-to-people diplomacy. They asked Becca to present about their activities at the Show, encouraging tourist divers to volunteer to protect the marine environment they so enjoy exploring. Three of the Team’s volunteers came to London from Kuwait to share the Team’s message and forge partnerships with British conservation organisations. Becca and the Team’s Beach Cleanup Head led a session in the Scuba Youth Zone, teaching young attendees about the dangers of pollution in the water.

KDT LIDS - MCS Award Becca Youth Zone 2