For Instructors

"Blue Planet Prize Story" contains three supplementary units on environmental issues: "Guide to Understanding the Story, " "Reference Information, " and "For Instructors. "
This contains useful information that instructors can use to help students understand the content.
Please use these during classes and for self-learning by students.

[Target Audience: Teachers, parents, and others who are engaged in education]

Summary of the Story

Prof. Falkenmark noticed at an early point in her studies that poverty and starvation in Africa were deeply related to water scarcity. This motivated her to create the Falkenmark indicator and advocate the concept of green water as essential for food production in dry regions. She has contributed greatly to the solution of water issues through her decades-long research.
Instructors should give students a chance to deepen their understanding of the water that we use unconsciously in our daily lives from different perspectives to expand their understanding of water issues around the world.

Teaching Examples

If you cannot find appropriate teaching materials, please see the reference below.

Survey on the influence of water shortages on agricultural products

Prof. Falkenmark advocates the use of green water as a solution to food issues in Africa. Green water refers to rainwater that seeps into the soil and is absorbed by plant roots. Because this concept is challenging, it may be more effective to help students understand that agriculture is significantly influenced by precipitation. For example, blue water, which is river water, etc. used for irrigation, is also influenced by precipitation.
Instructors should help students understand the importance of water, especially rainwater, for agricultural products, and the meaning of green water.

1. Let's check agricultural products around us.

(1) Make teams of a few students and assign them to select some recent cases in which agricultural products were influenced by water shortages to check the matters listed below.

  • When and where did it happen?
  • What kind of agricultural products were they?
  • What was the influence?
  • What were the causes? (Please give separate answers for water shortages and other causes.)
  • What did influence on agricultural products cause?

* If it's possible, students should consider the influence on people.

(A sample of the summary)

When/ Where
Autumn in xxxx/ xxxx City
Agricultural Products
Local special product xxxx
Many crops did not grow well in summer, causing the yield to drop significantly from the previous year.
(Water shortages) Precipitation in summer was less than usual.
(Other) Extreme heat in summer
Influence from the damage
The price of xxxx rose high which reduced sales.

The information above can be purchased through news sites and newspapers. Having opportunities to interview farmers would also deepen students' understanding.

(2) Let students discuss
Ask students to have a Q&A session on the results they summarize.

[Important points!]

Water shortages may be easy for students to understand because they can imagine the water they use every day becoming insufficient. However, it may be difficult for them to understand that water shortages are directly connected to food insufficiency.
Help students to discuss and understand that water shortages can happen anywhere, even in the area they live, and that may easily affect the food we eat.

2. Let's also check agricultural products that we are not familiar with

(1) Students assigned to the same teams as described in "1" above select and investigate some cases in which water scarcity caused damage to agricultural products in other countries. These cases do not need to be recent. Follow the procedures described in 1. (1) and (2) Above.

(2) Let Students compare with countries in different areas other teams researched and exchange opinions on regional differences in water issues.

Examples of opinion exchanges

Both country A and B were examples of drought that caused damage to agricultural products and reduced crop yield. Compared with country A, where the prices of agricultural products temporarily rose, country B, where continual food insufficiency caused the starvation of many people, seemed to be more serious.

  • Why did the problem in country B became more serious?
    Compared with country A, country B has less rainfall; and it does not have large rivers and lakes, factors that may easily cause water scarcity.
    Are these the only causes of water scarcity? Are there other causes?
  • What should people do to increase crop yield in country B?
    What kind of agricultural products can people grow in dry areas?
    How can people secure sufficient water to grow agricultural products?
[Important points!]

Students may see regional differences in water issues around the world through discussions and by comparing countries in different areas.
From that point, it is desirable for teachers to lead discussions to "What should we do?" to extract as many opinions from students as possible.


Prof. Malin Falkenmark