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E-book on Qatar water challenges launched

Project allows US students to understand Middle East better

Gulf News

Manama: A collaborative e-book investigating the challenges Qatar faces in ensuring food and water security for the country has been launched by students at two universities in Qatar and in the US.

The five-chapter e-book, by students of Northwestern University at Evanston, Illinois, and their counterparts in Qatar explores how Qatar, a country that currently imports over 90 per cent of its food, can become more self-sufficient and sustainable in sourcing food supplies for its growing population. The e-book also tackles water scarcity in its chapters, which are further augmented by audio, video and photo slide shows.

According to a university report, water-intensive projects such as large-scale construction make Qatar among the largest consumers of water on the planet. Without desalinisation, Qatar possesses a fresh water supply that would last only 48 hours.

“The critical questions about water security the young journalists raise and answer in this e-book is a testament to the power of collaboration and exchange between peers from vastly different backgrounds,” Everette Dennis, Dean and CEO of NU-Q, said. “These kinds of exchanges are an important part of being a student at a branch campus of a leading school like Northwestern because they allow students from both schools the chance to broaden their perspectives, to learn from one another, and to produce a large-scale journalism project together,” Dennis said in remarks e-mailed to Gulf News.

Eight graduate students from Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, travelled to Doha to work with five NU-Q journalism students on the report. After dividing into four groups of combined Doha and Evanston students, the aspiring journalists were dispersed to locations across Qatar to research and build their reports. Three of the four groups focused on the production and consumption of tomatoes because of its dependence on large amounts of water and its importance to local cuisine.

NU-Q Assistant Professor Andrew Mills — who led the project with Richard Roth, Senior Associate Dean in Qatar and Professors Bill Handy and Phil Duff at the US campus — said that the project in Qatar has served as an effective stepping stone for US students to understand the Middle East better. “There are challenges out there in the world that they would not have thought of when reporting in Chicago or in D.C.,” he said.

Visiting students and faculty from Medill expressed their appreciation for the culture as well as the opportunity to report in a different environment and on foreign customs. “This international collaboration reinforces the idea that creativity is a universal language. It’s an important lesson that [journalists] should learn,” Medill student Eric Eckstrom said.