How New Water Grows New Food

Story collected and written by Racheal Namaemba and Mollex Nakuti with Eryn Austin-Bergen

I think we can all agree that water is essential to life on Earth. It makes up over 50 per cent of our bodies and covers about  71 per cent of the Earth's surface. But why are we talking about water on World Food Day? Because only 2.5 per cent of the world’s water is fresh and has to be shared for all our human needs, including agriculture. Today, 2.4 billion people live in water-stressed countries, and many of them are smallholder farmers like Moreen.

Meet Moreen

Moreen and her family live in a small village in the community of Burukuru, Uganda. She farms to feed her children, but it’s hard to grow enough. Burukuru is a mountainous, rural community whose farmland suffers from high rain-water run-off that routinely washes away the topsoil, making it difficult for crops to grow on the sloping fields. Sandy soil that doesn’t hold the rainwater adds to the problem. In addition to poor soil and erosion, Moreen’s farming community faced a water crisis. One water source—the Nabumbwa Spring—serviced over 140 families across the three villages of Mukari, Bunamono, and Nangolo. It served all their household needs—drinking, cooking, bathing, washing, and cleaning as well as watering animals and gardens. A tractor had cut off the water channel that fed the Nabumbwa spring during a road extension in a neighbouring district. As a result, the flow of the Nabumbwa to the villages’ water collection point slowed dramatically. Women and children collecting water had to line up for hours just to get one bucket of water to carry home for all their needs. As the secretary of her community’s water committee tasked with protecting and repairing the water source, Moreen paid close attention to the repercussions of increasing water scarcity: “Hygiene in most households was poor which resulted in increased cases of diarrhea. These [sicknesses] reduced most households’ savings since more money was spent on medication because families had to frequent the health centre.” Because the Nabumbwa collection point was an open spring, it was often polluted by animals who used it. This contamination further escalated illness in the community. Children missed school and their grades went down. Parents missed work. Gardens went unwatered. Everyone suffered.

Water access is a problem that stretches beyond Bukiende

Freshwater resources per person have declined 20 per cent in the past decades and water availability and quality are deteriorating fast. Among other causes for this decline, rapid population growth, urbanization, and economic development create demands for things like road extensions—the cause of the Nabumbwa spring disruption. 

When the chairman of Mukari Village attended a community leaders’ training organized by Food for the Hungry Uganda, he was quick to raise the issue of water access as his community’s number one priority. 

FH Uganda responded to Bukiende’s water crisis by working with the community to rehabilitate the Nabumbwa water spring so that everyone could have the clean water they needed. Moreen says, “We now access clean water and the flow has increased so a jerry can takes less time to fill.” 

Around 700 people (and their livestock and gardens!) now have water.
Moreen providing water for her cow to drink.

So, what's the World Food Day tie-in?

Agriculture accounts for 72 per cent of global freshwater withdrawals. Moreen shares that having a reliable source of fast-flowing, abundant water finally enables her to irrigate her garden so she can grow enough food to feed her family—they are now food secure! Her community is doing the same, which has boosted the overall abundance of food for families, increasing their immunity to sickness. “We feel very happy because of increased access to clean, safe, and sufficient water for domestic uses like drinking, bathing, washing utensils and clothes, and cooking as well as feeding animals, irrigating vegetable gardens, and more!” Moreen exclaims.
Moreen brings water for her goats to drink.

“Now we can save money to buy food and non-food items like soap instead of spending it on medication,” Moreen says. Parents are selling excess garden produce and using some of the money to buy school supplies for their kids who are in class more often because they’re not so sick. Grades are going up! “The water spring is really benefiting a big population which is a great achievement for [our] community, community leaders, and Food for the Hungry at large,” Moreen says. Access to water helps increase food production. Food production promotes food security which decreases illnesses and malnutrition, while increasing health and income. Health promotes education, livelihoods, and community flourishing. It’s all part of the same stream.
Moreen and her children at the rehabilitated spring well.

Actions you can take today!

As millions around the world like Moreen struggle to meet their daily needs without sufficient water, perhaps we could all pause to consider how we, personally, use this precious resource. Do we take water for granted? Are there ways we could start improving the way we use water in our daily lives? What we eat, and how that food is produced, affects and is affected by access to water. We can make a difference by choosing local, seasonal, and fresh foods; reducing food waste; and acting to prevent water pollution. Together, we can rejuvenate, protect, and share our planet’s most precious resource so that no one is left going hungry.

Give Fruit and Veggie Seeds to help more mothers like Moreen grow food for their families, or a Clean Water Tap to help them irrigate their gardens. 



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Food for the Hungry: How New Water Grows New Food
How New Water Grows New Food
Today, 2.4 billion people live in water-stressed countries, and many of them are smallholder farmers like Moreen. World Food Day.
Food for the Hungry
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