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Water and Hunger

Improving Sustainability in Rural Africa

The water cost of food

Consider the following foods we take for granted...

Food Water Needed
to Produce
(in litres)
1 Glass of milk 200
Cup of Coffee 140
Bag of Chips 185
Slice of Bread 40
Egg 135
Apple 70
Hamburger 2,400 !!

Relieving hunger in Africa has to begin with access to clean water. It may seem simple, but we forget that without access to a reliable source of water, food is hard to grow and even more difficult to preserve and prepare.

It takes huge amounts of water to grow food. Just think, globally we use 70% of our water sources for agriculture and irrigation, and only 10% on domestic uses.

Water is fundamental to relieving hunger in the developing world. 84% of people who don't have access to improved water, also live in rural areas, where they live principally through subsistence agriculture. Sometimes, areas that experience a lack of water suffer because of poor water management, but more often it is a relatively simple economic issue that can be addressed. This is the difference between physical and economic scarcity.

The Rural-Urban divide

In Sub-Saharan Africa, people in urban areas areas are twice as likely as people in rural areas to have clean, safe water. Another way that we see the urban-rural divide is in sanitation. While rural areas often have less access to sanitation facilities, in Sub-Saharan Africa the situation is very poor. Only 24% of the rural population, and 44% of the urban population have access to sanitation facilities. This means that less than one in three people in Sub-Saharan Africa have access to a proper toilet.

There is hope

A small investment in a clean, safe source of water can have a huge impact on both crop production and the nutrition of a community. In fact, one of the most encouraging things we find when we return to sites where wells have been installed is the many small gardens that have popped up all around.

When we ask communities what improvements they've seen as a result of clean water, many send us pictures of their crops - proud of the progress they've made.

Sometimes the technologies we fund specifically target increased crop production. For example, we fund weirs (sub-surface sand dams) in very dry places where seasonal water flows can be captured and stored. The dams trap rain water on the few rainy days of the year and over time, ground water levels rise.

People can then collect or store the water for drinking. The leftover water seeps into the ground and creates more fertile fields. Simple sustainable irrigation in these dry areas becomes possible. Read Bridget's story to see how such a project really can make a difference.



With water right on school property, students won’t miss class to quench their thirst, clean their classrooms, or supply school kitchens with water. With water at home, kids don’t waste homework time walking long distances in search of water for their households.


Water projects close to home rescue people from drinking whatever dirty water they can find. More water also means less rationing, so it’s easier to stay hydrated, wash hands, and clean homes, preventing future illnesses.


In our service areas, almost everyone has a farm or garden. To them, a lack of water means a lack of food. Improved crop irrigation equates to healthier and more plentiful crops.


Sourcing water when it’s scarce day after day saps everyone’s time and energy. With water at their fingertips, people spend more time investing in their households and livelihoods.


Help Relieve Hunger and Thirst

Join the effort today

For often less than $34 per person, The Water Project is able to work with local partners to ensure the right solution is used in the right place. Our goal is to bring clean, sustainable water supplies to within a half mile (1 km) of a village. By utilizing technologies like weirs and wells, we are improving sustainability in communities so they are able to begin working themselves out of poverty. You can be a part of the solution to end hunger and malnutrition in the developing world.