Food security starts with water

|  Estimated reading time: 8 minutes
Food security starts with water

Water is life, water is food

While great gains have been made in the fight for food security, hunger still impacts millions worldwide. In fact, almost a third of the global population is still grappling with food insecurity.

And with the effects of climate change becoming more devastating, communities worldwide are at risk of increased hunger. Rising temperatures, unpredictable weather patterns, severe rains and flooding, and widespread drought are decimating crops, resulting in poor health, and reducing incomes. Sadly, between 2030 and 2050, climate change is expected to cause approximately 250,000 additional deaths per year from malnutrition, malaria, diarrhea and heat stress alone.

Having a good water system in place ensures farmers and families can continue to grow food even when it doesn’t rain. CFTC donors support water and irrigation efforts around the world.

That’s why for this year’s World Food Day’s theme of “water is life, water is food”, we’re showcasing some of our resilient partners who are making great strides in their communities in championing fresh, clean water which is crucial for good hygiene, health, and growing food. These communities are working to manage the effects of climate change right in their backyards through CFTC-supported programming.

Grow your own
Growing your own food is an ecologically friendly way to reduce your carbon footprint and in turn, lessen the effects of climate change. Local food has low carbon emissions as there’s little travel involved which diminishes fossil fuel usage, and compared to commercial farming uses less harmful pesticides and fertilizers. As well, more plants means more oxygen and less carbon dioxide circulating in the air.

Local garden training in Bolivia tackles climate change

Isabel teaches families on the importance of growing your own food, not only for your own health but the environment as well.

In Bolivia, growing local food is important because the country has many peri-urban areas that only have expensive produce that isn’t as nutritious or healthy. Bolivia has always been a dry country, and with them just coming out of their hottest winter on record, there’s a real focus on water systems and climate-smart farming to help combat the dying crops from the extreme heat. With drought comes crop and food shortages, exacerbating hunger in areas already suffering from food insecurity.

Isabel is a production technician in Bolivia who works with local Indigenous migrant families to teach them about the importance of food production and helps to provide more healthy food for children. Her community is severely food insecure because its small land plots force families to travel long distances to buy food that is often unhealthy.

Isabel worked with the families, thanks to CFTC donor support, to establish solar tents in the small plots to create gardens that collect their own water and introduce seedlings that are more drought resistant.

Children in the community also got involved through the local ECCE centres, where they helped tend to the garden and reaped the benefits of the healthy food grown. The women who learned these farming techniques were able to sell additional produce as part of an income generation scheme, and now have extra money to spend on their children.

These local gardens and solar tents are a great way to help mitigate the effects of climate change through relatively low-cost measures.

Natoageneg's new greenhouse reinvigorates homegrown food

Since the mid-2000s, Natoageneg (Eel Ground First Nation) has grown its school food, nutrition education, and food security initiatives from the seeds of an idea to what is now a thriving local food system.

Within this food-focused culture, school principal Terri-Anne is eager to share the latest plans for an indoor growing program located near the garden beds just outside the school, funded by donations from Canadian Feed The Children's donors over the past year.

We want children and their parents to use it all year round,” Terri-Anne tells us, “as if you’re at your own house and you go back into the garden to grab what you want and eat it a few minutes later. [We want to] instill that kind of value system.

The school garden and planned greenhouse will link to the school’s well-established nutrition education program, which involves students in hands-on learning around growing, planting, tending, and harvesting food. These curriculum connections teach students (and often, through them, their parents) about good nutrition:

By growing food themselves, initiatives like home and school greenhouse gardens reduce carbon emissions and reliance on fossil fuels, while combating the rising costs of food from inflation. Plus, greenhouse gardening ensures that there’s a fresh supply of healthy vegetables all year round.

With the weather information, I am now able to plan and make better decisions on the type of crops to plant and the planting time so that the crops can mature before the cessation of rains.
Madam Lardi, Rice farmer, ghana

Digital climate tracking improves farmers' yields in Ghana

A woman in Ghana standing in a fieldThrough the CLIMATE Project, funded by the African Development Bank (AfDB) and CFTC's donors, women smallholder farmers in Ghana are now leveraging digital technology to increase their resilience and adaptive capacities to climate change. Northern Ghana experiences erratic weather patterns and rainfall which deeply impacts farmers’ harvests. Digital technology techniques help improve yields so farmers can boost their income to feed their families.

Agromet Automatic Weather Stations installed throughout northern Ghana measure data like temperature, rain, air humidity and plant wetness - essential knowledge to help farmers manage their crops. In addition, 241 farmers trained in these machines learned to read the data and disseminate it among their local farming communities.

Madam Lardi is a rice farmer who says that the weather updates she receives thanks to the CLIMATE project have transformed her farm - and her family's food security. She told us:

With the weather information, I am now able to plan and make better decisions on the type of crops to plant and the planting time so that the crops can mature before the cessation of rains. This encouraged me to go into rice farming. My rice farm is nice because I had adequate information. I am sure of a good harvest and food security for my household this year.”

A program like climate smart agriculture is important as a means of assisting women like Madam Lardi and their families receive immediate food support but also long-term food solutions with the hopes of achieving total food security.

Climate change's effects on hygiene and sanitation

You might not think that toilets can be affected by climate change but nothing could be further from the truth. When communities that lack safe latrines, or have an absence of latrines altogether, are hit by climate change, the entire community suffers.

Unpredictable weather patterns like flooding and drought can cause irreversible damage to toilets, which impacts a community’s ability to provide proper sanitation. Feces and other contaminants can run off into local water systems, impacting the health of entire communities but especially the elderly and immunocompromised.

The inability to access safe, clean water creates a hospitable environment for diseases and parasites to fester, leading to malnutrition in children who might have already been experiencing hunger.

Raihana’s community in Uganda was one that was extremely impacted by improper sanitation. Her school didn’t have proper latrines, which was causing an increase in urinary tract infections among female students. Girls were missing weeks of school at a time, and their health was declining steadily. Often, they would refuse to use the existing latrine because it had to be shared with their male classmates, which made them feel uncomfortable and unsafe.

“I feel so happy because I can now attend classes knowing that I am healthy. Our hygiene is now guaranteed. Cases of UTI’s are now no more." 
Raihana, Uganda

Thanks to CFTC donors though, her school was able to receive a second latrine so boys and girls each had their own facility to use. This helped reduce infections as girls felt safe in their own toilet and were able to use the facilities freely. Test scores improved and the girls were back on track to receiving their education.

Water pumps and irrigation are crucial for food security

Shasho’s community in Ethiopia barely had clean water. Their only source of water was a neighboring lake that was highly polluted. Local irrigation farms dumped chemicals into the water, completely contaminating any safe water that her household relied on to cook with and drink.

a woman filling tanks of water from a local water tap

Shasho fills containers of fresh water from the borehole taps, which has drastically changed her community.

The water problem was affected as in every dimension of our life. For instance; most of us, especially children, were affected by intestinal diseases which forced us to incur additional medical expenses. Much of our time was lost during travel to fetch water, and also our children were forced to stay at home to keep watch of their siblings or go to fetch water rather than go to school.”

Like most in her community, Shasho farms for a living and by traveling long distances to fetch water, it delays her crop planting and tending, which stifles her harvest.

Thanks to CFTC donors, a borehole was drilled in Shasho’s community and pipes were connected, and the fresh water started flowing. Now the local children are attending class regularly and no longer suffer from intestinal illness. Women like Shasho aren’t put at risk having to travel long ways and can fetch water right at home instead. As a result, Shasho now has clean, potable water for her crops of teff, maize and wheat - and they’re flourishing.

Food security starts with water

little girl holding a glass of water

Derartu, Shasho's daughter, in Ethiopia holds a class of clean water.

When there is water, crops grow and flourish to feed families. Small farmers, who are mostly women, sell their harvest to boost their economic status. Water also provides children with access to proper sanitation and hygiene, reducing their rates of illness and infection.

Thank you for supporting projects that put mitigating climate change and championing water at the heart of food security. You can help support climate-smart initiatives with a donation today.

In our podcast First Comes Food, we go on a journey through Indigenous food forests in Saskatchewan, farming communities in African countries and early childhood community programs in Bolivia to meet the people who are growing food security for everyone. Their stories may surprise you.

Listen to First Comes Food, now streaming on our website and wherever you listen to your favourite podcasts.