The Waves of Change: Celebrating Small Scale Irrigation

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The Waves of Change: Celebrating Small Scale Irrigation

“Water is life, water is food” is a phrase that underscores the intrinsic link between hunger, water, and food security. With climate change becoming more devastating, communities worldwide are at heightened risk of hunger due to rising temperatures, unpredictable weather patterns, severe rains and flooding, and widespread drought, all of which directly impact the world’s water supply and quality.

Globally, over 1 in 4 people lack access to safe drinking water, while 46% lack access to safely managed sanitation. Nearly three billion people experience water shortages for at least one month per year, posing severe risks to livelihoods, notably through food security and access to electricity.

a woman stands smiling over her daughter using a watering can in the garden

Lourdes and her daughter Milenka water the garden that is triumphing in the face of challenges.

First Nations in Canada have identified the lack of financial resources to develop capacity, operations of water treatment plants, or upgrading their current water system. In Ontario alone, there are currently 19 long-term drinking water advisories, experiencing unsafe drinking water and inadequate sanitation. First Nations leadership are currently advocating and allocating funding to lift long-term and short-term drinking water advisories including, our partner community of Chippewas of Nawash Unceded First Nation, Neyaashiinigmiing (Cape Croker).

A boil water advisory has been in effect in the community since 2017. The existing water treatment plant, built in 1990, is not up to standard while the water distribution system experiences leakage. Through 2021-2024, Neyaashiingigmiing approved plans and funding for a new water treatment plant and distribution system. Elders of the community were highlighted as a key part of the project, supporting the natural sciences work through the sharing of traditional knowledge.

First Nations in Canada like Neyaashiingigmiing demonstrate that water is a basic human and inherent right. Many First Nations share the teaching that water is a living entity and for it to be honoured, as such. They continue to work together to support a healthy prosperous future for future generations and safe drinking water, demonstrating the importance of a community-led approach for change.

As well, the escalating frequency of extreme and prolonged droughts is also stressing ecosystems, with dire consequences for both plant and animal species, decimating crops and causing unprecedented water shortages.

We recognize World Water Day to acknowledge the importance of water, and that work needs to be done to ensure the world’s supply is bountiful, clean, and potable. We’re showcasing some of the crucial work our partner communities are undertaking in championing fresh, clean water which impacts hygiene, health, and growing food. These communities are working to mitigate the effects of climate change right in their backyards through CFTC-supported programming.


two women and a child digging in a small garden

Francisca (pictured far right in hat), works in the local garden with a neighbour and her daughter.

Bolivia has always been a dry country, but in late 2023, they came out of their hottest winter and worst drought on record. As a result, there’s a renewed focus in the country on water systems and climate-smart farming to help combat the dying crops from the extreme heat.

In response to Bolivia's water crisis, our local partner, IPTK, has implemented water initiatives to conserve water during droughts and promote crop resilience. One such initiative is a micro-sprinkler irrigation system that aims to achieve water conservation in dry periods, minimize watering time, and promote simplicity in irrigation processes.

Local gardeners like Francisca are seeing the difference in their harvest since the implementation of this system, telling us, “This useful system has helped provide water in times of need, and helped me grow enough for my family to eat and sell.

Additionally, solar tents, greenhouses, tanks for water collection, and drip irrigation systems are being placed in gardens to provide additional abilities to harvest and generate water in times of drought. Lourdes, a local gardener, grows both food to eat and flowers to sell in her community. Firsthand, she’s experienced the benefits of these systems in increasing yields and improving food security. If there is no water there is no life,” she says. “We are able to save more water to supply us with more water for irrigation, we no longer use as much water as when irrigating by flood.

a woman andher child stand in front of the garden

Francisca and her child stand proudly in their garden that flourishes despite climate challenges.

As well, Lourdes tells us that her yields have improved, especially in dry times. In the past, her harvest was slow to grow or even destroyed in dry periods, but since the implementation of these irrigation systems, her yields have remained steady and she no longer has to buy fresh produce for her family - they eat her homegrown foods!

These irrigation methods are a great way to help manage the effects of climate change through relatively low-cost measures while promoting water conservation.

If there is no water, there is no life
Lourdes, Bolivia


a headshot of a man standing in a green field

Asaye has seen firsthand the positive impacts that proper irrigation brings to a community.

Many regions in Ethiopia consistently face water scarcity during the dry season, especially with high community demands. As community attitudes shift and awareness of the benefits of clean, irrigated water grows, the demand for irrigation water often increases.

Responding to these challenges, our local Ethiopian partner, WRDA, has been implementing increased irrigation activities with immense success! Community members participate in a series of training including small-scale irrigation techniques, agronomic practices, climate-smart agriculture, post-harvest handling techniques, and others related to production and harvest.

The training helped us a lot,” Asaye, a local farmer, tells us. “The training on climate-smart agriculture techniques helped us produce vegetables resisting the drought and not requiring a higher amount of water in dry seasons, for example, like pepper and watermelon.”

Community members like Asaye understand the significance of every drop when it comes to proper water irrigation and conservation. They learn innovative techniques, such as conserving moisture through maize stalks and grasses in irrigated areas, ensuring that water isn't lost to evaporation.

Aberash's household is thriving because of the water irrigation efforts in their community.

A few years ago, we used to worry about what to feed our children, now we are accumulating assets and planning to grow more. We have changed a lot and we are now on a growth mindset,” Aberash, a farmer, says.

The rewards reaped are felt throughout the community of local farmers, with the majority able to grow enough fresh produce to eat and feed their families and have their dreams come to fruition. Members are saving money to build their homes, start businesses, purchase livestock, and much more.

Watch the video below on the process for digging a trench for irrigation in Ethiopia. Asaye and his fellow farmers dig the trench, and see the success on their gardens - especially from the pepper plants.


Farmers are tending their pepper crops and maintaining the irrigation channel

Farmers are tending their pepper crops and maintaining the irrigation channel that is helping to conserve water and bring forth clean water.

Asaye in Ethiopia tells us so succinctly in his interview that “water is the center for the existence of life.” The importance of clean, safe water transcends consumption - public health and prosperity, food and energy systems, economic productivity and environmental integrity all rely on a well-functioning and equitably managed water cycle.

We at Canadian Feed The Children believe that food and nourishment is a human right. To us, food is life, water is life, and water is food. Having clean water is a human right, and we thank our local partners who are working on the ground to ensure that communities benefit from the ripple effects that clean water can bring.

Here are some additional articles on the importance of water supply in the face of climate change: