Food security and water

A case study in Eastern Hararghe looked at relationships between access to water and food security status of households. It was found that food security had a strong relationship with agricultural performance, which again depended on rainfall. It also showed that socio-economic services such as water schemes are essential elements in improving food security at household level. In addition, access to safe drinking water reduces exposure to a variety of diseases that obstruct the intake and utilisation of food.

Despite having access to improved water schemes, inhabitants were concerned about water quality and about misuse of collected user fees. In another village, although water quality was considered good, water quantity, leading to long queuing times reducing labour productivity, was an issue. In villages without protected water sources, households mentioned that they had to share their water sources with livestock, leading to severe health problems of people.

In most areas, water from both unprotected and protected sources was found insufficient in quantity to also allow irrigation, which would have meant increased income from the production of cash crops. The majority of land users in the study sites observed that lack of access to sufficient water in good quality affects their level of food security, makes them vulnerable to drought and in general is the reason for low agricultural production and productivity. Once households have access to safe drinking water, a majority remarked that their food security improved, mainly as a result of better health and the possibility to diversify income sources.

The study concludes that water schemes should be designed in such a way as to also include productive water to expand irrigated agriculture and improved livestock rearing as this will have positive implications for household’s food security.

Page last updated 2 Sep 2009