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What’s an anti-hunger organization doing celebrating World Water Day? Simple: Without water, there’s no food.

We all need to drink at least half a gallon of water each day, but it takes more than 500 gallons of water to produce enough daily food for one person. Water shortages hit agriculture-based organizations like Heifer right in the stomach for that very reason. As the tagline for this year’s United Nations World Water Day says, “The world is thirsty because we are hungry.”

“For me, hunger and thirst are two sides of the same coin,” explained Elizabeth Bintliff, Heifer’s executive vice president for Africa. “We can’t not pay attention to it.”

In Heifer’s early days, groups hoping to take on a Heifer project had to have easy access to clean water. The thinking was that a reliable water source is non-negotiable to ensure healthy livestock and productive fields, so starting a project where water isn’t readily available creates a burden for the community members—most likely women and children—charged with fetching and hauling water.

In some cases, that line of thinking kept Heifer from working with the people who needed help most, so a new plan took shape.

“More people in the world have cell phones than have access to clean water. How can we not pay attention?” Bintliff said. So Heifer added water to its repertoire. Today, it’s not unusual for Heifer’s work to include drilling boreholes, digging wells or helping to set up filtration systems where water is available but the quality is poor.

“Adding water to our list of things we can do changed where we can work,” Bintliff said. “We’re a little bit more intentionally part of the solution. We’re not excluding target groups because of something they don’t have. Instead, we’re helping them get it.”

World Water Day 2012

The world thirsts because we are hungry. This is the World Water Day 2012 official video, focusing on the theme of the campaign "Water and Food Security". Produced by and featuring a soundtrack by DDG.


Austin Bailey

Austin Bailey is a writer and editor for Heifer's World Ark magazine.