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A precious resource under threat

Water is the world’s most precious resource. All living things on our planet rely on water to survive. Yet it is a resource at risk.

Right now, 1.1 billion people lack access to water. By 2025, two in three people may face water shortages.

Growing populations and unsustainable resource management increase water stress on rural communities, while climate change worsens flooding, landslides, and saltwater intrusion into freshwater systems.

How can rural people’s water security be improved?

Investing in policies and local institutions can result in better management and allocation of land and water resources, giving groups equal access and usage rights.

Infrastructure and technology can increase water availability and the efficient use of water. Many countries rely on large irrigation schemes, which are often unsustainable and have infrastructure that is difficult to develop and maintain. Instead, small irrigation schemes are effective when carefully planned.

Conserving catchment areas and aquifers also improves sustainable access to water for the rural poor.

What is IFAD doing?

By working closely with rural communities, traders, retailers, and local governments, IFAD is helping to improve the allocation and management of water resources.

IFAD invests in water infrastructure and technology for small-scale irrigation schemes, post-harvesting handling and processing, and domestic water supply.

By advocating for an integrated and participatory approach to water resource management, IFAD empowers poor rural people to participate in managing the resources on which they depend.



The sun is the unlikely solution to rural India's water problem

In India, two rural villages find comfort in solar-powered water systems.




Small Irrigation and Market Access Development Project in the Nippes and Goavienne Region 


Support Programme for the Rural Microenterprise Poles and Regional Economies (PROSPERER)


Family Farming Development Programme in the Diffa Region


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Stories and news

Stories and news

Fighting water scarcity with innovation – Episode 44

May 2023 - PODCAST
This month we are focusing on water scarcity.

The sun is the unlikely solution to rural India's water problem

May 2023 - STORY
In India, two rural villages find comfort in solar-powered water systems.

When the world is drying up, every drop of water counts

March 2023 - STORY
Climate change and a growing population are exacerbating water scarcity. As the water cycle is disrupted, farmers are coming up with inventive ways to harvest, store and use water. IFAD is helping them with simple but effective and climate-smart water infrastructure.

Rural people in Sudan call time on water wars

February 2023 - STORY
As the climate crisis takes hold and water scarcity sparks conflict, rural people in Sudan are finding ways toward peace and equitable resource management.

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Related publications

Related publications

Handbook for Scaling Irrigation Systems

October 2022
Handbook for Scaling Irrigation Systems is a joint publication between IFAD and IFC on how to develop and scale innovative solutions to improve the livelihoods of smallholder farmers and increase crop productivity.

Research Series 81: Food and water systems in semi-arid regions – case study: Egypt

June 2022
This paper explores the role of water in Egypt’s food system and the dilemma the country faces: raise food self-sufficiency by allocating freshwater resources from the Nile to food production, or rely on food imports from water-abundant regions worldwide.

Water harvesting systems for smallholder producers, tips for selection and design

February 2022
This brief raises awareness about water harvesting systems and describes the design of water harvesting interventions. It aims to inform stakeholders on the assessment of water demand, water available for harvesting, and the selection of suitable water harvesting systems.