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Last Updated: Thursday, 22 March 2007, 09:40 GMT
In pictures: Watering hope

(Image: FAO/Giulio Napolitano)

Some 1bn people lack clean drinking water, the UN says on World Water Day. "Water is life," says Halima Mala, a farmer in Niger, one of the driest countries on earth.

(Image: FAO/Giulio Napolitano)

But in Keita, a village in the heart of dust-ridden Niger, having enough water is not that easy, especially during the long, dry season stretching from October until May.

(Image: FAO/Giulio Napolitano)

But Halima's bucket is full. The wells in the gardens developed in the region mean that she, like 75 other women, can grow cabbage, potatoes, lettuce, tomatoes and squash.

(Image: FAO/Giulio Napolitano)

Similar gardens have been set up by the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization and the EU across Niger to help women grow food throughout the year.

(Image: FAO/Giulio Napolitano)

One third of the world's population lives in a country affected by water scarcity. In Niger in 2005, poor rains and an invasion of locusts led to serious food shortages.

(Image: FAO/Giulio Napolitano)

Some 3.6 million people, including 800,000 children, out of an entire population of 12 million, went hungry.

(Image: FAO/Giulio Napolitano)

Agriculture is by far the largest consumer of the earth's freshwater, making producing more food using less water a major global challenge.

(Image: FAO/Giulio Napolitano)

As well as small-scale irrigation, the gardens in Niger also use improved seeds to bolster yields.

(Image: FAO/Giulio Napolitano)

Keeping children in school is a major challenge in villages such as Keita. Irrigation can help farmers stay settled, and help their children remain in school.

(Image: FAO/Giulio Napolitano)

Rabi, a 28-year-old mother of three, hopes that her own harvest will mean she will never again have to take her children to a nutritional centre. Photos: FAO/Giulio Napolitano.






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