Small Investment - Big Impact
Published on 20 April 2011

With a small quantity of food and a modest financial investment, WFP brings water to remote villages in Myanmar. Copyright: WFP/Carlos Veloso

Every day of her life, Lu Nan walked for four hours to collect water for her family from the river. Sometimes her children came too, but they could only carry 20 litres on each trip as the path was difficult and Lu Nan had only one container.

Last year, WFP chose Lu Nan’s village, Man Kaung near Lashio in Myanmar’s northern Shan State, for a Food-for-Work project. The villagers, Lu Nan among them, decided that the difficulty of getting clean water was their most troublesome daily challenge, and they asked if a safe water system could be built. The far-away river water had been making them sick and they could only grow some rice and a little corn with what they could collect.

After just one month, with the modest investment of US$3,500 for materials, one metric ton of food and an engineer from WFP, the village of nearly 300 people had seven taps flowing with clean water from a simple gravity flow system. 

The villagers contributed US$800 themselves and thirty of them, including Lu Nan, built the system. “Now the water is five minutes away from my house and I can fetch it whenever I need it,” Lu Nan says. “We feel better drinking this clean water rather than that from the river. I also have more time for myself and my family and I feel stronger as I don’t spend all this time walking for just water.”

The Food-for-Work project didn’t just bring clean water to Man Kaung village. It also brought income, which helps people pay back money they have borrowed to buy food and make ends meet. A young man, Gam Mai, is just one person who has been able to get out of debt.  Gam Mai says, “When I received my WFP food, I was able to save it for my family. Then when I found a job on a farm, instead of buying food with my wages, I was able to re-pay my debts rather than borrowing more. It was a life saver for my children.”