We can survive for weeks without food, but only days without water: it is the essential element of life. Yet many millions of us live in parched deserts around the world. The eternal quest for water brings huge challenges – and ingenious solutions – in the driest places on Earth.

Living Without Water: Tubu Traders

The Tubu people are desert travellers. Alone for weeks on end, every year Tubu women and children navigate the endless dunes of the Sahara, crossing the desert several times with their camels. They travel hundreds of kilometres across the desert to reach small towns which have markets so that they can trade their goods.

To spend long periods in this vast desert, the Tubu women must find water to survive. Foni and her 10 year old daughter Shede are in search of a water well in the middle of the desert, which is just one metre square in size. Foni knows how to navigate the desert without a map or a compass, a skill that she learnt from her ancestors. The Tubu women are able to follow the sand ridges to help work out in which direction they should go.

Inspired by the BBC’s Human Planet series, first broadcast in January 2011.